May 10 2012

How to recruit developers away from Highgroove

You’ve read our blog, had Highgroove do work for you, watched our Tech Talks, attended the Atlanta Ruby User Group which we host, and all around think we’re great.

Now, you’ve decided that what you really want to do is hire one of our developers full time to work for you. Maybe you’re a recruiter looking to fill an ‘awesome position at a big company in the Atlanta area,’ or maybe your startup is ready to take the next step and hire an in-house developer.

We get a lot of e-mails and calls from recruiters, and to be honest, most of them are absolutely terrible. Read on for some tips on how to recruit Highgroovers to come work for you instead. Seriously. Please. We’re not telling you to not try and recruit our developers, but please stop wasting your time and ours.

First up, it’s Highgroove’s job to make our developers happy and to be the place that all developers want to work. We have a great culture, great benefits, and a bias towards making awesome anything which is not yet awesome.

Everyone’s motivations for choosing to work at Highgroove are different and our turnover rate is extremely low, but there is always a chance your ‘opportunity’ is the one that someone has been waiting for. When people do choose to leave and go somewhere awesome, we all give them high-fives on the way out. We’ve had people leave for Twitter, GitHub, startup incubators, and even a law firm.

Before you get in touch with anyone, do your homework. Everyone at Highgroove has different skill sets, so read their profiles on our About page and find out what their technical skills are and what they are interested in. One developer might be a good fit for LAMP development in Antarctica, while someone else would be much better for Erlang in Brooklyn. Your chances of hiring one of us become greater than 0% if you have a perfect fit for someone. Hint: If you contact several people at once here, you’re probably doing it wrong.

When you’ve narrowed it down to the perfect fit, don’t pick up the phone. Developers are trying to get work done, don’t like being interrupted, and universally hate these kind of phone calls. Send an e-mail, and make it good. If you want a response, your e-mail must be personal (not a form letter) and include the following:

  • Company: If we don’t know who we’re working for, we’re not interested.
  • Location: Do we have to move or does remote work? Where?
  • Salary: “Based on experience” doesn’t cut it. You’re e-mailing us. Give us a range.
  • Office: Online photos or video of the office somewhere is ideal. A cube farm with the lights off is only appealing to a small set of people.
  • Answer: What would I be doing? “Rails” isn’t enough. What does the job actually entail? Head over to our Jobs page and look at each job. We lay out what it is that we expect our people to accomplish.
  • Answer: Why would I be a good cultural fit? Coffee? Beer? Bicycles? Boats?

This gives someone enough information to find out if they’re a good fit. Hopefully, you’ll know before you send the e-mail (or get all the way through this list of requirements) if someone will be a good fit and your response rate will end up being pretty high.

Don’t ask a developer if they “have any friends who might fit this position.” That screams “I didn’t do my homework and am just grabbing anyone I can find.”

Do you really really want someone to work for you? Have someone important contact them instead of a recruiter or someone in HR. All of these are good choices: the person that wrote a programming language that is on your team, someone who is a popular speaker at conferences, someone who wrote “the book” on something.

And that’s it! It doesn’t seem too hard, but of the 36 e-mails I’ve personally gotten from recruiters this year, only one of them has met most of the criteria above. The phone calls (which, by the way, all get automatically sent to the voicemail box on Google Voice) all get ignored.

Most of this applies to other tech companies, but if they’re not as awesome a place to work as Highgroove, you might have an easier time recruiting. So good luck! We look forward to your e-mails.


  1. Joanna

    That was THE most AWESOME article I have read is some time!!! Shared it with my entire team! Keep up the awesomeness!!!



  2. David Mann

    Yo Chris- the link to the jobs page in the third to last bullet is dead. Maybe since the move to bignerdranch domain?

  3. Zach

    Yeah, this is hilarious. Now, I am guilty of most of what is above. However, due to the lack of response from most developers, it is hard for recruiters not to do some of the above. Most recruiters are held to really strict metrics, which require them to make phone calls over sending emails. In fact, I have seen some recruiters get fired for that…seriously…

    I do have a problem or two with the above, which I will explain:

    - Telling you the name of my client: Reason? Just like you haven’t worked with me, I haven’t worked with you. Anyone who has been in recruiting long enough knows that if you release a client name without getting an agreement in place with the candidate, said candidate will go around you, and you lose out on commission. You don’t trust us, and we don’t trust you. We usually give enough information so that you can run an easy Google search, but at the same time we cannot trust everyone we send messages to due to the few that betray us (sound familiar?).

    - Why would I be a good cultural fit: Reason? I have never met you before, so have no idea if you drink beer, wine, water, Coke, Pepsi, etc. That is what a phone call is for…gauging your fit for the company based off of questions we ask. It is called qualifying. We do it for every level of position, and it is required for us to correctly market the candidate to the role. Without a phone call, the email process will take days, which will not only make our customer mad due to the lack of turnaround time (more than likely the exact reason they reached out to us in the first place) and could potentially lose you the role due to other candidates moving faster.

    - Must be a perfect fit: Reason? I have never, and I will bold that, NEVER, seen a perfect fit for a role. Ever. Why, you ask? Is it that I am a bad recruiter? Am I lazy? No…job descriptions are written primarily (unless you work for BNR, obviously) for 1 opening. They are a mix-match of skill sets in the even the client gets lucky, which doesn’t happen often. Most of the time, I have to scrub a job description due to the lack of focus (like saying I have to have 5+ years of HTML 5 experience, or we need an ASP.NET, Java, and PHP developer in 1). Recruiters will refine descriptions to make it make sense, then send it along.

    Now, I know there are some bad recruiters out there. Like, really bad. However, it seems that the developers at BNR are more short-sighted when it comes to recruiters reaching out. Look at the bigger picture…the role that this crappy recruiter is posing to you could be a great fit, but was presented poorly. That doesn’t mean they will represent you poorly, just that they suck at writing a job description. The lack of response from a developer on LinkedIn or via email prompts most recruiters to call into the office, which I disagree with, but at the same time you leave us no choice.

    Help us, and we will help you.


    • The intention of this post was to be entertaining and useful, so I’m glad you liked it! Your concerns are valid, and it’s great to have your perspective here.

      There is some middle ground between the constant phone calls about positions that I would be a very poor fit for and the “perfect fit.” I have had a few very good interactions with recruiters, and below are some good experiences that cover your concerns with my criteria.

      Some companies have their own internal recruiters. These come from e-mail addresses, so it’s apparent which companies they work for. Other recruiters pitch their first job but explain that they have other positions as well. So they provide value to me by doing some research for me, and even when I know the companies they are pitching, I wouldn’t go around them because of the value they provide. If a recruiter doesn’t provide me any value, I don’t really have any reason to stick with them.

      The best recruiters go to my Github profile, my personal website (which is extremely easy to find, and it’s in my Linkedin and Github profiles), etc., and include in their e-mail to me a relevant story about how their company has an active lifestyle culture or contributes to open source or how they have a photography club. This doesn’t mean I’m a good cultural fit, but it’s enough to pique my interest.

      As to being a perfect fit, every job change I have made has been for what appeared to be a “perfect fit” (and for a pay cut), but I think my definition of a perfect fit sounds a little different than yours. Had I ever used Ruby on Rails before my first day on the job at Highgroove Studios? Nope! But with an extensive background of related technologies, strong problem-solving skills, and an ability to quickly pick things up, it worked out extremely well and I’d call it a perfect fit. I knew it was a good cultural fit because the “recruiter” in this situation was a Highgroove developer who rode his bicycle to the same bicycle shop opening party that I rode my bicycle to.

      The incentives in recruiting may be a little broken because of the annoyances they lead to (interruptive phone calls, spamming user group e-mail lists, sending out so much communication that it can’t be personal), but of the 60+ direct e-mail contacts I got from recruiters in 2012 (and more phone calls that were archived and not tracked), some of them did OK, so I have hope!

      And a note for the bad recruiters: the developers are on to you ;)

  4. Sébastien Saunier

    As a full-stack web engineer working with Rails, I sometimes want to educate recruiters sending cold emails about C++ positions. Looking at my Github profile would give them hints!

    That’s why I may build this: if people are really interested in it! (This is call Customer Development ;))

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