Approaching Hiring Managers
Why I’m Writing This
My current role is leading a team in Internal Developer Relations at Google. My team is in a big growth period, and I’ve been focused a lot on hiring. Over the last few months I’ve spent 2-3 hours a day focused on hiring. For the moment that is slowing down. But when you’re running a team like mine, you’re always on the lookout for people to hire. And you think a lot about hiring and how it works. At the same time, you are time constrained and can only think about so many things.
Recently a number of people sent me their resume with no context. I write this in response to those folks, but may share it in other contexts. If this is you, there’s no need to apologize. There’s no way for someone to know all this stuff unless someone tells them about it.
This post is written in the context of a North American hiring at a large tech company. It reflects my individual approach and my understanding of how hiring works. You may need different strategies for other jobs or other hiring managers in other places.
Understand how hiring works at big tech companies
Hiring happens in different streams at big tech companies. Here’s some ways it happens at Google:
The jobs website
People apply for jobs that are posted, sourcers and recruiters go through the resumes and forward any promising ones to hiring managers. Sometimes very specific jobs are posted for very specific role related knowledge. There will usually only be one or two positions available through those postings. Sometimes it’ll be for a general role like “Front End Software Engineer” or even just “Software Engineer” where they may be many.
Once you have applied, if there’s a specific hiring manager attached to a role, they’ll usually forward it to that person first. If they aren’t interested, the recruiters will share the resumes with other hiring managers that they know of or other recruiters for similar roles. They’ll shop around candidates to see if someone might have a good fit.
I will not provide recommendations to anyone I have never talked to. I am recluctant in most cases to provide a referral to for someone I haven’t worke dwith. Your So please don’t ask for that. First, it won’t do much good for you, and second it is about my reputation with other managers in the company. If I refer someone for a role who turns out to be a bad candidate, I don’t want other hiring managers thinking less of me.
Most large tech companies have a referral process. In Google’s case they submit your name and contact info. The tool then sends you an email inviting you to aply. If you are hired, they get a monetary bonus, often a few thousand dollars. The trick is knowing how this helps you.
If someone knows your work well, they can attest to your abilities. This is usually seen by a hiring manager and can lean them in favor of bringing you in for an interview. This is your best bet, get someone that you know and can say that you are a good fit for the role.
Unfortunately for a lot of people just starting out, you may not have these connections. If someone doesn’t know you, the only thing a referral assures is that a recruiter will be more likely to look at your resume. For me as a hiring manager, there’s no way that helps me make any decision at all, and I just discard it.
Side note: there’s lots of concern about how this kind of process acts against diversity efforts. There’s plenty of other people who have written good pieces on this.
Sourcing and Networking
Hiring managers will generally have networks of people they know. They may reach out through social media, personal contacts, and other ways to tap people they know and boost applications for the role. I personally hire for developer relations jobs so I post on devrel related job boards. I have an extensive LinkedIn network which I broadcast to. I know people from tech communities I’ve spent time in, like the CLoud Native communities centered around CNCF projects. I will ask other managers at Google. There’s many ways to network.
Google recruiters will do the same. They will source from LinkedIn. They will look for people who have contributed to open source projects, spoken at conferences related to the role, etc. They will talk to other recruiters and try to route candidates who weren’t hired in other roles. There’s lots of ways they will send us folks to consider.
Most hiring managers spend a lot of time on hiring. So help them out, and help yourself out by approaching them in an effective way. If all you want to do is get your resume seen, apply through whatever job site the company has. Someone will see it. If you’re approaching an individual, be prepared. You want to be able to show
- Why you are approaching them
- You understand on a general level what they are looking for
- How you might be an asset to their team
Find out as much about the hiring manager and the role as possible
First, do your research. You’ve identified someone as a possible hiring manager. Learn as much as you can about open roles they’ve already hiring for. You’re eager for a job, maybe any job. I get that, but you won’t help yourself by just sending your resume. And you may be hurting people’s impression of you. So pay attention to what they are saying and how they want to be contacted.
Recently I posted several jobs and identified that I was not the hiring manager. The result: several people sent me their resumes. That tells me they aren’t not paying attention to what I’m posting. If you’re unsure, say that when you contact the person. “I saw you post this, I’m unclear if this job is one you are hiring for. I am interested and would like to follow-up” or something like that.
Another complaint of mine: I post jobs to a Slack Community. In the post I usually say “Don’t contact me here, I’m only here irregularly. Contact me by emailing…” followed by my email. Not infrequently, someone will then Slack DM me about the role. That tells me again, they weren’t paying attention. I’ll usually respond once I go back to the community, but it has slightly hurt my impression of them and also delayed my response. If they emailed me, that would have worked faster. If a hiring manager says “here’s how to contact me” follow that procedure. They’ve told you the right thing to do, following that simple request is the best way to show you’re paying attention.
Find out about the role. I hire for developer relations jobs. If you don’t know about them, research them. The job posting will give some context to you, you can ask for more information. But also, Google is your friend. If you don’t know about developer relations, look it up. Find out whether this is the kind of role you want. Ideally, look for blog posts, Twitter posts, any kind of information about what that job is like at that company. Job titles are sometimes have different meanings at different companies. It’s important to understand what the differences are.
Tell them Why
Don’t make people try to figure out why you are contacting them. My whole job isn’t reading resumes and following up. Despite what my Twitter timeline might look like. There’s a cognitive load to figuring out why a resume is appearing in my DMS or inbox. If I’m hiring for several roles, I don’t know which one you are contacting me about. I’m not hiring for any job. I’m hiring for specific jobs. So help me connect the dots and do less thinking and more acting. This will help me but also you get to an answer more quickly. And will improve the hiring manager’s impression of you.
Some questions to answer:
- Why are you reaching out to the persion in particular?
- Did you see a job they recently posted about?
- Did someone tell you the hiring manager has a job, is a good connection, or might know who to ask?
- Do you know someone in common?
Another good practice: Check out No Hello. This applies to Twitter DMs, LinkedIn, email, whatever. I recognize that in some ettiquette lessons, or perhaps for reason particular to your culture, you may feel uncomfortable jumping right to the point. From my cultural perspective and cognitive load perspective, I want to know why you’re contacting me. That way I can immediately start figuring out how to handle it. Particularly if you’re connecting with the hiring manager from a very different timezone, this will help speed the process.
Asking for an information interview is perfectly OK
One of the things I respond best to is “I’d like to learn more about developer relations. Do you mind sending me some resources or setting up some time to talk?” Personally, I am happy being that resource for people. But many hiring managers won’t. If they don’t respond, or don’t have time, you probably haven’t lost anything as long as you show you’ve done some research and have the basics down.