Previously I mentioned that sourcing is difficult to a company that is not yet reputable.
This is because candidates generally prefer to put famous employer names on their resumes. When there is no buzz around your company, you get fewer applications and referrals.
Consequently first-time founders often have to rely on their personal network to source for candidates. Obviously the outreach of such method is limited.
Fortunately, there is one skill that we can learn to up our recruiting game.
One afternoon, I was in a meeting with Jesper, the CTO of a well-funded corporate innovation unit. I listened to him recounting the difficulties he was facing in his business.
Due to a badly managed outsourcing operation, his project was way behind schedule. He could not deliver what the customers wanted.
He wanted to build a local tech team to take over the project. Despite his best effort however, he failed to recruit any good software engineers.
To be fair to him, he was not a tech person, despite his title. He was actually a product designer who happened to manage a tech operation. Tech recruiting was beyond him.
I wanted to help him. I knew he was too busy to listen to my talent strategy talk.
However any recommendations would not do him good without him first figuring out what went wrong.
so I went through the job descriptions he had together with his recruiter. After a while, I could see why they did not find any quality candidates.
They did not spend time on copywriting.
As it turned out, Jesper actually told the recruiter his requirements verbally without writing anything down for her. She wrote the J.Ds. using some templates she found online. The writing did not resonate with the job seekers.
A good copy on the job description makes a huge difference to the job applications received compared to a poor copy or no copy.
Whenever I write a good copy, I start seeing CVs that match exactly with the requirements appearing in my inbox. Whether those candidates will eventually pass the interviews is another matter, but you need to attract them to your door first.
Programmers are predominantly visual learners. In their work, they read a lot: API documentation, software specifications, architecture diagrams, their codes and sometimes stackoverflow.
They don’t like to be told what to do. They speak to each other only when they need information or have an issue to discuss.
What makes you think you can sell them a job just by talking to them?
Many recruiters prefer to make a phone call to talk about an opportunity on initial contact. What they need to do is to send over a well-written job description!
Copywriting actually goes beyond writing good job ads. It is originally a marketing skill for driving conversions. You can think of it as “salesmanship in print”.
Writing a good copy requires doing research about the audience, understanding their psychology and making an emotional connection with them in your writing.
That’s where you need teamwork. You need the input from the senior tech guys in your recruitment team about what appeals to the candidates. If you are a non-tech person, you definitely will need them to write the job requirements and responsibilities for you.
Once you master copywriting, you can apply the skill to shape your employer brand. Writing the messages on your company’s career page, tweets, blog articles, and even how your recruiters make contact with potential candidates, all require copywriting skill.
But that’s for future.
For now, focus on writing a good job description. Fortunately, you can get pretty good at it by following a few essential steps:
1. [Fact sheet] Write down the important facts about the opening.
Prioritize the facts that differentiate your company from others.
what your company actually do
the people the new hire will be working with
the product/technology he will be working on
the job responsibilities and requirements
2. [Benefit list] Write down the benefits of the job.
unlimited time off
weekly tech talk
Make sure these are real tangible benefits.
e.g. instead of “competitive salary”, state the salary range or not at all. Instead of “we have an engineering culture”, specify what constitutes your engineering culture.
3. Define the positioning of your job post.
What you want the audience to think about your job opportunity?
e.g. “we seek a software generalist who can work on any part of the stack” / “this is a position for the star players, do not apply if striving for high performance stresses you out.”
4. Write down the deal for the potential candidates.
What you have got to offer? This becomes the headline of your job post.
e.g. “Etsy is looking for an experienced Machine Learning Engineer to join our Search and AI platform team and help us connect buyers and sellers in meaningful ways.”
5. Write down all the necessary elements of the job post, making use of the fact sheet and benefit list.
And the rest is fine-tuning and proof-reading, making sure that the copy matches your defined positioning.
Posting a well-written job ad on major local job boards should earn you a stream of quality applications. Still that doesn’t mean all of them will pass the filtering process of your funnel. In fact a majority of them will turn out to be mismatches.
For serious tech recruiting, you need to go after passive candidates – potential candidates who are not actively looking for a job, but may be interested in your opening. You can use some recruiters.
And so, we will talk about hiring recruiters in the next email.
See you next time.
Obito “the copywriter”
P/S: There are star recruiters who get good candidates all the time. You need to seek out and work with the stars for your recruitment campaign to get good results.
What kind of recruiters do good candidates like to work with?
Previous: Email 3 – Recruitment Pipeline.