A problem common to most recruiters and human resources professionals today is a lack of understanding the actual job they are trying to fill. It’s really a fine line a recruiter toes, because understanding the role itself is not only imperative for sourcing talent but is also a huge advantage for closing that top passive candidate. The overall understanding of the role itself starts with the job title. If the job title is not a good fit for what you seek, you are likely in big trouble.
Recently a friend in the industry said that they were looking for a Cocoa programmer, and while I completely understand why a hiring manager would say this is what they want, the title itself is so incredibly limiting because Cocoa is not a programming language — it’s a framework. For those less technical folks, it’s like saying you want someone who knows how to use a table sorting template for Microsoft Excel. “Framework” in programming is a fancy term for template. Cocoa is basically a pre-built software template that can be customized for a variety of types of software for either iPhone or Mac desktop apps.
Think about this question from a hiring manager’s perspective: do you want to hire someone who only knows how to use the Cocoa framework (template) or someone who can build a custom framework (template)? Which engineer is more valuable? I think we should all be able to agree that building custom fields in Excel is a lot more complicated than using a template, right?
The same concept applies to programming. Unfortunately many recruiters today continue to look for Cocoa Programmers, and some people have that as their job title on a resume/online profile because that was what such-and-such company called them when they were hired. However, recruiters who are targeting Cocoa only in that search are missing about 80% of the population of strong Mac programmers … not to mention not all Cocoa programmers do both iPhone and desktop app programming, as those are two completely different software development kits.
To overcome this obstacle of understanding, the answer is to immerse and educate yourself in the industry you are recruiting for. If you are a generalist, I completely understand this is certainly a time management issue, when you are recruiting for every type of job under the moon in any given day. But even a generalist should educate themselves about their industry and jobs they recruit for regularly. In the long run it will help when closing top talent. The greatest compliment a recruiter can get from a candidate is that they are impressed with your level of understanding of what they do. When you hear that from a candidate, they will respect you for life and may even end up being a great ongoing pipeline for future referrals just like them.
There are tons of ways to learn about any industry today online. Wikipedia is of course full of online documentation, but the absolute best free online learning resource is YouTube. You can even learn things like how to build a hovercraft in the garage watching YouTube videos. Industry professionals in marketing, accounting, project management, software development and more are uploading free “tutorial” videos on the subject of “how to” in their jobs all the time. Watch a few Xcode (the iPhone software development kit) videos about Cocoa, and you’ll see why looking for a Cocoa programmer is so limiting. The iPhone/Mac programming language is actually called Objective C — which can be written so many different ways on a resume — but that’s better left in a whole different article.
If you are looking for something that you know nothing about, you might consider watching a few YouTube videos to get a better understanding. This will help significantly when talking to a great candidate on the phone, as you’ll be able to bridge the connection quickly and build a long-term working relationship.