Finding a job is something no one teaches you. Earlier in my career, my approach was very erratic. I started by targeting only a few companies, the ones I craved to work for, craft a good cover letter and CV. No one would reply. It was disheartening. I immediately changed my approach. I started sending tons of applications. It felt like drowning and gasping for air. Trying to get something get anything. It lowered my standard; I was available to do anything.

Then a job found me, and more opportunities came my way. It didn’t take long, and I found myself on the other side. I was part of the hiring committee and had to be the hiring manager. Somehow, I took for granted the way things work. Put a job ad online and applications will flock. After all, they are the ones that want to work here. We don’t need to convince them in any way, they need to convince us that they are a good fit. We’ll sit back, relax, and give our thumbs up if we deem it appropriate.

I was wrong. In a very competitive environment like tech hiring this is not true. Especially for more experience talent the competition is fierce. Sure, we were receiving loads of applications. But the quality of talent applying was not very high. Senior profiles were scarce. Here we were at square one again. Should we be the ones applying to talents instead?

The world felt inverted. And it made so much sense after talking with my colleagues. From a candidate perspective, the recruiters were now reaching out to you. Some colleagues were even disabling notifications. Too many unsolicited messages popping up in their inbox. If they wanted, they could get an interview for the following week. Note: This was true during the 2019-2021 tech boom. The current environment (2023) might be a bit more challenging. Nonetheless, I am confident this will resume soon. We have a constant shortage of tech jobs and qualified talent is still sought after.

The realization of how much people get recruited and approached came as a sort of revelation. I needed to change my mindset. We needed to be more intentional. We needed to change the way we approached people. Discussing internally and with external sourcing professionals we started to reflect. How could we become a more attractive employer?

We started to think about it as if the company and the hiring process were a product. Applying marketing techniques. What is our value proposition? How can we catch the attention of candidates? How do we communicate our values and mission? How can we improve our branding as an employer? We should be more active and share technical articles, and sponsor meetups and events.

It’s good for any company to go through such an exercise. Not only to attract better talent but to reflect on the status quo. Designing a better way to retain talent also means designing a better way to retain talent. It can lead to a better work environment. It can make you reflect on your values. What do we stand for? What can we offer for career development and progression? What is the “dream” that we sell? These are questions that someone that wants to join would ask. Improving the work environment has the effect of increasing referrals from employees. Your employees will start to rave about how good they feel to their friends.

We started to treat candidates like they deserved. Showing, not only talking about our excitement for them join us. We started to be more available for questions and feedback. I remember spending extra time writing with candidates and asking for feedback. Not telling them what they did “wrong”. But offering feedback and help. Being transparent about what we were looking for and why they may have been not a good fit.

We started treating them how we would like to be treated. We started doing things that don’t scale.

We experimented a lot with the format of interviews, and I would need a separate article to share all that. We had a lot of things to do still, but this process led us to a better place. At the end of the day, candidates are selling their expertise, and you (as an employer) are selling their next years of employment. Hiring is a two-way street.