Finding and hiring decent software developers is tough.

There currently around 19m developers worldwide – and whilst this figure expected to grow to 25m by 2025 – it’s clearly a bottleneck which is hampering many scaling tech firms.

Initial contact with candidates is critical for engagement, so it’s important to do your research, and to make that show in the very first line of your initial contact with a potential hire.

Here are three differing approaches, which will provoke very different outcomes for talent acquisition people looking to hire developers.

1. The Fire & Forget Approach (much-hated by developers):

<Dear Goran,
I wanted to contact you in relation to an exciting java development role that we’re currently trying to fill. See description below – would this be of interest?>

Any developer worth his salt will take one glance at this type of message before dropping it into the spam folder. It’s really hit-and-miss, and likely to get response rates below 10%.

Those who do respond are not likely to be of the highest quality.

2. I Spotted you on LinkedIn – How about a chat?
Hint: this way isn’t really cutting the mustard either.

<Hello Goran,

I see from your LinkedIn profile that you have over 8 year’s experience in java development – based on this, I wanted to let you know about an exciting Java development role that we’re trying to fill. Could you look at the requirement and let me know if this would be of interest?>

This message (if delivered via email) is likely to get a response rate in the 14-19% range (or 13-15% if send by LinkedIn InMail). It does refer to the candidates experience in a broad sense, but relates to only one source (LinkedIn), which is likely to be out of date, and is a part of their profile that’s tolerated, not loved.

If you’re serious about scaling your development team, you’re going to need to roll up your sleeves and get real… the better software developers are constantly being contacted by recruiters, and won’t engage with you if you don’t show them the respect that is due.

3. Spent Some Time Researching You and Have Something Relevant

With this approach, you can expect real traction from highly skilled developers.

You’re searching based on skills/interests of the developer and you’re looking at GitHub profiles, StackOverflow, Twitter and Blogs. You’re making specific references to relevant parts of the candidate’s Digital Footprint, and backing that up with links.

<Hello Goran,

Great to see how you have established your reputation as a provocative thinker in functional programming via your blog. I see that you’ve made several commits on hadoop in your GitHub account over the past 18 months, and have cultivated something of a following on Stackoverflow on the topics of Java and functional-programming. Well done!

Based on this, I wanted to touch base with you, as I have an interesting role that would suit someone with your skills and interests. Could you have a look at the spec below and let me know if that would be of interest?>

Using this approach of referring to three relevant facts on the candidates digital footprint, we have experienced response rates in excess of 80%.

Why is this?

Doing proper research on the developer shows that you are making a real effort to research suitable candidates for your particular role. This sends a signal to the developer that you are a serious and credible individual.

Making specific references to parts of the developer’s Digital Footprint that they actually care about… provides validation that the public domain content created by the developers are supporting their career objectives.

Granted, this approach takes much more effort up front on the part of talent acquisition people, however research done at the earlier stages of the recruitment process pays dividends in terms of the quality and responsiveness of the talent you engage.