Cutting through the Noise: 7 Ways to Reach Candidates you Need

April 1, 2015

We don’t have to tell you competition for engineering talent is fierce.

Last year our hiring trends survey uncovered only 15% of human resource professionals were “very confident” in their organization’s ability to find and hire the engineers they’d need within the year.  The same survey also found 75% of our surveyed human resource professionals first look to LinkedIn to source them.

This speaks to at least part of the problem: many recruiters chasing the same, small pool of engineering talent.

In reply to a recent Quora post asking “What’s the biggest problem modern recruiters face?” Facebook engineering recruiter Ambra Benjamin hits upon this point exactly.

Quote of Ambra Benjamin’s answer to What’s the biggest problem modern recruiters face?

Reaching the Unreachable: Strategies

Most people, recruiters included, will follow the path of least resistance. They’re content to walk the same proven (read: well-beaten) path with everyone else. You can use this to your advantage.

LinkedIn is not the be-all, end-all of available talent to recruit. For example, according to the BLS there are 263,460 Civil Engineers in the United States. If you conduct a LinkedIn search for people with “Civil Engineer” in their job title, based in the United States, you’ll find a pool of 59,579 people (as of March 31, 2015). If these datapoints are roughly accurate – LinkedIn has about a 22.6% reach rate in the Civil Engineer talent market. Even given a generous 5% margin of error – if you’re relying on LinkedIn to source engineering talent, you’re missing out on at least two-thirds of the talent pool.

Unfortunately there is no secret solution to reaching the elusive ‘dark’ engineering candidate. But the recruiters that roll up their sleeves and do the hard work upfront will reap dividends for years. Here’s how:

Network like it’s Your Job (It is).

Social Networking is only one tool of many.

Social recruiting has been given a lot of attention lately, but connecting with potential candidates through them is just the beginning. Erin Gordon, Talent Acquisition Manager for Linium Staffing‘s Engineering Practice Area advises:

Use social networks to identify candidates but don’t stop there. Direct recruitment is still very much alive and really does stand out from the crowd. You have every resource available to you to determine where a prospect works, their job title, and often times his/her direct contact information. It’s bold, but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and start a conversation with someone. They can say no, but they might also say yes! And chances are you’ll be one of the few to actually call.

Social media is excellent for making introductions, but it’s only one facet of a larger networking strategy. Don’t rely on it exclusively and do pick up the phone whenever you have an opportunity to.

Use Your Phone.

In fact, in interviews for this article, the most redundant piece of advice we heard was to “pick up the phone.” Paul Eisenstein, Executive Recruiter at Y Scouts, explains “don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. In the age of email and digital communications, if a recruiter calls you on the phone, the prospect knows that that the recruiter has a level of seriousness in the opportunity.”

Expand your network with clients, too.

Make sure you’re connecting not only with potential candidates but also clients. As Gordon points out “A candidate is far more willing to communicate with a recruiter that has connections with organizations that they would have an interest working within.”

The same goes for past candidates you have recruited. Being able to see that a recruiter has many connections similar to the prospect will give the prospect the indication that you have successful relationships with their peers.

Ask for Referrals.

Employee referrals are consistently rated a primary pipeline for talent. Gordon advises:

In each engagement, seek to go beyond the initial “sale.” Even if the person you’re communicating with may not be interested in your job, there is a strong probability that they know someone else you should be communicating with. Open the door to continue a conversation for future mutual benefit. People love to be needed!

Be Seen When They Search.

With virtually all job types, you always have a good pool of candidates looking for the next role. Advertise the job, review the resumes that come in, and hire the best one.

Engineers are completely different, though. For mid- and senior-level positions especially, you quite likely don’t have anyone relevant searching on any given day. For that reason, relying on a 30-day posting usually doesn’t work.

When that perfect engineer has a really bad day at work and decides to see what other opportunities may be out there, your job better be where he can find it. That’s why we allow you to post all your jobs for what the big boards would charge you to post only one or two.

You get constant visibility for just peanuts, and you can take your (significant) savings and apply them toward going out and actively recruiting engineers.

From: Why Engineers Aren’t Applying to Your Job

Say you’ll Follow Up. (And actually do it).

We expect candidates to follow-up but it’s not a common practice among recruiters or HR departments. That’s a missed opportunity, according to Eisenstein.

Almost everybody responds eventually to a recruiter inquiry. Follow-up (respectfully) a 2nd and 3rd time if you think your prospect could be a great fit.

And Erin Gordon points out candidate relationships don’t need to bear fruit immediately to be meaningful.

Actually stay in touch, don’t just suggest it. Many people will let you know that they are not interested now but may be willing to keep in touch. These are great people to keep warm. Send them a quarterly note, connect with them and comment on the articles they post, develop a real relationship. When the day comes that they are looking for a new opportunity, or even when they have a need to hire for their company, you will be top of mind.

Being Heard by Reachable Candidates: Strategies

Sometimes, even though the pool of engineering talent is largely inaccessible by conventional means, you have to wade in and try to connect “with candidates through the noise of all the other 2,000 recruiters trying to reach out to the same candidates.”

How do you cut through the noise and reach candidates?

First, Don’t be a Jerk.

These candidates are probably inundated with messages from every recruiter on LinkedIn and every engineering sourcer who’s done their homework. So the first rule, according to Josh Goldstein of talent marketplace, is simple: “This may sound curt, but the best advice we hear is ‘don’t be a jerk.'”

Unfortunately, we’ve found there is no silver bullet to reach the dream hire.

Remember, great engineers are inundated by emails, LinkedIn messages, and sometimes even phone calls. To stand out of the crowd, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Personalize your message, be succinct, and be kind. If they aren’t interested, don’t push them.

Personalization is Key.

Second only to “pick up the phone,” everyone seems to agree the next most important piece of advice is to get personal. Stephanie McDonald, Owner of Hire Performance Recruiting Solutions, shared this story about personalization making a difference:

I find that being creative and customizing each email to that particular candidate is key.

For example, I found an engineer I wanted to speak with for a client of mine, so I used tools to find and review his social media feed. I found that he was a huge craft beer fan, and had recently written a tweet about hating pumpkin ales. I used the subject line “in defense of pumpkin ales” and wrote a bit about some that I had tried and liked. Then I threw in a short pitch about my client and told him we would love to talk to him.

My phone rang later that day, and the next week he was interviewing with my client, and was eventually hired. Creativity and connecting with people. Those are the best techniques I’ve found to get attention and get candidates hired.

It should go without saying, but target each prospect independently and individually. If you’re emailing every candidate the same (or very similar) message; stop. Eisenstein explains:

If your email is incredibly general and looks like SPAM, only the naive and those with a lot of time will respond to you. Show that you’ve invested a little time in getting to research them before clicking on the “send” button. That personal touch will greatly increase your response rate.

And Josh Goldstein adds:

Another way to think about it — what if Facebook, or Snapchat, or Twitter sent you an email every day to sign up for their service? You’d immediately cry out, “SPAM” and start to hate all social networks. That’s how these people feel. So, don’t send the same message to every single person. Take your time in sending emails and be as courteous as possible.

Be Humble, Human, and Build a Relationship.

Some engineers get phone calls from recruiters – at work – several times a week. Every week.  Often with similar pitches. The final piece of advice on being heard over the chorus is to simply be human. Eisenstein advises recruiters,

Be humble and be curious – some recruiters approach prospects with “I have the PERFECT job for you.” How the heck would the recruiter know? Does he know the prospect’s goals and dreams? Instead, recruiters should approach the prospect with a proper sense of humility and a curiosity to get to know the person.

Anne St. Hilaire of points to the importance of human interaction in recruiting:

There is nothing as important as real human connection, and there is nothing that will attract the best candidates more effectively.

Passive and active candidates do not want to be spoken to as if they are being sold a product, with a salesman approach. They want to be spoken to as an individual, with their own goals, morals and values deeply considered. It is important to have real conversations with these people and show who YOU are as a recruiter or an agency.


Go beyond candidates with a large online footprint. If you’re able to reach candidates inaccessible through conventional means, you’re much more likely to be heard. You’ll also enjoy a significant advantage over the competition.

And if you’re looking for a quick tip that will fill your CRM instantly with amazing candidates; sorry. There’s no magic bullet – the magic lies in employing these strategies systematically and consistently over time.

How do you cut through the noise to reach candidates? Write a comment below or tweet us @HireEngineers.


Photo Credit: Ged Carroll/ Flickr