neil frye

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Neil Frye, global head of recruitment, HR ops, and technology at Dropbox.Neil Frye

For technology companies like Dropbox, searching for top Silicon Valley talent, or people willing to relocate, is more challenging than ever.

Everywhere you look, companies are using creative tactics to recruit and retain talent — particularly engineers.

More specifically, talent shortages in San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, and New York make every hire a multi-offer affair.

LinkedIn's March 2017 Workforce Report ranked these cities 1st, 4th, 6th, and 7th, respectively, as the cities with the largest skill gaps. And guess what — these are all Dropbox talent markets.

In addition, there is a changing dynamic in employee tenure as millennials continue to see organization hopping (working less than three years at a company) as an opportunity for growth that's not detrimental to their professional brand. All of these trends mean we must adapt our hiring strategies to focus on engaging candidates even before they think about applying. As a result, Dropbox applies three techniques to proactively attract talent:

1. The personal touch

We try to make sure that hiring managers are the first or second touch point with candidates. This allows candidates to hear directly from the source about the role, team and objectives. Direct contact with the hiring manager shows candidates that their prospective lead is involved in the process and really cares about them personally.

We recently used LinkedIn's new Apply Starters feature to reach a candidate that had expressed interest in a position but wasn't actively looking. Our sales development manager sent her an introductory InMail saying she was exactly the kind of person we were looking for.

After being hired, Veronica Velasco told us, "I definitely wouldn't have completed the application if the lead hadn't reached out," adding, "I was happy where I was and wasn't actively searching … I wouldn't have left for anything less than an amazing opportunity." 

Candidates are used to receiving multiple emails per week (and sometimes per day) from recruiters, bots, CRM talent systems, etc. How do you stand out in this noisy and constant barrage of enticements? Dropbox makes it highly personal, because the person candidates want to hear from most is the their potential manager.

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2. Speak their language

The recruiters and hiring managers at Dropbox tailor our messages to candidates, based on networks, backgrounds, or skills. The first message they receive usually focuses on how their specific skills will make them successful at Dropbox. If the message is personal it's less likely to be seen as a mass message or spammy campaign.

One of our sourcers found an engineering prospect who had creatively, changed all of his LinkedIn profile details from ASCII (i.e., plain readable text), to Base64, a type of encoding method used in various methods including MIME, OpenPGP and XML.  This was intriguing, so they worked to send their initial message using Base64. Here's what the LinkedIn InMail read:


It worked! The candidate responded, "This is the most unique recruiting email I've got since I changed the encoding of my profile!" That little bit of extra effort got the sought-after engineer's attention and moved them into our candidate journey.

3. Build relationships

During the hiring process, our team tries to build meaningful relationships based on mutual interests. We use LinkedIn to identify, connect, and reach out to candidates, ensuring the first interactions are informal and can happen over coffee or during a meet-up.

This lets us get to know candidates based on who they are, roles they've played, places they've been, and communities they've served. Those relationships are nurtured over time with invitations to events, speakers, and eventually lead to interviews.

Engineers of all sorts, for example, are in short supply. We recently engaged with a Senior Engineer over several months through emails, Droptalks, and coffees at "little-r," the cafe at our San Francisco headquarters. As we entered the final stages of the process, the candidate had two other offers from large tech companies and was in the process of making their final decision.

One of the candidate's key criteria was a clear picture of their day-to-day work, the technical challenges facing the team, and how they would work with the team. So our final move was to introduce them to the team and have a paired programming session with one of the Dropbox engineers.

This gave the candidate a clear picture of what it would be like to work with these potential team members. By the end of the session, they walked away feeling very positive about Dropbox. We are still in process with this candidate, but things are looking good!

Every candidate's journey is different. We believe in taking the time to express interest and understand each person's story, their motivations, and goals. Aligning what we learn to a specific team or a current open role creates a personalized recruitment experience for candidates and ultimately a better working experience for Dropbox employees.

Neil Frye is the global head of recruitment, HR ops, and technology at Dropbox.