Slow Down The Talent Search

Slower Recruiting Is Better Recruiting.

Reach out to as many people as possible.
It’s a numbers game.
Don’t spend time on any one person.
Submit and move on.

by Matthew Thogerson

Matthew ThogersonWhen I was new to technical recruiting and working in a conglomerate recruiting organization, I was taught – and believed – these recruiting fallacies.

It’s not that large machine-like recruiting organizations are inherent body shops. In fact, I had the unique privilege of cutting my teeth in a better-than-most organization. That said, any organization that fundamentally trains through video portals and is built on a foundation of KPI tracking is enforcing this ideology – even if they claim to the contrary. This type of generic messaging and unrelenting pressure to contact as many prospective candidates as possible was against my nature. Now I find myself given the leisure to pursue a truly catered approach to candidates having made the transition over to 52 Limited. I believe this approach will fundamentally build better relationships, better placements, and ultimately better recruiting.

Why Now

Technology makes a tailored approach not only customizable but fast, efficient, and clever. Identifying your candidate and being able to address their interests is now more feasible than ever thanks to the transparency and accessibility of social media. I recommend touching on at least three of their public profiles to get a well-rounded view of the individual. For example, my path for developers usually takes me from LinkedIn to GitHub and then lastly to Twitter. Three separate platforms that typically provide an eclectic view into someone’s life. If I’m honest, though, not every candidate gets the prescribed treatment. As a headhunter, you get a gut feeling when someone is going to require a more-curated approach. Who deserves this level of care? Everyone. Who gets it? For me, most. But don’t beat yourself up if you cannot do that for every talented individual. Here’s a breakdown of my method.

Find The Candidate On LinkedIn

There can be no doubt — LinkedIn is a godsend to recruiters everywhere. But interpreting and understanding a talent’s profile is considerably more challenging than identifying the right candidate. I spend about half of my research time on LinkedIn, with varying weights assigned to different sections of the individual’s profile. Most of that weight goes to the summary section. Although it seems obvious, I feel it’s worth pointing out that the summary section is a wealth of knowledge. If Jane Doe has all the skills I’m looking for but heralds her current job as the best place ever… that changes my messaging. If Jon Doe mentions his aspirations (i.e. developer and aspiring project manager) that will open the door to more insightful conversation and suggest a precise opening message. Remember this about the summary: everything there is written (or not) for a reason. If someone leaves it blank they may be less professional, someone who rushes through things, someone who guards their online privacy, or any number of other things. The point is that the summary does have some form of meaning. Getting your assumptions correct is the art and the challenge. If someone doesn’t have a summary, it’s a good indication that their skill section will not be up to date or not appropriately curated. People will endorse individuals for random “talents” that they don’t have. At one point, I had Dump Truck as an endorsement. Let it be known: I have never driven a dump truck. Much to my regret. Checking a person’s claimed skill-set and endorsements take up my remaining time. If they are in alignment with my search, I move on to my next step.

Check GitHub 

I’m not a developer. I may be “techknowledgeable” but reading code on a screen is not one of my skills. So why do I check GitHub? I check because it can be a great indication of a candidate’s passion and activeness in the development community. With GitHub you can see the frequency of someone’s contribution levels — even if you can’t interpret what they are actually doing. As in any profession, those that contribute to the refinement of their craft — above and beyond what is called for by their employer— will go the furthest in their career. These are, of course, the candidates you want in your pool.

Creep On Social Profiles

Let’s be honest. Creeping on a person’s public profile is exactly what you do when you’re not yet friends, colleagues or connected with a candidate in some fashion. Still it’s a huge source of information for me. Twitter is a good opportunity to get an idea of how engaged someone is with current affairs, technology, politics, and much more. Perhaps the candidate left Twitter a couple years back and hasn’t posted recently. That is worth noting, as well. Did they get busy? Did they reform the way they present themselves online? Again, it’s all meaningful. My favorite type of candidate, as an aside, is someone who posts odd thoughts and puns that come to mind throughout the day. A personal website or blog is also a great way to get insight into a candidate’s passions, aspirations, and even home life. If there is any demographic that is going to take time out of their day to critique or postulate on tech, design or innovations – it’s technologists.

Put It Together

All the information in the world doesn’t mean squat if you don’t put it to use. So how do you form outreach that gets noticed and pays off for the time you’ve spent in research mode? Transparency. Full transparency. Many of my messages outline exactly how I found the talent, what I was searching for, where I researched them after initially finding them, and what I learned. Then I connect that information to the client, the job, and a desire to connect with them directly. It’s effective. It’s worth the time, mine and theirs. And it’s only possible by slowing down the talent search.


Matthew Thogerson is a recruiter at 52 Limited. Earlier this year he conducted an experiment to find out exactly what kind of experience candidates were having with placement agencies in general.