What‘s the first organic search result in Google when you type in “technical recruiting?”
Since Google personalizes search results, for me, the answer was a blog titled, “Why are technical recruiters so clueless?”, by none other than the creator of Ruby on Rails web development framework – David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp, known in the software community as DHH. In this blog, David Heinemeier Hansson opened with –
“Are there any recruiters working in technology who get it? Anyone putting in just a minimum of effort to appear even half-way competent? If so, they need to speak up. The reputation of their profession is being soiled by completely clueless hacks.”
DHH then included an actual email that he received from a recruiter, urging him to apply for “a rapidly expanding, VC-funded tech startup positioned squarely on top of the social media marketing revolution.”
Here is an analogy for this situation – It’s like a recruiter asking Iron Chef Bobby Flay if he would like to apply for a position at a promising neighborhood pizzaria, and that his pay would “depend on his experience.”
DHH went on,
“If they’re just going to spam people from emails they find on tech sites, why not just pay some shady Russians to do it? […] The problem with this kind of hackery is that it has bred an outright animosity to recruiters in large parts of the tech world.”
Fast forwarding, the conclusion of his blog was –
“As things stand right now, though, I would never recommend the use of recruiters to anyone for a technical position. You’re much more likely to be associated with the incompetence of the recruiter than you are to find highly skilled technical talent.”
Among the 140+ comments on this blog, many shared similar experience.
Having been on both sides (being a software engineer and being a recruiter), I understand why the programmers dislike thoughtless and impersonal phone calls and emails. I also see why recruiters are tempted to skip doing research before contacting programmers.
As a developer, you get bombarded with countless generic emails and messages constantly. It’d be awesome if the positions in these emails actually matched what you looked for in an ideal job. Unfortunately, 99% of these look nothing interesting, and you can’t stop them from coming.
As a recruiter, you wish you could prepare personalized sales pitch for each developer you reach out to and your email would create high level of interest. But, if you only “half understand” what’s in the job description and what these developers have been working on, you have no reliable way to know how developers would think about the positions you’re recruiting for. While constantly being under pressure to quickly generate candidates, playing the “numbers game” seems like the only solution.
This means, if you estimate a 3% response rate, you then need to send out emails to 100 developers to get 3 candidates for your hiring manager. It’s next to impossible for anyone to write 100 personalized emails given the time constraint, so it seems the only option is to blast out a generic email to 100 people.
After reading DHH’s blog, I felt compelled to suggest ways to improve this situation and promote better communication and relationships between programmers and recruiters. Since the recruiters are those who initiate the interaction, here are some proactive steps recruiters can take:
- Have a basic level of understanding of technology: Know what your candidates and hiring mangers spend all day using and go beyond just keyword matching
- Understand what technical people value: Put yourself in technical talent’s shoes and know what is important in their work and career
- Be value-add for potential candidates: Offer job opportunities to developers because these opportunities improve their career, not just because you’ll fill a role or get paid
Doing these is not only for the developers’ benefits; doing these is also good for the recruiters. As a recruiter, the most valuable business asset is the relationship you build with people. There has been a short supply of job-ready developers. This shortage will last for the foreseeable future. This means your ability to connect with technical talent is the most crucial aspect to perform your work. The only way you can gain developers’ trust is when you put their interest before your own. Only then will you have a chance of building meaningful relationships with them.
I can’t wait to see the day when the technical recruiting profession being widely valued and recognized by the technical talent community as a trusted partner in the software business ecosystem.