7 mins

With so many ways I can go about an outreach strategy, how do I know which one to pursue?

Hi Maria,

I’m an engineering manager at a small to medium-sized business and I would like to start doing outreach work. This includes possibly reaching out to suitable future candidates, getting the brand name out there, and helping/serving the community in which we operate. I’d ideally start looking at career fairs, local engineering networking events, university partnerships, work experience, and conferences.

Given the multitude of outreach avenues I can pursue, I’m trying to work out the best approach and what things to get involved in. What are the quick wins worth pursuing, and what are the few key long-term projects that deserve my attention?



Dear Vaea,

Think of outreach strategy as part of your company’s overall brand and culture. In many ways, it’s similar to the craft of marketing – not in the advertising sense, but rather in finding the right people and relationships.

A framework I’ve seen work quite well for outreach is getting clear on your goals and your brand, attracting and retaining your target audience, and playing the long game. Here’s how you can work towards all three. 

Get clear on the goals

This step prompts you to begin with the end result in mind so that any plan you make takes you toward that goal. In this equation, outreach is the tool for realizing your goal, not the goal itself.

First, map out what you’re trying to achieve, or what problems you are trying to solve. For example, do you notice that your current team has very few folks from underrepresented backgrounds? Is the talent mix not quite right? Do you struggle to close deals because potential clients have never heard of the company? The issues will evolve with time; that’s ok, you can repeat the exercise as you grow.

For each goal, think about what success would look like and the timelines you’d like to achieve them in. Setting a long-term, overarching goal is important, but don’t forget to use intermediate goals as metrics on progress – they’re great indicators of when it’s time to iterate. 

For example, if you’re looking to hire 10 women in leadership roles in the next quarter, you might set an intermediate goal of reaching out to 50 qualified candidates within the first month. Your strategy could be supported by a specialist recruiter who provides a pre-vetted client list. If, instead, you’re looking to increase diversity across seniority levels over a longer timescale e.g., over the next year, you could set goals like “50 applications with 20 making it past screening.” These definitive objectives will help you pinpoint some aspects of your outreach approach; in this case, aiming for 50 applicants means you’ll need a scalable outreach. It can also help you tweak your strategy as you go; if you get a good number of applicants, but too few make it past screening, you may need to find an audience that’s a better match.

Second, reflect on and pinpoint your company’s values, culture, and practices. This is important because outreach is about showcasing your brand, so any actions you take must be consistent with that identity to appear genuine.

Make sure you speak to your manager about how outreach can address specific challenges facing the company's staff, customers, and overall public perception, and what goals you would like to accomplish. Recommend (or ask them to recommend) people in the company to collaborate on this with. For example, involve the recruiting team if your outreach is more focused on bringing in candidates, the field engineering team if you’re looking to expand your customer base, or the marketing team if you’re focused on increasing brand awareness and launching a new customer segment.

Create the funnel

In this step, start exploring your next actions and make sure they align with your company’s culture. The specifics of what you choose might fluctuate depending on the budget and size of your team, but the idea is identical: find where your desired audience already gathers and create a presence there.

Let’s use the example of increasing team diversity. Start by mapping out a candidate’s journey from discovering your company to applying for opportunities. Then think of ways to feed that funnel with events or communities your ideal employees already frequent and increase your company’s presence there; for junior folks, this might be university career fairs or partnering with boot camps, and for more senior folks, the ideal outreach would be direct contact or organizing a very tailored event on topics you’ve found, through your research, to be top of mind for that audience. If there are means to, host events and become known as an organization that actively supports these communities. 

Other options include working with charities or specialized recruiters. If your ideal candidates/customers attend certain conferences you could look into having a company representative speak there, or sponsor them. Asking your network for help with introductions is another possibility, especially if your goal is specialized (e.g., filling a specific role) and time-sensitive. Direct outreach can also work quite well; think about searching keywords/titles on Linkedin to help you prioritize who to contact on professional networks.

Choose two or three of the aforementioned ideas to start with. It may take some research and trial and error, but ultimately you should land on a strategy that draws in ideal candidates who are excited about your company.

Set the outreach up for success

The ultimate measure of success in promoting your company’s name is results that stick. If your original goal behind outreach was to hire more diverse candidates you must ensure that, once those candidates become employees, you have the right environment for them to grow with the company. If your goal is to increase leads, certify that once they’re converted to customers they get value out of what they bought.

As part of preparing for your outreach efforts, think about what needs to be implemented internally to support them.

There are two angles to this:

  • Tactical process: this is about ensuring that once candidates or potential customers show interest in moving forward, there is a system in place to evaluate whether they’re a good fit for the company and vice versa. Your goal here is to combine speed (you don’t want to leave people waiting) with a process that gives you enough information to make the right decision.
  • Ongoing: Past the outreach stage, are they set up to be successful in the long term?

Let’s stick with the example of increasing diverse candidates. Here’s some concrete points to keep in mind:

  • Ensure the job description is inclusive. Anecdotally, terms like “rockstar developer”, or a long list of must-have qualifications could discourage women from applying to positions. Instead, stick with simple language, and aim for an honest description of the opportunity.
  • Provide adequate training to those interviewing candidates.
  • Ensure the interview and review process aligns with the culture of the organization. For example, if you value test-driven development, ensure candidates have an opportunity to show test-driving at various levels (integration/unit), and are actually evaluated on that skill when you debrief with interviewers.
  • Ensure interviewer pools are diverse so that you get multiple perspectives, and that they’re also good representatives of the company culture.
  • Do an honest review of current company culture and practices, and address any aspects that may dissuade people from being hired. For example, a strict in-office policy could discourage parents of young children. A mandatory qualification of a master’s degree will exclude people who might have gotten into the industry through non-traditional paths.
  • Review onboarding processes and ensure they’re effective in getting new people connected, happy, and productive as soon as possible.

Always be outreaching

A lot of what you mention is a long-term endeavor. Growing a team, customer base, or most goals through outreach is an ongoing process; you can’t set things up once and call it a day.

So, think about these as enduring efforts that your company will need to nurture. To stay with hiring as an example; adopt the perspective that you’re always hiring, even when you don’t have an open headcount; remember to set honest expectations – don’t promise candidates roles that don’t exist. Keep tabs on what your ideal candidates or customers are thinking and talking about, keep networking, keep creating connections, and find ways to add value to those networks of people. Though it might feel like not much is happening most of the time, this approach is easier to sustain than big, one-off outreach efforts.

– Maria 

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