Building great software is often simple, but it’s almost never easy.

Taking a product idea and bringing it to fruition is fraught with peril. Understanding your customers, coming up with designs, defining clear goals, understanding complexity, dealing with roadblocks, squashing bugs, accurately tracking performance metrics and product maintenance are just a handful of the things that can cause major headaches.

We believe that things can and should be easier. A lot easier. So whether it’s making sure you’re hiring the right team or delivering the right products in the most effective way possible, our services are designed to maximize the true potential of your entire organization.

How to Fix the Top of Your Recruiting Funnel

In this post, I’d like to share tips on how to improve the top of your candidate funnel. Whether you don’t have anybody applying for your job, or it’s just not the right people, I want to provide the tips and tools that you can use to improve the top of the recruiting funnel.

So the first thing you’re gonna wanna do is get crystal clear on who exactly it is that you’re targeting here. Now, I know that you think you might have already done that by writing up a job description / job ad and posting it out online. But what I’m talking about is a little bit different. I want you to really think about who it is that you want applying for this job opening that you have.

What job are they currently in? Why would they be considering looking for a new job? Are they just unsatisfied with where they’re at right now? Are they looking for new opportunities? Are they looking for new challenges? Are they just looking for a change?

So, get crystal clear on what would drive them to be looking for a new opportunity. What do they want in a new job? What do they really need? Where are they spending their time, online and offline? By getting clear on this avatar of who it is that you want applying for your job, you start to get some better ideas about how you might actually reach them. Then I want you to look at your job description. Is the way that you’ve laid it out focused solely on what you need from this person, or is there anything in there about how you might satisfy some of the things that they desire, that they’re looking for in a new opportunity?

You’re also gonna want to really take another look in how you present your organization to candidates. Just like every job description is usually a boring, bullet point list of skills and responsibilities, most company descriptions are yawn-inducing history lessons about how the company was founded, when it was founded, how long you’ve been in business, and how big your team is. These sorts of things aren’t going to appeal to most people, but it is what we naturally go with.

So, now that you know who your candidate is, and what it is they want in an opportunity, what do you think they might want in an organization? What strengths that you have in your organization can you communicate to them? How would you describe your team? Your company culture? Does your company celebrate or embody principles and values that could be attractive to any candidate, especially the one you really, really wanna hire? Is there a way that you can uniquely communicate this to people, before they even consider applying?

You know, there’s a saying that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” And I firmly believe that that is true. That said, it’s also true that people don’t join a company for a paycheck or a list of responsibilities. They join a company because of the people, the leadership, the folks that they meet during the interview process. So, are you truly presenting your leadership — yourself, from the CEO all the way down to the people that your ideal hire’s gonna be working with — are you presenting them to the candidate in any way, shape, or form, before they actually come in for an interview? Introducing a human element into how you present your organization, your leadership, your team, can really go a long way in convincing your ideal candidate to apply and engage in the recruiting process.

Okay, so now you’ve got all this nailed down, you have your ideal candidate avatar. You really understand what they want in an opportunity, and what they’re looking for in an organization, and you’re able to communicate that to them. Now you’re going to want to present all of this using persuasive language. And you might need to hire a copywriter, or use your marketing team, or something, whenever you’re doing this. It will go such a long way in improving the top of your funnel.

Because most job ads are cold and corporate. And as I mentioned, people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. They also don’t join job descriptions, they join teams of people. So these cold, corporate, formulaic job ads are just really not doing anybody any favors.

So, gather your notes. Go to somebody you trust as a good writer, or a great marketer, and get them to whip something up for you. I think you’ll be presently surprised, even by the first draft, and then you can iterate from there. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time out, but I can almost guarantee it’s gonna be better than what you’re putting out there right now.

I wanted to keep this brief, and I hope it was helpful for you. I guarantee if you put some of these things into practice, the number and the quality of people that are applying for your role is going to improve exponentially. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please like/clap/share it all over the Interwebz.

Lessons From HIRED on Candidate Outreach

The first week of October came and went, recently, and with it Austin Startup Week 2018. In years past, I was so hyper-focused on the responsibilities as an employee in the Austin startup scene that I rarely took advantage of the hundreds of panels, speakers and events that were available.

This year, being self-employed afforded the opportunity to grant myself permission to fully participate. In addition to (hopefully) providing value in my own talk — Engineering Excellence: Best Practices of High-Performing Teams — I got to spend at least a little time attending a handful of sessions.

One of the sessions in the HR and Culture track was especially attractive, given a focus & obsession I have to help growing companies attract, acquire & retain the type of talent they need to grow and succeed. It was a panel discussion titled Your Employer Brand: Strategies that Attract Top Tech Talent, hosted at Walmart Tech and sponsored by HIRED.

The supplemental materials provided by the sponsor included their 2018 Global Brand Health Report, a 51-page booklet where “Tech workers reveal the companies they want to work for and what they value in a job offer.”

The Report, while brief, provided a ton of useful data and insights. What follows are just a few takeaways that could be valuable for any employer, regardless of size or industry.

Prologue: We’re [ALL] Hiring

It’s safe to say that nearly every organization has one or more open positions at the moment. If your company is growing, you’re hiring. If your growth has leveled-off, you’ve probably lost a couple team members to new opportunities, so you’re trying to backfill those positions. If you’re in the uncomfortable position of being a business on the decline, you could very well have the most urgent hiring needs out of anyone.

At last measurement in September, unemployment in the U.S. was reported at around 3.7%. Rather than get into how unemployment rates, inflation, wage hikes and other factors all impact one another, it’s best to understand that 3.7% unemployment is the lowest rate in nearly 50 years.

Point is: The Job Market is TIGHT, which means you as an employer need to at least consider anything that can provide a competitive advantage. While I knew some of these things at the time, I wish I’d had all of this information when I was fighting the good fight as a hiring manager.

Insights for Successful Outreach (AKA “Outbound Sales for HR”)

Due to these “Full Employment” conditions, any company who is aggressively staffing-up must be reaching out to job-seekers in a variety of ways if they hope to be successful. So what contributes to successful outreach? Some of the things that make candidates most likely to engage with your company include when:

  1. You disclose Salary information up-front
    More and more employers provide some level of transparent compensation data to their employees, so why not extend that information to job-seekers? There are dozens of websites reporting industry averages and even reported salaries from your company’s current and former employees across a variety of positions. A lot of times, that data is outdated or even simply inaccurate. You might as well set the record straight with potential candidates. At best, they find the transparency refreshing and the salary range attractive enough to engage. At worst, you lose the interest of someone who would eventually turn down your opportunity on the basis of salary, and you’ve just saved a bunch of people hours of their time.

     Reach out prepared with the full package of compensation and benefits, so the talent you’re so interested in has a fullunderstanding of what you offer.

  2. You clearly communicate work experience expectations
    There’s a reason the term “Passive job-seekers” exists: They’re not engaged in the time- and focus-commitment that’s required of actively considering new opportunities. So when they are attracted to a new opportunity, they want to be as confident as possible that they’re a fit on paper. Does “5–7 years Java experience” really mean 5–7 years, or is it negotiable if they have some other valuable and hard-to-find expertise?

     Before contacting talent, get crystal clear with hiring managers on what skills (and skill-levels) are completely non-negotiable, and where there might be some wiggle room. Also, work with hiring managers to better describe the degree of expertise they want for each skill. If you’ve ever met someone with 10 years experience who reallyhad the same 1 year of experience for 10 straight years, you’ll know what I mean.
  3. They receive a personalized message
    I’ll keep saying this to anyone who’ll listen: Recruiting and Dating are basically the same thing (Seriously, the parallels are astounding and a little bit depressing). And, as it is in Dating, nobody wants to feel like another faceless name — or is it nameless face? — in some soulless numbers game. They want to feel special, like they’re the prettiest girl at this dance. The least you can do is communicate with them like they’re a human being.

     Do your research. At minimum, find out one or two remotely interesting things, even if it’s just about their alma mater, the length of tenure, or the series of promotions they received at their current gig. Ask them a question outside of whether they’re “currently considering new opportunities.”
  4. They recognize the company name
    In another post, I’ll outline a few turn-offs that revolve around company product & mission. For now, though, it’s a pretty low bar for a candidate to say, “I’ll talk to you if I’ve heard OF the company.”

    RECOMMENDATION: Increase company visibility in the local community and on social media. Sponsor industry and community events. For a few hundred dollars you could overcome the most basic of hurdles that could keep a job-seeker from engaging with you.

  5. They know a friend or former colleague who works at your company
    That we live in the most connected time in history should surprise no one. And in a tight job economy, the best talent is only going to leave the comfort and security of their current job if they greatly minimize their own risk. Part of the research they do on a new suitor (that’s you) is going to include tapping their network for the inside scoop on your organization.
    RECOMMENDATION: Focus the bulk of your efforts on talent who has some kind of connection to your company, even if they’re 2 or 3 degrees from Kevin Bacon himself.

In summary, there are a lot of wrong ways to operate as an employer, staffing firm or recruiting agency when it comes to candidate outreach. Perhaps, if you can focus first on doing the things that talent likes, you won’t have to rely so much on the cringe-inducing tactics that make candidates want to avoid “playing the field” for the rest of time.

Watch the Live Stream of “Engineering Excellence: Best Practices of High-Performing Teams”

This week October 1st-5th is the 2018 Austin Startup Week, featuring loads of great events, content, and connections within the Austin Startup community.

On Tuesday afternoon, Shaun had the opportunity to present on a topic he’s highly passionate about: how to become a high-performing team. The host, Capital Factory, streamed the entire Developer track for the day, so you can checkout Shaun’s talk through this link, or just click Play above!