Posted on 10/14/2015

10 ways to attract tech talent, grow sales

Joseph Serwach

Tech companies get in trouble when prospective new hires and customers ask, "What do you do, exactly?" If your answer is too hesitant or generic, too vague or too specific, their eyes quickly glaze over and a prospect quickly tunes out.

Research shows recruiters spend 6 seconds looking at a resume before deciding whether someone is worth considering or passing over, skipping the boilerplate language and looking for something that stands out or really matters to them.

The 6-second rule applies equally to prospective recruits and web and social media visitors alike. If you can't grab their attention quickly, particularly online, they move onto the next thing.

Here are 10 ways to attract more talent and help grow your company:

  1. Review your messages (both verbal and written, online and in person) with fresh eyes. Ask yourself "Would these words describe a competitor or do they specifically and uniquely describe us?''

    I recently met with executives from two Ann Arbor software firms who had the same challenge:  it took way too long to explain what made their organizations unique (both online and in person). They both had very low web traffic and were concerned about competitors.

    Engineers know that if they get "too technical'' no one will understand them, so they often go the other way and get so vague that their descriptions could literally describe dozens or even  hundreds of companies. Here are some good and bad examples:

    Real headlines from real Michigan tech company websites: "Software that turns information into action,'' "Optimize your time software solutions,'' "Ready whenever you are," "Unmatched customer care and training,'' and "We have the technology.'' The problem with those headlines? They are incredibly generic. Not one of those headlines would likely be searched on Google.

    Better headlines from a former client - note that each headline could also be a search phrase or a one-sentence explanation of what this company does: "Secure, compliant enterprise hosting,'' "Your colocated servers will be safe, compliant & secure'' and "Our Michigan data centers protect your mission-critical IT infrastructure.''
  2. The Grandma Test. My grandmothers were great at testing any and all messaging because they didn't know the insider jargon or the latest buzzwords. Try your elevator pitch on your 9th grader or grandma and watch how long you need to talk with them before they actually "get'' what you're talking about. If the first two or three tries don't work, pay attention to what words actually register with someone who has a fresh, more general perspective.
  3. Keep it simple. The first time I met Alfred Glancy III in the 1990s, I was fairly young and asked "What do you do?'' He smiled and said, "I'm in the energy business, my father was in real estate and my dad was in automotive.'' That short, direct answer made me curious.

    It turned out he was CEO of Michigan Consolidated Gas Company (MichCon), today a part of DTE Energy. His father in real estate owned the Empire State Building. Short and unforgettable. But many 21st century businesses are harder to explain but it's never undoable.  

    A short phrase can speak volumes: Consider Apple, whose "Think Different'' tagline explains what is now the world's most valuable company or Shiloh Industries which positions itself as an expert on lightweighting. Or Coca Cola declaring itself "the Real Thing'' in 1971. Coke rarely uses that tagline anymore but that explanation of the original cola has stuck for four decades.

    How often do recruits go to a career website, upload their resume and then need to copy all that same information into a form? Or push a button and have the system reject it? is growing because it simplifies everything, allowing an applicant to click a button, then fill in a cover letter (the key messages both parties need to share).   
  4. The trouble with loading up on buzzwords posing as keywords. When I went to work for the state, my boss was troubled by a $1 million per year contract with a tech firm.

    We couldn't figure out what they did that was worth $1 million. Multiple meetings followed. The tech firm kept parading out lots of people who used lots of buzzwords (innovative, engagement, etc.) and lots of technical terms they assumed we wouldn't understand. Ultimately, they couldn't explain their value and we replaced them with vendors who could.

    When I worked at Crain's Detroit Business in the 1990s, reporters and editors actually one-upped each other by trying to mock the press releases with the worst insider jargon. One of the terms the reporters mocked the most: "solutions provider.''
  5. The best possible way to win over a prospect. If you really want to win someone over (whether it's a recruit or a potential client) the best way is to: Invite them to your company, get them a great lunch/conversation with the CEO, engage in some thoughtful conversations and include a tour of the company answering all their questions.

    Unless it's a major hire or prospect, most of us rarely have the hours such meetings/tours can take. But modern technology allows companies to create the digital equivalent including a 2-minute primer video and social media offering a virtual tour and introducing us to key people and crucial messages.
  6. Give them what they're looking for. The best questions are often the start of great content. How many times does a prospect ask a great question where you think "That's a really good question,'' one you can answer in great detail.

    Such questions, especially if you hear them more than once, can be written for the web. More importantly, people searching for that type of information (an ideal prospect) can now find you organically.
  7. It's not the tools, it's how you use them. We hate it when someone tells us some tool (software, printers, etc.) will be the silver bullet to solve our problems. We get angered when we realize there are multiple, similar competing alternatives. It isn't the tool that solves our problems but what we do with the tool that solves our problem.

    Similarly, It isn't the newly designed website that solves our problems. It's great content on that website with words that work.
  8. Are your paths clogged or clear? How many ways can you drive to your office? Odds are some of those roads are packed at rush hour while alternate routes are fairly empty. Similarly, there are multiple digital paths into your organization. Fine tuning messaging and SEO can help improve the best changes and revamp or replace the paths that are now getting little to no traffic.
  9. Is your best content online or in a cardboard box? I have an old wedding video that's been played two or three times in the past 30 years but when I digitized that content, edited it and used the best bits on YouTube videos, each video got hundreds of views.

    Many organization have filing cabinets of videotape of events, white papers, newsletters brochures and other real content that can be edited and turned into a more digestible, accessible format.
  10. Showing thought leadership. "Visible experts,'' (including experts who write books, speak at conferences and are active on social media) earn as much as 13 times more money than their less visible peers, according to Hinge research.

So it isn't having a LinkedIn or Twitter page that brings people in. It's posting daily helpful, educational, thoughtful content related to your industry (not just self-serving promotional content) that shows prospects you're a thought leader in your industry.

About the Author

Joseph Serwach | Organik

Joseph Serwach is a contributing author to The Book of Social Media Strategies & Tactics Volume 1. He's also authored: Social Media: Little things, beautiful, good and true.  Meet Joe at Automation Alley Oct. 27, when he'll speak at Social Media: The Secret to Attracting and Recruiting Talent.


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