There’s a Reason for This Rhyme: Get Creative to Attract Top Talent

January 10, 2013

Dr. Seuss and LinkedIn as a pair prove astute
As a new way to think about how you recruit.

Chicago is fast becoming a hub for tech companies: according to Built In Chicago, 193 digital tech startups launched in Chicago in 2011. Table XI is a ten-year-old digital consultancy that builds web and mobile apps in Chicago, and we love this trend. But it also creates a challenge, at least for development shops like us—while our industry may be booming, there’s a shortage of high-quality talent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that software development-related roles and jobs will increase at double the national average through 2020. But Manpower Group’s annual Talent Shortage Survey ranks IT third among industries with unfilled jobs.

When we posted job openings several years ago, we’d receive numerous qualified responses. These days, we compete with scores of companies for a handful of devs who can afford to be picky, so we got creative with our recruiting.

For us, it's not just about finding a dev who's technically qualified. We want devs who complement and enhance our culture. Our COO Mark Rickmeier believes that, "Culture more than anything else—not the job, not salary, not projects, but an attractive culture—causes people to leave one job for another."

With that in mind, we developed a personalized approach to recruiting that separates us from the pack by highlighting our culture and uniqueness.

First, we use LinkedIn to build a focused list of devs with relevant skills and experience. From there, we review their websites, blogs, Tumblr pages—anything we can find online that provides greater insight into their personalities. This helps us further narrow our list of candidates, and gives us some ideas about how to approach them on a more personal level.

Earlier this year we discovered an extraordinarily qualified dev named Andrew, but he had recently taken a job with another firm. We wanted to talk to him more, but clearly we couldn’t simply email him the job description.

Andrew's personal website is designed like a Dr. Seuss book, complete with his own Seussian art and rhymes (can you tell why we liked him so much?). Mark also happens to be a Seuss fan. To get Andrew's attention, he spent a long time crafting an introductory poem explaining—in rhyme—why Andrew should check us out. Mark wanted to show Andrew, not just tell him, that our personality and creativity mirrored his.

Like any talented Ruby dev, Andrew had received lots of emails from recruiters. But ours stood out because it was obvious we had taken the time to do our homework and learn a lot about him. Here is Mark’s message to Andrew:

Andrew,

You must forgive
this intro quite strange.
You shouldn't think
that I'm odd or deranged.

So taken aback
was I by your blog,
that I thought I'd reply
and rhyme it whole hog!

My name is Mark
at Table XI
and your working experience
sure did catch my eye.

We're a great Ruby shop
right here in the Loop,
I'd like to say more,
to give you the scoop.

We have some great meals—
our own chef every day!
You could come by for lunch,
hear what we have to say.

We're nerdy and friendly,
both devs and designers.
Add you to our team—
none could be finer!

I know you're quite new
at Wowzers this year,
but we should start talking—
you'll like what you hear.

Let me know when you're free
And we'll soon get in touch
Or swing by our space
and we'll meet up for lunch.

Mark’s rhyme impressed Andrew, and thus began our courtship. He came to our office to view our projects, eat chef-cooked lunches, and even attend some of our events, like our Summer Movie Nights series. Over several weeks, he got to know the passionate people who work here and see firsthand that we're not just a dev shop looking at him as a "resource," but a dev shop looking at him as a good professional and cultural fit.

Our approach isn’t rocket science. But it is time consuming and requires diligence and creativity. We think it’s well worth it in the end, though—in August, Andrew officially joined our team.

In the development world, you simply can’t afford to sit back and wait for dev supply to catch up with demand. If your company can’t attract devs with astronomical salaries, you must put in the time and effort to find your favorite candidates, learn about them, and connect with them in singular ways. It’s not easy, but do it right and you’ll reap the long-term benefits of bringing in extraordinary people who will, in turn, make your company extraordinary, too.

Editor's note: Table XI is a Chicago-based digital consultancy and development firm. They build web and mobile applications that solve real business problems, and work closely with clients on everything from business strategy to custom application development, design, deployment, and hosting. They're currently hiring.

Need help connecting with passive candidates like Andrew? Contact us for a quick consultation.

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