Why do the best software engineer not work for you?

Everybody knows that software engineers are of high demand today, therefore it’s vital to use all possible ways to become a company that would attract long queues of tech candidates at its door gate. What frequently happens in practice is that after some time of headhunting most recruiters/HR managers come to the conclusion that it’s very complicated to recruit truly skilled developers. Of course, it’s not easy. But let me ask you a simple question — “What have you done yourself to attract the best applicants?

Talking a lot with recruiters and hiring managers from different companies around the world (not taking into attention tech giants as Google, Dropbox, Amazon) I often hear:

  • We offer good market wages;
  • We’ve established our brand and invested a lot of funds in marketing and advertising;
  • We’ve got our internal recruiting department;
  • We’ve already been working with a number of external agencies as “preferred suppliers” (the weird thing is, why do you still have so many open positions?);
  • We’ve got flexible schedule and “table soccer”.

Stop right there! Don’t you think that other tech companies have already been using the same kind of gimmicks? So what you actually do is you offer the same thing that others do and hope for luck to get dozens of software engineers contacting you via various forms on a site. Alas, it doesn’t work that way. To make people want to work for you requires much more than just monetary investment. It’s all about relation. I will explain now.

Well, you need to walk in your sales department to see what I mean by “relation”. Ask your sales managers how they “polish” your clients, build networking and react at the clients’ requests. The clients bring money and orders to your company, therefore it’s important to cater to their needs. However, your own development team also bring you “engine” of your product and looking at it in a larger scale, this ensures your company’s growth in the future. A well-known cite of Tom de Parko in PeopleWare that goes like

“Count on the best people outperforming the worst by about 10:1”

has got research justification. That’s the reason why everybody is headhunting for top employees… In that case, why not to change your relation to software engineers and treat them as good as you treat your clients?

All the things that are important for the clients have got the same value for the candidates. Your recruiter automatically becomes a sales manager to maintain open positions in the company. Now, ask yourself a question — “Would you buy a “position” from your own recruiter?” If your answer is “yes”, it’s great. However, if you’re not that sure, you should definitely change the way you treat your candidates.

The thing to start with is to give quick replies. Our modern world is very dynamic; therefore you need to be quick to be ahead of the rest. I still don’t understand how recruiters reply to their applicants during two weeks and then, arrange an interview another two weeks later. Do you really believe that a candidate would wait for a month to be interviewed and won’t join Uber instead? The speed of responses is very important at all stages of hiring process. The less this interval is, the more assurance in your reliability a candidate will have.

A negative feedback — is also a feedback. If an applicant has sent you his CV but you see that he’s not really the best match for a position, reply to him anyway. Tell him why he doesn’t fit your position, give him some advice what he should work on to apply to your company in the future and wish success. A candidate has spent his time and maybe even some money to send you his CV via your site. I know some developers (really talented, I have to say) who didn’t get any responses to their CV’s at all.

Don’t delay with an offer. I know a few cases when the offer was sent in 3–5 weeks when a candidate had already lost his enthusiasm and desire to work at that company. Don’t delay with a feedback after the final interview. If an applicant failed, tell him about it in a mild form as soon as it’s possible. Don’t make up fake excuses a-la “the status of a position has been changed to “hold”. Your feedback will give a candidate an opportunity to grow. Besides, he may recommend his friends to try their fortune at your company.

Networking is a long play. Maintain relationships with those candidates who are currently not interested in your positions. Take part in technical conferences, discuss the subjects related to your common business, and always try to help, even if you’ve got very little information.

Make your jobs section unique, user-friendly and accessible. Let your candidates see that you’re headhunting for top employees. I’ve seen a big number of sites with very poor navigation. I had to spend some time to find the “careers page” which was often “hidden” somewhere in the footer amongst other links. Why not separate career page from the others and make it really appealing? You can also write interesting and unique content for this page. Be different from your competitors.

Always do a little bit more than candidates expect from you:

  • Invite a final candidate to work for a whole day so that he can get an idea of your company’s culture and all interesting things you do.
  • Invite a candidate for a lunch or invite him to join others for a lunch at your company;
  • Show your interviewee social usefulness of your project;
  • Order a taxi for an applicant who has come from another city/country and doesn’t know your city. An employer who’s interested in hiring top staff would also offer to pay for the flight and overnight at the hotel.
  • When a candidate leaves the office, offer a lift to the nearest bus or underground station. By doing so, you will also have a chance to get to know him better.
  • Discuss hobbies and interests with your candidate, it’s important to establish good personal relationships with your staff to successfully co-work. The same thing is in recruitment.
  • Read at least a few blogs of your applicant; check up if he ever took part in any topical conferences;

I believe it’s the way that company treats its employees and how it sells itself during the recruiting process that may become a decisive criterion for talented IT guys. I strongly recommend tech companies to use these simple, but very effective tips when hiring software engineers.

Think big and hire the best! Good luck ;)

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