Who’s the Best Java Developer You Know?

Studies have shown that many organizations target as much as 33% of all new hires to come from the organization’s employee referral program. Here are five of the reasons why:

  1. You get to interview candidates someone inside the organization knows.
  2. You don’t have to pay any agency fee for the candidate.
  3. With successful referral hires, you can build real excitement around the program to get more referrals. (If you are really creative, you can use it to enhance internal communication, tie it into your website, use it for PR, and generally create some very positive buzz.)
  4. Someone in the company gets a check for turning over a name.
  5. Studies have shown that referred employees acclimate and become productive at a rate that is higher than non-referred candidates.

The referral program will help you fill positions at a lower cost per hire and with employees who are known to someone in the organization. (Two companies, Tenet and Fair Isaac, write about their referral programs in the June Journal.)

Certain employees will never come forward with names. With this in mind, I strongly suggest that when a new position opens, you do aggressive outreach to those employees who you know might have knowledge of candidates they have worked with in the past and who can do this job. The exact methodology of how to get this done will vary from company to company, but think of putting in personal appearances or phone calls to those who have the greatest chance of knowing the individuals you wish to hire.

Others can be contacted by e-mail, but this is less effective. (As an aside, remember to become friendly with as many new hires as possible, as they are endless sources of referrals from the organization they just left.)

Unfortunately, many employees will tell you right out of the box that they don’t know anyone. This is unacceptable to me and should be unacceptable to you as well, especially coming from employees who are being asked to refer candidates in their own field of endeavor. An accountant might not know a nuclear physicist, but I do believe that most accountants have worked with and do know other accountants.

When asking for referrals, the sad truth is that most people (both inside and outside of the company) will tell you they don’t know anyone because it’s just too hard to really think about it. I strongly hope that being in recruiting, you understand that this is a push business, and if you don’t push, things don’t happen. Lean on people if they’re unwilling to take the time to think. Nicely, sweetly, gently, but do lean a bit, as it will work wonders.

I strongly suggest that you sit with them for awhile, review the position you want to fill, and ask them to really give it some thought. Under pressure, you’ll begin to hear the rumblings of names and contact information almost coming to the surface. Often, they are covered with statements that are excuses not to provide names.

Consider the following five common ways of sidestepping your request for names and see my counter to those statements:

  • Employee: “I do not know anyone who is looking.”
  • Recruiter: “It doesn’t matter if they are looking, and even if they are, you might not be aware of it. Good people are always open to an opportunity, so give me the name and I will give them a call.”
  • Employee: “They might not be experienced enough.”
  • Recruiter: “Perhaps, but you knew them four years ago and they are not the same person now as they were then. Give me their name and I will let you know.”
  • Employee: “He/she will not remember me.”
  • Recruiter: “Not to worry. I’m sure that few people can forget a charmer like you.” (Do not underestimate humor. It works so very well.)
  • Employee: “I only have a name and that’s from three years ago, and I think they moved.”
  • Recruiter: “Not a problem. I am a whiz on the Internet. Just give me the name and I will take it from there.”
  • Employee: “Let me call them and tell them about the job. If they’re interested, I will give you the name.” (This is my personal favorite.)
  • Recruiter: “That is so nice of you, but you’re an engineer and I would never even think of burdening you with doing my job and trying to represent the position to a perspective candidate. Besides, most candidates would rather deal with the one whose job it is to do the recruiting.”

Another great idea is to simply go out and ask, for example, a JAVA developer one simple question:

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“Who’s the best JAVA developer you know?”

If you’re a Java developer and can’t answer this simple question, then something’s terribly wrong because as we progress in our line of work, we quickly get to know the best individuals.

As the recruiter, one of the things we need to do is gather this information and use it to either direct-recruit those candidates or try to get other referrals. (My thanks to Rob Dromgoole; an extraordinary recruiter, for this idea. Time to write an article for ERE, Rob?)

There are some individuals who will consider you to be a bit on the aggressive side and will be irritated by your coming right out to solicit names, as opposed to allowing those employees to take their sweet time and submit them when the stars align.

I’m not concerned about this. This is business, not a popularity contest, and as I’ve said many times before, I’d rather be successful and have someone a bit irritated with me then to fail and have everyone like me. I’ve always believed that recruiters want to be liked. That’s very nice but if it gets in the way of business, it needs to be addressed. (Besides, when they get the check, I suspect they’ll forgive you a bit.)

Time to hit the workplace and get some names?

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See twitter.com/howardadamsky if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at H.adamsky@comcast.net

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4 Comments on “Who’s the Best Java Developer You Know?

  1. I appreciate the message of the article very much. I prefer to see the recruiting profession as a ‘pull’ industry…not push. I feel if you can pull them a little closer… the information comes out a whole lot easier.

    I agree that indirect questions are the best for referrals… like the one you mention.. ‘Who is the BEST (insert profession here) you know?’ It also helps to soften the question by adding ‘and WHY?’. Now you have the name and insider information.

    A long-time ‘go-to’ question for referrals has been, ‘Who have been your most significant mentors as a (insert profession here)and why?’

    And your right.. isn’t it about time Rob?

  2. Every thing that the Rob wrote. I have to agree, from the Head Hunter point of view, getting a refferal from an engineer is like pulling teeth. They often feel a loyalty to the organization, or to the project they are working on.

    Usually, the loyalaty is one way, as we know. It’s often very important to remind them that company loyality is a thing of the past.

    Very good reminder of some of the basics as well.

  3. I recently moved from corporate tech recruiting to corporate retail recruiting, and was shocked to find that (unlike Jay) the engineers I worked with did a much better job at referring people than the retail managers I now support. I’ve been here six months, have filled 20 management-level openings, and only 2 of those have been referrals (neither was from upper/regional management). I’m faced with the ‘you’re the recruiter, it’s YOUR job to recruit, not ours’ attitude. Despite my constant attempts to educate my team that the companies who bring the best talent have an ingrained ‘recruiting culture’ (The Container Store is a prime example), there’s little interest in changing the current mindset. Very frustrating, and any advice would be appreciated!

  4. I totaly argree with Rob. He has used the best way of explaing his article ,’is example’ .Which helps other recruiters to understand. Rob has explained a very common and simple way of recruitment which most of us generaly don’t think of also. I thanks to Rob and will be eagerly looking for few more articles of the same.

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