Async hard sales: A recruiter’s guide to cold calling

Yin vs Yang, Cats vs Dogs, Recruiters vs Developers. Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.

Developers are in high demand and that’s reflected in their inbox. They are flooded with work-related e-mail, pull request notifications, Slack messages and other bleeps that require their attention. On top of that, they get contacted by recruiters daily. Getting a developer’s attention is an uphill battle.

I’m fully aware this is a luxury problem for devs. Boohoo, you’re getting flooded with opportunities! If you’re a recruiter however, it’s important to look at this from our perspective. It increases your odds of getting through.

A developer gets contacted through different media and with different messages. All of these media have a block or spam function and we use it liberally. Once you’re blocked, you are invisible and your future chances are dead. These media can be divided into 3 types: real-time, async and planned.

If you’re contacting a developer that you don’t have a meaningful relationship with, it’s important to keep in mind you are just a lead. You are one of the ten potential opportunities that arrive in the mailbox and we don’t care about you at that point. Just like you don’t care about the marketeers in your spam folder. It’s nothing personal, it’s about time management.

So let’s look at these communication types.


A telephone is real-time. So are impromptu video calls. It demands that the receiver drops what they are doing and focusses their full attention on the sender. It’s invasive and it never comes at a good time. Developers are never just sitting on a chair waiting for a stranger to call. There’s this stereotype about millennials not picking up a phone and it’s true. When can you call a developer you’ve never met? Simple: Never. You’ll go on the block list. We’ll ignore you. It’s spam.

Let’s add chat conversations to the list as well. They are almost equally invasive. Starting a chat without any info on the actual job you’re trying to sell is a time-waster. If the message is “I was wondering how your current job is going.” or “I have a great opportunity for you, call me.” you can be sure you’re going in the trash bin. There is no reason for us to answer this. We are never curious about the vague opportunity as we’re pretty sure it doesn’t exist. It’s spam.


Asynchronous messages can be handled whenever the receiver wants to. These are the most convenient. E-mails, one-off InMails, SMS or Whatsapp. A developer can open their Inbox and quickly scan through the new messages and answer a few of them. It’s totally OK to reply a few days later. There’s no pressure. It’s also fine to not answer at all.

If your message contains the same “I give you no information but call me back” tropes, you’re going in the spam folder. We get tens of those messages a week.


Telephone calls, Skype meetings or coffee bars. We set up a time and date and we’ll talk. This is ideal, but it requires an existing relationship. No developer wants to make time for a “one hour Skype call just to get to know each other.”

So, how to get a developer’s attention? Send an Async message with the complete proposal in there. If you get no reply, they are not interested. If you do get a reply, set up a Planned conversation. It really is that simple.

It’s the opposite of what they teach you in sales school: we want a hard sell right out of the gate. We don’t want relationship building, some info on your way of working that unique to the industry, no background story: give us the proposal and we’ll see if it’s for us.

No developer has ever looked at a full proposal that wasn’t a match and then changed their mind after being bugged by a salesperson. Either it’s a match for them or it’s not.

On the other hand, most developers are enticed by an interesting opportunity. If you’ve read their CV and you can propose something that matches their interest, you’re standing out from the crowd. If they are a Front-end developer working with an old version of Angular, that React project might sound amazing. That’s going to stand out in the avalanche of “Hi there, call me”-messages.

Async and full-info: give that a try.