What Tech Candidates Want From Recruiters

Five tips to keep candidates happy all the way through hiring

By Susan Hall

Technology candidate Amit Levy knows a thing or two about being heavily recruited, but also about lack of communication. His story is not uncommon – finding the right balance of attention and interaction for each candidate can be tricky in recruiting. These tips from real-life tech professionals will help keep the onboarding process personal, productive and positive.

Amit Levy was hotly recruited immediately upon graduation from a five-year combined bachelor’s/master’s program in computer science at the University of Washington. But a couple of years earlier, in an on-campus interview for an internship, a recruiter told him the company would be inviting him to an on-site interview. Unfortunately it was several months before he heard anything.

Levy has since entered a PhD program at Stanford, but he still remembers what matters to him in the hiring process. He points to recruiters at Facebook and Google, where he did two internships, as excellent recruiting models because of their efficiency. After they settled preliminary hiring measures, they quickly handed him over to the hiring managers.

It’s important for the recruiter to connect the candidate and the hiring manager early on, Levy says. This enables the candidate to get to know the company culture and the challenges that lie ahead from the outset. Levy values this learning opportunity “more than benefits or salary or stock options.”

Levy isn’t alone. A recent Dice survey reveals what other technology professionals appreciate most in a recruiter.

So how can you earn respect and appreciation from the tech candidates you recruit? The following are simple suggestions from tech candidates for a more successful hiring process.

1) Understand the requirements

In the technology industry, hiring companies don’t always have a good handle on their tech needs. “They’re just matching A and B,” says Steve Silberberg, a 30-year veteran IT pro from Boston who does software contracting during the off season from his hiking business, Fitpacking. A tech job posting might call for a huge array of skills that one person is unlikely to have. Or it might call for more years of experience using a certain software than the software has been available on the market. So as you recruit, it’s important to know not just the required skills for a position, but the company’s goals for the hire – and to articulate them. That includes knowing enough IT jargon to understand whether you and the job candidate are actually talking about the same thing.

2) Make it personal

“Take more time to get to know me well,” advises Ed Hammerbeck, a mid-career software analyst from Louisville, KY. “Understand my needs beyond my resume – my family situation, my interests, the things about a company’s climate that might be interesting to me.” Also, ask candidates directly what they’re looking for – such as, “Do you like to work in a corporate environment or a small startup environment?”

Just as a savvy candidate customizes his resume to a company’s unique needs, a recruiter’s job pitch should be customized to a candidate, professionally and personally.

3) Learn how to communicate

Scott Rinaldi, a Boston-area information security professional, says that when he completed his master’s degree several years ago, he sometimes received recruiting calls three or more times a day.

“The frequency of calls was just too much,” he said. “I’m a really private person and I prefer to communicate by email.” If you communicate with candidates via their preferred method you’ll receive the best responses. So don’t rule out email or even text messaging as vehicles to conduct business.

4) Find a balance

Rinaldi has experienced recruiters who were focused on filling a quota and others who tried to be his friend. He believes the “sweet spot” is somewhere in between.

Create a pool of candidates that are “just right” in size to avoid being perceived as a recruiter with a quota. “Focus on your job seeker’s objectives first and sales quotas second,” Rinaldi recommends. “Rather than sending out 3,000 emails, target 25 or 30 people.”

5) Truly showcase the company

Companies sometimes leverage their “cool” culture to compete for top candidates. However, a company’s culture may not resonate with everyone. For Levy, the challenges he can tackle at work are more important than the bells and whistles of a company’s culture. For example, he believes that startups can be competitive if recruiters highlight the interesting problems the company is solving.

“At a small startup, if you’re doing anything cool technically, then most people (at the company) have their hand in it and you can get the person in charge to talk to the handful of people they want to recruit,” said Levy.

Summary

Overall, remember that a candidate’s first impression of a position or company is the recruiter. As one tech candidate said, “If it’s a bad encounter, it doesn’t matter how great the job is, or how high the salary is. If it’s a great encounter, the relationship can build.”

Finding the right combination of attention, communication and personalization for your candidates is the ultimate recruiting challenge. If you start by aligning your goals with those of your tech candidates, you’ll find better outcomes for all – and enhance your recruiting reputation in the process.

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