How top recruiters really use the Net to fill jobs
By Susan Raskin, MIPS Technologies, Inc.
[In Part 1 we discussed how to use abstruse terms to search
newsgroups for good job candidates. Now we'll explore how to select potential candidates
and how to approach them.]
Selecting newsgroup postings
I select postings by looking for certain "markers"
or indicators that tell me I'm going in the right direction. In order to cut down on the
time required to determine which are the potential candidates, I read the elements of the
posting in the following order.
Country of Origin
Two letter suffixes denote the country of origin if the posting was made from outside your
own country. This is a very informative marker. Examples are:
|at = Austria
||it = Italy
|au = Australia
||jp = Japan
|be = Belgium
||nl = Holland
|ca = Canada
||nz = New Zealand
|ch = Switzerland
||pl = Poland
|de = Germany
||ru = Russia
|fr = France
||uk = England
|il = Israel
||za = Africa
These are some commonly seen two-letter suffixes, but it
is not an exhaustive list.
If you cannot sponsor for a visa, which is increasingly
difficult, you may want to dismiss these postings immediately and go on to the next.
This marker is very important. If the poster is from a university, the suffix
will be .edu. The .org suffix indicates a non-profit
organization. If the poster is from any branch of government, the suffix will be .gov. If you are not interested in
professors or students, in non-profit folks or government employees, dismiss these
postings and go on to the next. (Note that the national laboratories have the .gov suffix. If you recruit computer
scientists like I do, be careful about dismissing postings from those locations. There are
a lot of great computer scientists working in our national laboratories.)
The suffix which yields the most potential candidates is .com. Most companies have a address
which can be easily entered into a search engine or scanned for in the results of a net
search. For instance, if you were interested in engineers from Sun Microsystems, Inc., you
might do an Altavista search among newsgroups for postings from anyone @sun.com. Enter a few keywords, such
as title words which might be found in an autosignature, and you may find a promising list
of prospective candidates.
The information at the top of the posting will usually tell you if the poster is
posting from a corporate address, and will list an organization as the posters
affiliation. I usually skip postings from posters who have no organization listed, or if
it is a silly one. If you see a desirable organization header, you might scroll down to
the bottom of the posting to see if there is an autosignature. Autosignatures frequently
contain the posters title. Mine does.
The posting header will also give you information about
where the posting physically came from. Dont waste your time reading postings from
cybercafe addresses or guest logins. You will have a hard time tracing the individual who
made the comments, and most posters who are not posting from a home or work address are
not worth time, either.
Mine gives my full name, title, phone and fax numbers, and web site address. Many
autosignatures are as informative, so feel free to conduct searches based on words you
think will appear in the titles of the people you want. Non-abstruse, readily
understandable terms such as "software" or "marketing" will appear in
a persons title in their autosignature.
A good posting to continue reading will refer to a technical topic. Ignore postings whose
subject lines do not refer to the discussion of a technical problem. Please read the next
section for refinement of subject line interpretation.
Content of the Posting
Here is where the rubber meets the road. By noticing all of the markers identifying the
posting, where it came from, and who authored it, you have narrowed down the number of
postings you actually need to read to just a few. Once all of the identifying markers meet
your specifications, the final judgment call on your part is to read the comments your
prospective candidate has posted to the newsgroup. There are two kinds of postings to
People with Questions. These are usually
the newcomers to a technical field. Ignore postings from these people. People with
questions usually use their question as the subject line of their posting. Example:
"How to read error message in ex.bat.config.sys.audio?"
People with Answers. These are the gurus of
the field, many of whom are also very patient with newcomers, and good at explaining
things. These are the true talents of their technical arenas, and definitely the people to
develop relationships with. These are the people to whom you will want to send email.
Their postings are readily identified by the prefix "Re:" For example, "Re:
How to read error message in exbat.config.sys.audio?"
Once I identify by the "Re:" prefix that a
poster is answering a question, I begin to read the content of the answer. Of course,
since Im not an engineer, I might not understand all of the content of the answer.
But I can understand the general architectural concepts of hardware and software as well
as many of the tools and terms much as any senior recruiter can. I look for
responses that display broad and deep understanding of the technology being discussed, a
generosity of spirit from senior engineers toward newer entrants to the field, and a sense
of humor. People who post to the newsgroups in a too-serious way come across as stuffy and
not fun to work with.
Once I have identified a helpful question-answering poster who seems
technically adept, articulate, and patient, I will send him or her email. I usually treat
a poster who has passed all the screens described above as a person with very high
probability to be either a candidate or an influential contact in their area of expertise.
I want our first interaction to be positive and of some benefit to this expert.
My emails, while unique for each person I am contacting,
usually follow a set format. The format has three main components:
- The Compliment. I begin by saying something like,
"I read your comments on parasitic back-end annotation in the comp.cad.synopsys group, and I am really impressed with your grasp of the topic."
- The Introduction. Next, I introduce myself and express
the purpose of my email. "Im recruiting for MIPS Technologies, and I am working
on filling a position which requires just the type of expertise that you have."
With these two statements, I have just told my
prospective candidate the equivalent of "Gee, youre smart! Want to work
- The Call To Action. Next, I request some action from
my prospective candidate. "Im going to append the job description to this
email. Please look it over and let me know if you or a friend would be interested in an
opportunity such as this one."
Results with this
If I send ten emails of this type, I will generally get about seven
responses. Four of these are usually from people who are interested and are sending a
resume attachment, or people who are interested and are writing to say they will prepare a
resume over the coming weekend. Another two are usually from people who say they are not
interested for themselves, but that they are forwarding my email to a friend. Some times
they will mention the friends name in their email. Usually one email out of the
seven is from a person who states that they are not available at the moment, but will be
available at a defined point in the future.
This method generates a lot of candidates for me, and
seldom generates any unqualified ones. Why? Because the prospective candidates use
of the abstruse technical terms works like a technical screen. A person would not be using
these kinds of words if they were not deeply involved in the applicable technology.
This is not spam
I have never been flamed doing this. Why? Because people are flamed for
sending spam, and this is not spam. It isnt spam because I am writing to people
individually about jobs available in their particular field of expertise. Even if they are
not going to be interested in the specific position I mention, I have given them
information about an event which is occurring in their field of expertise. They can use
this information whatever way they choose, or not at all. Its a very different
scenario from sending someone information about FREE LONG DISTANCE SERVICE or MAKE MONEY
FAST. Those kinds of emails push information at a person who has never posted anywhere
expressing interest in obtaining free long distance service or making money fast. No
wonder people get upset by them.
When this technique
This technique works best for technical disciplines which have a rich
language to describe them. The more technical the discipline and the more abstruse the
language used to describe it, the better this technique works. I have not observed this
technique to work in finding marketing, sales, or field customer support people. The
professionals in these industries do not have a unique technical language, nor do they
spend much time discussing technical issues on the Internet.
The biggest advantage
of this technique
Headhunters and internal recruiters commonly use the phone to recruit people.
But when a phone call is over, its over. With an email, the recruiting pitch may
live on and produce surprising results. Recently I needed to find a standard cell library
expert for MIPS. I identified some abstruse terms, plugged them into Altavista, and began
corresponding with some engineers who had the expertise we needed. One engineer wrote back
to tell me he was in Seattle and would not be able to consider relocating to our area. I
wrote back thanking him for his time in replying, and I was fairly sure I would never hear
from him again.
I did hear from him again, though about four weeks
later, on the occasion of his company closing its doors and laying off all its employees.
I was copied on an email he had sent to every employee in his facility. His email to his
departing colleagues said "I believe that for every door that closes, another opens
for you somewhere. Here is an email from Susan Raskin at MIPS Technologies. You might want
to contact her." And there was my original email to him. He had saved it and now he
had forwarded it to everyone in the building.
I offer up this technique as something recruiters can employ for their own
searches. How well it works is partly up to you and partly a function of the kinds of
people you are seeking. Try it, have fun, and if you learn something new doing it,
youre ahead of the game.
If you are a job hunter, I hope the detailed description
of how some of us recruiters use the Net to find good candidates suggests how (and where)
you can make yourself more visible to us online. While the resume and job posting sites
seem to dominate the career content on the Net, I find my best candidates in the places
where they go to meet and talk with one another about their work. Its the sharing of
knowledge about their work that reveals the real experts my company wants to hire.
Tell us what you
think of this article.
At the time Susan Raskin wrote this article, she was Manager of Human Resources for MIPS Technologies in Mountain View, CA, at the time the world's leading architect of 32- and 64-bit RISC microprocessors. She was also a member of the teaching team for the ProQuest Internet Recruiting Course.
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