What Worked and Didn’t Work for Us When Quickly Building a Technical Team

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Aug 16, 2017

Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and where we are based — Austin, Texas — are typically underserved with highly skilled engineering talent, making it difficult for large organizations to attract and retain sought after experienced engineers.

As a software development and consulting company, we have always attracted highly talented engineers to join our own team. Here is what worked and what didn’t work when we were presented with the opportunity to build a technical team other than our own in the tech-talent hungry city of Austin.

What Worked

Facilitating conversations through company thought leaders

Senior engineers are getting messages on LinkedIn all day from different recruiters. To break out from all of that noise, we used our chief technology officer’s LinkedIn profile to start some conversations. Our CTO has thousands of connections on LinkedIn and regularly shares career development advice to his network. As someone so connected to the tech community, it made much more sense for conversations with engineers to be facilitated through him rather than a recruiter or administrative member of our team with less Klout.

By using the connections our CTO had (and continued to make), messages sent to engineers stood a better chance of being opened.

Having a conversation rather than immediately pitching the engineer

If you are going to “do” technical staff augmentation long-term, having conversations and building a dialogue with your network will be key. We have had success augmenting very senior technical teams because we stay in touch with our network, helping engineers even if it won’t immediately benefit our company. Building this rapport and trust will make that engineer much more likely to trust you when you present them with a new opportunity you have available, rather than instantly hit the delete button. Personalized conversations, check-ins, and well wishes will help you go far, especially when other recruiters are mass sending un-personalized emails.

Asking for referrals

Want to know who has the absolute best referrals for really talented engineers? It’s not recruiting agencies … it’s not LinkedIn … it is, however, other really talented engineers!

Say you get a response from an engineer and he or she is just not looking for a change at the moment. This is now an opportunity to see if they know anyone really talented who might be looking for a new opportunity. Chances are, they are working right beside someone who has a contract ending or is ready to start a new project. This is a great way to get some more leads and make more connections.

What Didn’t Work

Email blasts

One of our first strategies was to build a list of qualified engineers within our network and send out an email blast with information about the position. Unfortunately, this did not get much results because these engineers are getting tons of email each day, and there was nothing unique about the messaging of this one that would make us any different from the 10 other companies that also emailed them this morning. Blast emails are generally not going to get you much traction when sourcing senior technical employees.

A “they-will-come-to-us” mentality

It is easy to get into this mindset when recruiting for senior level technical roles, especially when it works just fine for finding entry and mid-level talent. However, we learned that attending job events and posting on Facebook was simply not an effective way of attracting top talent. Senior level engineers aren’t attending job fairs because they don’t really need to — so figure out where they are and go to them. This may mean attending industry networking events or technical conferences so that you are able to start building relationships.

Closing Thoughts and Advice

Technical staff augmentation in highly competitive cities is no easy feat. However, recognizing this and reevaluating your approach to attracting senior level engineers will pay off eventually. Make conversations personal and value driven , and if possible — have those conversations stem from leadership within your company. With a long-term approach to building relationships with senior level candidates in any industry, you will establish higher quality leads to send when it is time to source — instead of a high quantity of entry and mid-level professionals. In this instance, quality is certainly more valuable than quantity.


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