Right now, there are approximately 70,000 software engineering openings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Qualified engineers to fill those spots? Around 60,000 or so.
With that kind of proving ground, the recruiting techniques honed in that market can give you an edge anywhere.
As part of our FutureTalent webinar series exploring the future of recruiting and talent acquisition, we asked three recruiters from different backgrounds how they get the job done in the tough Silicon Valley market.
(If you’d prefer to watch, you can scroll to the bottom to view the webinar.)
- Representing enterprise: Emily Lake from Square, the mobile payments platform
- Representing agencies: Eric Soni from Robert Walters, acquiring product and marketing talent for growth-stage Bay Area companies
- Representing startups: Lindsey Dal Porto from our team here at 1-Page, the next innovation in technology-based talent sourcing
One thing they all agreed on: in a market like San Francisco, you have to work smarter internally and externally to get the job done fast, and get offers signed before a candidate looks elsewhere.
But even if you’re not recruiting in Silicon Valley, their advice was universal and can be used to ensure you’re ahead of your competitors.
Here are some of the best bits they shared with our audience:
Build Better Internal Relationships
1. Invest in a more human and transparent client relationship
Gone are the days of paper-pushing agency recruitment, delivering resume after resume to your client in the hope one will stick. Eric Soni of Robert Walters has seen a shift to greater communication and transparency between recruiters and clients, with payoffs for both sides.
“Whether it’s mapping out candidate concerns, the perception of the company as a whole, or the supply of qualified candidates in the market, we just find it’s no longer acceptable to be a black box,” he says.
“The best relationships and the most successful placements have come from regular check-ins coupled with various types of spreadsheets, tracking technologies…[tools that make us] better at ascertaining feedback and just understanding the candidate pipeline.”
Eric also says transparency and more routine communication with clients is essential for a more targeted recruitment strategy, where every selling point that could hook a candidate matters.
Beyond communication, Eric feels it’s important to align with clients’ motivations and goals as well. Conveying to clients that you as a recruiter understand their excitement over what this hire represents to them goes a long way. “We all have some of that emotional component to recruiting and doing right by our candidates and our partners,” he says. “So sometimes prioritization just naturally comes from that emotional involvement in that company and that search.”
2. You’re more than a recruiter – you’re a talent partner
The best path to a transparent relationship comes down to how the company views the recruiter’s role. Emily Lake from Square recommends seeing yourself less as a recruiter and more of a talent partner and consultant, using your expertise to guide hiring managers to the best hire.
“Rather than recruiting being a resource that the teams can throw information at and walk away from, we’re really partnered closely with our hiring manager(s),” says Emily.
“It really becomes more of targeting exactly what the team wants, and understanding and being deeply partnered with hiring teams so that you can go out and find that really specialized talent,” she says.
3. It takes hiring managers and recruiters working together
And it runs both ways. Hiring managers should view recruiting as part of their job, just as much as recruiters own responsibility for helping managers make the right hire.
It’s an important and empowering distinction – and it needs to come from the top. Emily from Square explains: “If we’re not hiring the right talent, our leaders see that as something that they and their team need to really step up to the plate and help execute on.”
Improving the success rate of attracting the right candidates means keeping hiring managers involved in the recruitment process. Both Emily and 1 Page’s Lindsey Dal Porto use technology to help them build those communication channels.
Says Emily: “I think a lot of our applicant tracking system improvements over time have allowed much more visibility, much more insight into not only what candidates are in the process, but how many people are applying. And giving that access to hiring managers and continuing to use those tools to have informal collaborative conversations just gives them a lot more insight. And so I think they feel much more well informed.”
For her part, Lindsey feels the technology has allowed her to “to focus on that relationship and streamline everything else. So we’re focusing on building trust, building relationships, asking those questions that technology can’t do for us. So we, again, kind of become these consultants to both the internal team and our candidate.”
4. Juggling multiple positions? Prioritize now
Another reason you need to forge a collaborative relationship with companies and hiring managers is to help prioritize when you have multiple positions to fill.
When things are moving at a fast pace and you are managing candidates for a number of different roles, it is easy to spread yourself too thin. As Emily from Square reminds us, “We don’t want to lose the candidate because we can’t get them in front of the right people and do that quickly.”
It’s key to clearly communicate with your team or client in order to ensure everyone agrees about what roles are a high priority. Emily points out that “the timing around [candidate] interviews can make a huge difference in whether or not you’re able to work with that candidate.”
Know Your Candidates
5. Personalizing your message to candidates matters more than ever
How do you stand out in an increasingly competitive environment where so many companies are fighting for the same type of talent – and that talent can have their pick of the best offer?
For Lindsey, it’s a matter of drilling down to fine tune your recruitment process, the types of people you go after and how you promote the roles you’re hiring for – then measuring and repeating the process when it works.
“We get a lot of insights from the data that we collect on how to go about these different objectives, but we focus on messaging when we spend time with our teams, to really understand their needs,” she says. “I spend a lot of time with our hiring managers even doing things like attending stand-ups and figuring out what are the projects that this team is working on right now, and how can I relay that in my messaging? How do I really, really make it feel personal?”
Eric points out that top talent is already inundated with recruiter outreach and unresponsive to InMail (some of it downright spam). Candidates are more responsive to recruiters who focus on real, considered communication.
“Talented, in-demand candidates are first going to turn to the recruiters who use these sourcing tools to facilitate a meaningful human connection. The recruiters that really take the time to truly know their work and their interests,” he says.
“We really shouldn’t be replacing in-person meetings and time spent on the phone simply with LinkedIn messages and email.”
6. Survey candidates to get a sense of how the experience feels to them
Once you’ve attracted a great candidate, how do you ensure their experience throughout the recruitment process is meaningful? Lindsey finds that surveying candidates allows insights that the team can learn from for future recruitment drives.
“We love to do surveys with our candidates that we hired, even those that we bring onsite, as to what the interview experience was like and we got a lot of insights from that,” she says. “That’s always really helpful.”
7. Know what success looks like in the role
Knowing in detail the key selling points and candidate attraction factors of the role you’re recruiting for go a long way to helping you target the right prospect in the right way. What matters to them? How much ownership of the role do they want? Are they seeking fast upward career potential?
It’s different strokes for different folks, as Eric points out.
“Candidates become tired of being promised the world and they take realistic projections more seriously.
He says knowing intimately the success factors a candidate will be judged by ahead of your first call makes an impact.
“Financial incentives are important, but they are less in our control. It always helps to have those different types of metrics for success.”
8. Know your candidate’s motivating factors
Do you know what drives your candidate in the workplace? What motivates them to do good work? What might excite them about a new opportunity?
Emily from Square notes that “not having the right data points on a candidate’s motivations can be a huge roadblock.”
Figuring out what candidates want from companies should start at the very beginning. Recruiters, in-house or external, should be asking hiring managers “What does the candidate want from us?” right from the intake meeting.
Considering the candidate’s motivations before the prospective candidate is even in the room can help shape everything that gives a recruiter an edge, especially the method, style, tone and personalization of the communication.
Says Emily: “If we don’t know all the reasons why [candidates are] looking to leave their current company and what they’re excited for in their next role, we might miss that opportunity.”
9. Sell your candidate on the next role, too
When interviewing a candidate, you’re probably focusing on the specific role you are looking to fill. However, Eric recommends “helping the candidate understand the next-next job they’ll have after this company.”
Providing a candidate with such context helps them better understand where this opportunity fits into their career path. Framing the role in such a way also conveys to the candidate that you are willing to invest in their professional growth and want to work with them to get them to that next-next job.
Says Eric, “It’s not realistic to think that people are going to be working at a company for 20 years.” Hiring managers find success helping candidates with “taking a step back and working as a partner with them to take them through how this might look throughout their career.”
Create a Recruiting Funnel
10. Don’t box yourself in – allow for creativity in the sourcing process
In the hunt for qualified candidates, stringent requirements regarding skills and attributes may ultimately be prolonging your search. It’s common to focus in on the ideal candidate for a specific role, but if you narrow too much, the right talent might not be an exact match.
Says Eric: “It’s good to understand that the best talent doesn’t necessarily need to fit a very rigid box, and that we can be a little bit creative in sometimes loosening some of the rigid criteria to make sure that we’re getting that raw talent.”
To ensure you aren’t missing out on candidates that may be a great fit, take a broader approach when defining the must-have experiences and skills. Being creative in your methods and where you look can also give you a wider pool of qualified candidates for your pipeline.
11. Use email campaigns to nurture (and automate) your pipeline
If recruitment is becoming more like marketing, then using tried and true marketing techniques can be an effective way to build and maintain relationships with prospects.
While employment videos, web content, and regular social media posts give candidates a sneak peek into your world, direct communication through email campaigns make things that more personal – as a bonus, these campaigns can be easily automated, saving you time.
Emily from Square likens it to a marketing “drip campaign” where emails are sent one-by-one to a recipient’s inbox, in a sequence. These periodic communications keep candidate conversations going even if you aren’t actively working to fill their ideal position.
Recruiters should “constantly engage that top talent and those folks in the market that you’re really excited about,” she says. “Whether that’s sending them articles, checking in and keeping in touch with them, and really being the first person the candidate thinks of when they do take the time to say, ‘I’m ready to make a move.’ ”
12. Target the right candidates – no more “spray and pray”
It might take a little extra time, but targeting your message to the right candidate will reward you. Lindsey from 1 Page says she’s also experimented with the drip campaign approach, but for targeting passive candidates rather than keeping a pipeline of talent warm.
The result? Time to hire was cut to just two weeks.
“One thing I’ve learned in my time as a recruiter is quality over quantity is far more effective,” she says. “You’re spending a little bit of extra time trying to reach out to the right people, but your response rate is going to be a lot higher.”
It’s important to still target the right candidates – even under pressure.
Says Lindsey: “I know there’s always a sense of urgency to get as many people in the door, to get as many people to reach out to at one point as possible, but I found that taking a step backward and being a little bit more strategic about what you’re pushing, who you’re reaching out to, those types of things tend to be far more effective.”
Leverage Technology…to a Point
13. Metrics are great, but they’re not everything
Recruiting is a human endeavor powered by numbers. All three panelists agreed that they find metrics helpful for targeting the right candidates and ensuring that they’re on track.
As Eric notes, at Robert Walters they don’t do “spray and pray. We want to be highly targeted with the profiles we share.” He says to pay attention to more human indicators like “the right types of behavior” on the part of candidates as well.
Here are a few metrics they noted as especially important:
- Volume of CVs presented
- Interviews arranged and attended
- Outreach success rate
- Percentage of profiles accepted for the first round review
- Retention rate post-phone screen
Eric finds the retention rate post-phone screen to be especially telling. “We were working with an enterprise referral marketing company,” he says, “and the CEO of the company is very passionate about the space he sees as the future of marketing. But we found out a lot of these candidates were dropping off after the first conversation.”
When Eric and his team took a closer look at why, they quickly located the problem. “We asked the candidates what the turnoff was, and they said, ‘Oh, well, the CEO asked us if we were very passionate about referral marketing.’”
Tracking the retention rate post-phone screen and noticing the drop-off helped Eric and his team put the campaign back on track. He was able to tell the CEO that although his passion was important, “unfortunately, that’s not going to necessarily relate to everybody. We need to highlight the other types of considerations: the leadership of the company we’re representing, their success in the space, and just the growth of the company in general.
14. Watch your conversion ratios closely
Paying attention to the change in the number of candidates from a phone interview to an on-site interview, or from an on-site first round to an on-site second round, can offer you valuable information. Finding out why these conversion ratios are low or high helps you consistently improve and iterate upon your hiring process.
As Emily explains, your conversion ratio can tell you things such as, “Maybe we’re not pitching a role correctly and so we’re losing candidates after a screen,” or “Maybe we’re not asking the right questions of the candidates and we’re getting them on-site for a first round interview and realizing they’re not a great fit.”
15. Create living, breathing interview guides
In a lot of companies, and when teams are busy, interview guides often get written once, and then copied or tweaked depending on the role. But Emily believes “it’s effective for any company at any stage to really be clear on the resources that our interviewers are going to use to make the interview really successful.”
Interview kits are a helpful tool for your co-workers to get a better grasp on what questions they should be asking and which topics they should steer away from. Although interviewers can and should form their own questions as an interview progresses, interview guides can help them frame inquiries and ensure some consistency across all the company’s interviews.
So what will the future look like? Hint: It’s all about how you view your role
In a highly competitive market, recruiting morphs and evolves to keep up with a challenging industry, but recruiters in any market can be proactive about future-proofing their own practices.
“I think recruiting will continue to be impactful; we just need to add value rather than simply take orders from the team,” says Emily. “Anything a recruiting organization can do to really add and drive value, and make strategic recommendations. Things like what market to go into next…versus just sitting there and pushing resumes forward.”
Lindsey agrees that recruiters need to “remember that we own the process too.” On the future of recruiting, she says she sees recruiters “going back to a consultant type of role…where you’re mobile, you’re on the phone with people, you’re building relationships, you’re making connections.”
Technology shapes how we all work today and will impact recruiting for the better. Says Eric, “Technology is going to help us stay on top of candidates better.” He also expresses hope for future innovations: “I wish that it was less manual when it comes to tracking candidates along their career.”
For Lindsey from 1 Page, technology makes more room for building better human relationships in the recruiting process. “I think just speaking from a fundamental process standpoint, what technology has really done for us is allowed us to focus on that relationship and streamline everything else.”
Hear more of the conversation on this topic in 1-Page’s FutureTalent webinar, exploring how internal and agency recruiters will work together in the future.