This is the fourth blog post of a series titled Hiring for Engineering Managers. I plan to write a few posts on this topic since I'm incredibly passionate about how to hire for, and grow software engineering teams.
The old sales adage of “ABC” (Always Be Closing) applies to hiring as well — Always Be Hiring. Over the past four years as a manager, I've come to realize that I have to hold myself almost fully accountable for getting people to join my teams. I’ve seen other managers complain that HR (Human Resources) isn’t getting enough quality candidates to interview with them. I don’t view things this way — I see it as my responsibility to get great people to find us and to sign offers. In fact, I’ve written a blog post called “Accountability Mindset for Hiring Engineers” if you want to learn more.
One thing that’s crucial here is to understand that hiring is an ongoing process. Even during periods without open headcount or budget constraints, a manager must always have their hiring hat on. I’ve come to learn that if I come across someone that’s really special, I will somehow find the energy to pull all the stops to get the company’s leadership to make them an offer. Now, I’m not saying that you should be in full hiring mode and doing a lot of interviews even when budgets are being slashed—that would be irresponsible. However, one should always keep their eyes open towards rare talent looking for new opportunities.
It May Take Years…
I once met someone at a conference abroad, and was really struck by them. I figured they could be a great add to our team. But it wasn’t until two and a half years later that they were ready to join us…
During that time, I kept in touch. I showed genuine interest in their career and accomplishments (we even built a funny side project together!). This approach built a strong relationship with the person over time, and when they finally decided to make a move, they reached out to me first.
This experience taught me that patience and persistence are essential traits for hiring managers. Great candidates may not be available right at the moment you need them, but by maintaining a proactive and thoughtful approach, you can cultivate a talent pipeline that will eventually pay off.
Networking, All The Time
As an engineering manager, networking goes beyond attending industry events and conferences. While these are great opportunities to meet potential candidates, networking within the industry should be an ongoing effort. I made it a habit to connect with other people on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, and participate in some discussions.
By networking more consistently, I expanded my circle of connections, which helped me discover potential candidates. Of course, I also end up learning a lot from others about how their companies operate, and how they're tackling different challenges.
Invest in Your (Engineering) Team's Brand
Building a strong employer brand is not just the responsibility of HR. As an engineering manager, you play a pivotal role in shaping your team’s brand. By creating a positive and challenging work environment, current team members become brand ambassadors for their companies.
A strong team brand attracts talent even when there are no available positions. Talented individuals are drawn to join teams with good reputations, where they can work on exciting projects and have opportunities for growth. Investing in the team's brand is a long-term strategy that pays dividends in the form of an ongoing stream of potential candidates.
But how do you actually achieve this?
- Make sure that your direct reports are applying to CFPs (Call for Papers) at different conferences
- Get everyone (including yourself) to write blog posts about the work you’re doing
- Open source your work, and make sure to give back to some of the open source tooling that you’re using
All these things will further develop your team’s brand. They will help others learn about the work that you do, and hopefully get them excited enough to send in applications for jobs.
Harness the Power of Internships
I was once told that interns in the San Francisco Bay Area often make almost $10K a month for three months of work because of network effects. How come? Well, not everyone joining during school for three months is actually contributing with enough output to be worth those salaries. Instead, these tech internships are extremely well paid because of the network effects they lead to.
The idea is that when interns go back to school in the fall, they tell their friends about the amazing time they had during their internship. And this is a big part of the reason why companies pay so much for these interns to spend their summer with them. Moreover, you’re giving both parties the chance to evaluate if there’s a good fit. I’ve had numerous internships led to full-time offers, and this "pipeline" has led to some of our most outstanding hires.
The journey of hiring for engineering managers never truly stops. Embracing the mindset of "Always Be Hiring" ensures that you stay vigilant, continuously nurturing potential candidates, and building relationships within the industry.
Remember that hiring isn't just a task to check off but an ongoing process that requires dedication, patience, and a commitment to finding the best talent for your team. By investing time and effort into networking and building your team's brand, you'll be better equipped to attract top talent.
Feel free to reach out on Twitter!