The Ultimate Guide on Technical Recruiting — Part 3

SECTION 3: SOURCING, CLOSING, CALIBRATING

SOURCING

STRATEGY

  • Keywords from job description
  • Keywords from current employees within the same role (what’s on their resume? Linkedin that matches or stands out from the job description?)
  • Keywords from the initial intake meeting that manager pointed out (are there specific repo’s, companies, teams, projects, labs, research that we can target?)
  • Less discrete data points like job titles, degrees, spelling of a tool (systemC vs system-c), the spelling of a responsibility / role (architected, validated, integrated, etc.)
  • Start broad with your boolean string, then narrow down to around 100. Do an initial scrub to spot check accuracy of string then modify from there.
  • Stay curious. If you see a niche item that fits what the profile, write it down and perform a new search around that, (I.e, Candidate X worked at a Cryptography Research lab. Maybe I can look into that lab and see if there are other candidates like it)
  • Start from the back of list to front. There are some dimes hidden in the back results that the algorithms don’t catch sometimes
  • Keep organized. Keep track of what strings yielded results, which ones didn’t. Modify incrementally.
  • NOT searches can be just as powerful. (I.e, candidates NOT at Google or, NOT working on an overused keyword, etc)

ENGAGEMENT

  • Be human and personalize some aspect of the initial outreach. So, don’t email blast cause that’s a waste of time and effort and honestly just makes the brand/recruiter look bad
  • Follow-up. This goes without saying. People are busy and almost never have time to respond right away to your first, second or even third email.
  • Utilize your managers and directors for golden tier candidates
  • Consider sending candidates a text (if you have access to their number) if 3rd or 4th follow-up doesn’t work. This works especially well with Millenials.
  • Be systematic. Track your outreaches, track conversion ratios for open/response rate. Make incremental tweaks to the template and test!
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest tools and trends. This guide from Gem is a must-read.
  • Linkedin Recruiter
  • X-Ray Searches, you can use sites like these with pre-built boolean.
  • Google Custom Search Engine, here’s a good one from Mark Tortorici
  • Next tier of ‘AI’ tools like Hiretual, Entelo, Gem, Outreach.io, etc can be helpful in surfacing leads.
  • Incentivize. Cash bonus? Swag? A trip to Hawaii? Leverage Founders/Directors to create a culture of referrals.
  • Host referral parties. Book a room, order pizza and have everyone come together to look through Linkedin and find referrals
  • Intimate Dinners — Works great for technically niche or leadership roles. Should always aim to have a larger % focused on under-represented minorities attend events. More control on list and potentially higher short term ROI.
  • Happy Hours — Casual, non-abrasive way for the community to meet each other and talk about common topic (ML, front-end, etc). Less control but potentially higher long term ROI.
  • Networking + Panel + Demo — Combination of the two with speakers chosen from the team to present. Medium control on list and could potentially have high ROI both short and long term.

CLOSING

  • Closing starts at the first call, sustained by a great candidate experience and ramps up towards the end with setting right expectations, triggering emotions and matching motivations.
  • Pre-closing and setting expectations is key. Start the conversation throughout the interview process, well before an official offer is made. Gather and re-visit key pieces of information (decision framework, compensation expectations, hesitations about your company, etc) throughout the process and not at the end. Build a complete narrative!
  • Do not extend any verbal / written offer until approvals are done
  • Work with the compensation team to understand your bands. Benchmark against FAANG companies who have deep pockets.

UNCOVERING MOTIVATIONS:

  • Why are they spending time to interview with us?
  • What’s missing in their current situation that they want more of?
  • If you had multiple offers with similar compensation, what factors are you going to use to make a decision?
  • Where does X Company rank against the other opportunities now?
  • What are you expecting with compensation? Base? Total compensation?
  • Who is making this decision with you?
  • How important is work-life balance to you right now?

COMPENSATION:

  • Ask first. Get their number or range first before sharing anything on your end, otherwise you are flying blind and could completely under or overshoot it. See strategies below if they are clamming up.
  • Know your bands. What are the minimum and maximum ranges? What cases are exceptions made?
  • Suggest hypothetical scenarios. NEVER guarantee that you can X amount for candidate. If they ask, give them a range on the lower to middle areas of the band. NEVER give them your ceiling as you lose all your leverage.
  • Anchor (aka, respectfully low-balling). Harder to do if you have no idea what they are expecting. Never anchor at the high point.
  • Use objective evidence in negotiating with the compensation team (competing offers, specialized education or domain expertise, school, years of experience, interview performance, current compensation if they voluntarily shared, etc)
  • Push and pull — Don’t fall into the trap of getting bossed around. There has to be an exchange. If I can get X for you, I need you to make a decision by X date, etc.

TRIGGERING EMOTIONS:

  • Personal congratulations call (or email) from hiring manager, interviewing team and recruiter — Share highlights from the onsite. Share enthusiasm for opportunity to work with them
  • Sell Call or in-person meeting with hiring manager, director, VP, etc — Same as above but the goal is to share vision, spark inspiration and assuage any concerns they have about moving forward
  • Happy Hour, Team Lunch, Dinner with the team — Gives the candidate an opportunity to meet potential team members and get a feel for the office environment and culture
  • Demo of product — Give them a taste of the end product and what their impact will look like
  • SWAG / Branded gift — Let them know they are thought of. Send it early in the process so they have something to visually remind them each day
  • Calls/Meetings with Employee Resource Group leaders (may not be applicable for startups but especially important for diverse, underrepresented minorities)
  • Share links to videos, articles, interviews, testimonials of end users and company’s mission.
  • Connect candidates with investors who can share their vision for the startup, the path towards 10x growth and why they took a risk and invested

SELL CALLS (FOR HIRING MANAGERS)

  • Pre-work: Read the packet, connect with recruiters to understand decision framework
  • Break the ice: Their story, state your intention/goal for the call, answer any initial questions
  • Listen/Build Trust: Tie things to personal perspective, be detailed, honest and candid
  • Understand decision framework: Share own framework, dig into the ‘Why’s, help them understand theirs and how Facebook would fit

WAYS TO GAIN LEVERAGE:

  • When the candidate has multiple offers but is open to interviewing with your company.
  • When the candidate reveals that they are ‘leaning’ towards your company
  • When the candidate reveals that they don’t have any other offers on the table and are only considering your company
  • When the candidate gives you a ‘magical’ number that they’d be keen on signing the offer at
  • Having multiple candidates that could be a good fit at the offer stage
  • Setting a deadline for a one time compensation increase

FLAGS FOR POTENTIAL DECLINE

  • Unresponsive to emails, texts, calls. “Ghosted”
  • Lack of engagement during prep, post-onsite and sell calls — Typically seen from extremely passive candidates who were already relectuant in interviewing seriously
  • Offer Letter past signage date — Offer letter should only be sent after a verbal agreement is given. If the candidate is delaying in signing, there’s most likely a competing and counter offer that’s come up.

COMMON CLOSING CHALLENGES:

  • Are they leaning towards your company?
  • Unsure if they’re leaning or may be interested in other opportunities?
  • If you’ve anchored correctly, then set up hypothetical situations like above to understand what it’ll take for them to sign with you. Make sure you get the maximum pre-approved and get the candidate’s commitment before assuring them that you will go back to negotiate for more. There is more leverage and flexibility here if you know their offers are lower.
  • Talk with them on the phone to understand why there’s delays and where your company stack ranks against other opportunities. Dig into the main motivations for why they haven’t committed to your company yet (comp, uncertainty about the future, culture, team?) and resolve it with the expectation that they’ll meet your deadline. “We can connect you with our VP for a 30min call but we expect you to meet our deadline at X date. Can you commit to this?”
  • Same as last scenario, dig and understand. If this is the 2nd extension, let them know that you’ll be rescinding the offer if they can’t meet the date. Offer any last calls, face-to-face meetings as well. This is the only leverage you have as the candidate is most likely buying time to finish processes with other opportunities that are higher in their preference.
  • Explain the market size, the revenue/traction of the team, run-rate, assurances from the founders, comparisons from other competitors with fundraising / numbers.
  • Reverse the question on them. “Why do you think this will be successful?”
  • Connect the candidate with founder, director, investors — anyone who can speak fluently and inspirationally about future projections
  • If the candidate has been responsive and has shown genuine enthusiasm about your company, that’s usually a good sign that they are prioritizing your company or have you in their top choices. In that case, encourage the candidate to push out deadlines. Explain to them how unlikely companies are to rescind offers given how much engineering hours are invested in interviewing. Help them understand how important this decision is for their long term career and what they could be missing out on if they simply could wait a week or two.
  • The candidate could also buy time for setting up lunches, happy hours to ‘get to know the team’ better, ask to have conversations with directors/founders, ERG (employee resource groups) leaders or if there are immigration issues, have a consultation with their lawyers before committing to anything
  • Set up a call or in-person meeting to understand their motivations behind accepting their counteroffer. Share research with them on the percentage of employees who end up staying at their company after receiving a counteroffer. Ask them why they decided to interview in the first place and if that one or two things that they were unhappy about is worth the extra compensation that they are receiving
  • Have your hiring manager reach out to have a conversation
  • Work with your compensation team to see what exceptions can be made to beat the counteroffer
  • Consider flying the candidate (and their family) out to your city. Give them a tour of office and offer suggestions for potential neighborhoods they could live in
  • Offer a one pager on living costs comparisons, employment opportunities and other highlights of the city
  • Connect the candidate with other employees who have recently relocated to share their experience
  • Explain to the candidates what the expectations are for their level and what signals we saw from the interview process to confirm that
  • Connect the hiring manager directly with the candidate to help educate and provide assurances for their management style and desire to help promote
  • If needed, connect the candidate with an employee that has seen success in their promotions cycle.
  • Explain the importance of setting them up for success, what their potential path to promotions will look like and what the 4 year plan looks like for their career
  • Get a feel for how important this is. Will this be a dealbreaker for the candidate?
  • It takes a village to close in a candidate-driven, competitive market. The role of the recruiter almost becomes a project manager to gather information, set expectations and bring in others who can speak to the narrative being presented
  • Anchoring — never start at the top! Candidates will almost always ask for more no matter where you start. Always leave enough wiggle room so you can negotiate and close at ceiling.
  • Ask open-ended questions and just listen. Sometimes candidates just need a patient, understanding listening board to sort through all the thoughts going through their head. Engineers are very rational, analytically minded so be the bridge that matches their factors to what your company can offer.
  • Breathe — like, literally. Things can easily get emotional and even heated when there’s conflicting ideas on what should be. The more calm and leveled your voice is, the more calm the candidate will be in hearing your perspectives. Focus on the situation at hand and never allow things to get personal.
  • Push and pull — Don’t just become a ‘Yes’ recruiter. There’s power in saying no (maybe not so literally) but more in the sense of, “no, I will not go back and ask for more compensation if you’re not meeting me halfway in your commitment level, etc.” If the candidate wants to push on something, you need to pull something back. It’s a two way street.

METRICS

FUNNEL MATH:

  • Reachout:Response — Industry Standard* (IS) — 10–20%
  • Response : Prescreen — 65–75%
  • Prescreen:Technical Assessment — 75–85%
  • Technical Assessment : Onsite — 30–40%
  • Onsite : Offer Extend — 30–50%
  • Are there any emerging trends with negative feedback that can fixed at phone interview stage? (i.e, consistent poor coding, increase phone interview bar to weed out outliers)
  • Pay close attention to onsites with all no-hires — were there any flags that was already brought up at the phone interview? How does their resume read? What can be fixed when sourcing for candidates? Are there certain companies or teams that have continually shown poor interviewing signal that can be avoided?
  • What is the construction of the interview panel? Are we using calibrated interviewers? Are they burnt out and unmotivated? Are there any interviewers that have consistently given no-hire feedback — do they understand the rubric and criteria?
  • Are we doing the same things like sending out a pre-brief? Providing an exceptional candidate experience? Preparing them well before their onsite date, providing resources and sample questions and emphasizing the importance of studying/prep?
  • Offer Extend : Offer Accept — 70–80%

OTHER USEFUL METRICS:

  • Cost of hire — From a high level, how many engineering, recruiting hours was spent to make 1 hire? Bottom up analysis using your conversion % ‘s X number of hours spent at each stage x cost of hour of engineering + recruiter. See some examples here.
  • Time to hire — How long does it take across each stage to convert? Your ATS should have built in analytic that can be used to tell that story. Just remember — Time kills deals in an ultra competitive market!
  • Source of Hire — Where are our offers coming from? Online, sourced, applied, referred, agency, elsewhere? Where do more resources need to be invested in based on the data?
  • Decline reasons — Why are candidates declining? Where are candidates going? What can be learned and changed (if anything at all?) to prevent future cases to happen? Here are some common reasons — higher compensation and/or level, better project/team, commute, cultural fit, unable to relocate, personal/family.
  • Use metrics help tell a story, strengthen a point and action change. Metrics alone are not entirely useful. Metrics + action+ measurement = improvements.
  • Cadence — Depending on the volume, funnel math can be checked on a bi-weekly and monthly monthly cadence at the most. There is no need to overcheck it! The other metrics can be done from reflectively on a quarterly basis and semi-annual basis to see what helpful and harmful trends might be arising.

TEAM PLANNING

  • To start, a hands-on technical leader is hired to build out the skeleton/framework/architecture for their group.
  • A search for a more formal people manager is in the works as the team plans to grow to 4+
  • A team of senior engineers who are comfortable with design/architecture as much as the implementation is hired. (4–5). This initial group are typically strong problem solvers and generalists (no tied to a specific domain)
  • With a team of 6+ (tech lead, manager, IC’s), the team can consider more jr/mid level IC’s who can help implementation and contribute to higher level discussions (4–5+)
  • With a team of 10+ with continual plans to grow, promotions are given to initial senior engineers who can lead a small team of 3–4.
  • The team starts a search for another manager (will depend if vertical / groups are available. I.e, one manager to own graphics, one manager to own computer vision, etc)
  • Same process repeats
  • Team grows to 20+ with 2+ managers with plans for continued grow. New search starts to find a Director who can manage the managers.
  • The group continues to specialize and break out with new directors, managers, VP’s. Re-orgs happen to align productivity, symbiosis and collaboration.

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Vessel Talent

Vessel Talent

Building engineering teams for early stage hardware/software startups in the Bay Area.