How to recruit an IT professional

“Hi person! Did you enjoy your breakfast? I have the best job ever for you, but I will not tell you much about it. Call me today to find out more!”

In my few years of experience as an IT professional, I have been approached by quite a few recruiters whose messages I have not given more than 1 minute of my time. Some of them did get a response, but mostly a negative one. I would say only about one in ten messages warrants reading further than the first paragraph.

Why is this though? Surely helping potential employers and potential employees get together is a worthwhile venture for all parties involved? Since I am convinced that not all recruiters have the “spam-do” attitude and that people can improve, I’ve written this post to hopefully make the world a better place :-)

Looking through my e-mail and LinkedIn message history, I’ve made a list of things recruiters could do to pique my interest. Most of these points will probably apply to other fields of business as well.

Be personal

“Hi {name}, how are you doing? Are you happy at {current job}? If you might want to consider leaving {company}, I have the perfect job for you in {top rated skill on LinkedIn profile}!”

I think this is the most important one. And I don’t mean “act as if we’ve known each other for years”, I mean “don’t make me feel like you are sending this message to everyone on your address book.”

Nearly all of the messages I have looked through fail in this regard. Just because I have used a specific technology for a while, does not mean I am interested in entry-level jobs. Similarly, if you notice I have done work with .NET, don’t tell me you have a job for an experienced mobile developer and then proceed to tell me what a perfect match I would be. Fun though that sounds, I don’t have experience with mobile development so if you are looking for someone with multiple years of experience you should probably move along.

So what can you do? Convince me that the job you’ve got is perfect for me. Tell me how it suits my interests, what I could be contributing to the employer and how this job will enrich my life. Research me. If you put my name into Google, you will probably find out a few things about me, so try to use those. Anything to make me feel like you are putting in the effort to get me a job that will make me happy.

Do not be too personal

“Hey, had a good weekend? I have a great job offer for you!”

Not much to say here. Since this is your first message to me, we are not friends (yet). Who knows, we might be in the future, but for now let’s just treat each other professionally.

Be very specific

“My (unnamed) employer is a dynamic, fun, informal though professional, relaxed though very result driven company where you will have all the freedom in the world to do what you like, use the latest technology and work for the biggest customers in the world!”

If you have a job for me at a specific company, don’t describe that company without mentioning its name. Usually you will have given enough details that if I wanted to know I could find out the name quite easily, so why not save me the hassle? Instead, tell me the name (especially if it’s a well-known company) and tell me what makes this job so much fun. Tell me what the job entails, other than using a certain technology. The company posting the job offer will be able to tell you about this in great detail.

There are exceptions, but nearly all companies claim to be dynamic, fun, relaxed, cutting edge, et cetera. So does my current employer, so that won’t be a reason for me to switch jobs. You use the latest technologies for everything? So do we, and at least with my current job I know whether it’s true.

Tell me what makes your job offer unique. Does your company have a swimming pool where I can take a break during lunch to come up with new ideas? That sounds new so put that in! Does your company have a policy where software engineers only get to drive supercars? Sounds fun! Your boss has a strict policy of paying everyone at least twice their market value? I’m listening.

What this boils down to, is that there are (from what I can tell) many jobs in this field, but not enough employees. So why would I give up my job, in which I appear to have all the things I could want (permanent contract, market standard salary, company car, laptop, phone) already, for a 1 year contract somewhere else? If someone changes to a different job, generally that job will have to be better in some way.

Finally for this point: given that you are apparently trying to find an employee for a specific position, you probably have an approximate salary in mind. Why not tell me this? Money isn’t everything, but if you are planning to pay me less than what I currently make I will probably not be able to make the move even if I wanted to. If I go to the company website it will tell me this with the job offer, so why don’t you? If you don’t, or if you are vague about it, I will generally assume that it is not a number I am going to like.

Do not be pushy

“Please let me know when it is convenient to call you this week – I can even talk to you outside of business hours.”

About 1 in 5 messages ends with this. Please don’t be that guy/girl. As if you are doing me some huge favour with this. Don’t assume that I will want to immediately give you a call after receiving your initial message. Instead, why not be more on the safe side and say something like “if you like what you read, why not give me a call?”

Respect people’s wishes. On LinkedIn, there’s a field on my profile that tells you whether or not I am interested in job offers. If that field says “no”, don’t bother. I will probably not read it anyway, or just get annoyed because I know you did not read my profile. If it says “yes” but your message is not interesting, don’t keep sending it to me every few weeks. And if I explicitly ask you to stop messaging me, just apologize and move on. At that point, no good is going to come of it anyway.

And if you want some extra credits, this would be even better: “If you’re not interested, please let me know and I will take you off my list.” Messages ending with something along these lines will usually get a reply from me, even though it is sometimes still a dismissive one. At least this way you will be narrowing down the number of people you need to message when you have a position available.

Conclusion

Think about what the person you’re addressing wants to hear. This is different for everyone, but most people will (inadvertently) give you a general idea of what it is with their online presence. Put in the extra effort and I am quite sure you will have more success! I have also noticed that there are certain websites where “bad” recruiters are publicly shamed. Nobody wants that to end up in the Google rankings for their name, do they?

I’d be interested in hearing a response from some recruiters. Are you that one in one hundred who does their homework? Or do you think the shotgun approach is fine because eventually you will get the person you need?

And IT professionals, what are your pet peeves when it comes to being contacted through LinkedIn?

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