You’ve probably heard time and again that hiring employees in tech is tough. But how tough exactly is it?
The technical skills gap is constantly widening, and the US unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2011. Moreover, the tech skills shortage is at an all-time high according to the 2019 CIO Survey. Given these pressures, hiring a highly-skilled developer often feels like striking gold.
The future doesn’t look any brighter, either, as Korn Ferry’s predictions are even more alarming. The technology, media, and telecommunication industries are likely to be short over 1.1 million workers globally due to skill shortage by 2020. That deficit will likely rise to 4.3 million by 2030.
Without a doubt, the current labor environment of low unemployment and whopping job growth requires a conscious, pre-planned, and structured strategy for hiring employees in tech.
Proven techniques for hiring employees in tech
Hiring in a talent scarcity scenario is a lot more difficult than hiring in the talent surplus scenario. In a talent scarcity situation your aim is to attract the best possible candidates.
In most cases, these candidates will be passive. This means that they’re already employed and won’t likely come knocking on your door. According to Stack Overflow, only 21.9% of them are somewhat dissatisfied with their current jobs, which makes things difficult for recruiters.
So let's examine the elements of an efficient recruitment process for hiring employees in tech.
1. Focus on the interview process structure
You might think this one is obvious, but many companies hire in an ad hoc fashion whenever it feels like the walls are closing in on them. Hiring without a recruitment plan often leads to mis-hiring, which can cost up to $90K (without disruption costs) per each developer hire.
To avoid hiring the wrong employees, you need to create a process that can be reviewed and repeatedly optimized, just like the marketing funnel.
The most optimal tech recruitment setup is as follows:
- Interview (Soft skills + Technical)
Sometimes companies find that in order to hire employees in tech more efficiently, they need to design the whole process from scratch. This can be overwhelming, but in the world of tech hiring, every tweak can make a difference (we cover this in more detail in section #7!).
2. Source from developer-specific sites
Developers and recruiters are very different from each other. As a consequence, they don’t typically get on very well.
Back in 2013, Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack Overflow, crashed Twitter by asking programmers why recruiters drove them crazy. Spolsky got 350 replies, which altogether painted a gloomy picture of the state of tech hiring.
Sadly, things haven’t changed too much since 2013. The relationship between recruiters and developers is still a shaky one.
Since hiring employees in tech relies on attracting passive candidates, they have to be identified through adequate sourcing techniques. The more advanced these techniques, the more unique the candidate pool you’re targeting.
Sourcing from developer-specific sites comes with a number of benefits:
- Discovering new leads
- Accessing information you can use in outreach messages
- Assessing candidate competency based on their recent activity
3. Up your outreach game
The average developer receives numerous unsolicited outreach messages and calls. Sadly, because recruiters don’t have enough technical awareness or they don’t personalize their outreach well enough, most of these messages don’t fit the people who receive them.
Sixty-two percent of customers open emails because of a personalized subject line. While it’s important to personalize your messages as much as you can, that doesn’t mean simply inserting someone’s name into a message copy or email subject.
Before reaching out with an opportunity, you must check whether the skills listed in someone’s LinkedIn profile REALLY match the job description.
4. Increase the technical awareness of your recruiters
It’s logical that recruiters and developers don’t have the same skill sets because if they did, they’d be doing the same jobs. It would be unrealistic to assume that recruiters hiring employees in tech have all the skills they’re hiring for. At the same time, asking candidates random questions like “Can you tell me about .NET?” puts the whole organization in a bad light.
There’s a way out of this, however. Increasing the technical awareness of your recruiters allows you to source more accurately.
To limit the number of messages they receive, some developers avoid using certain keywords in their profiles. Knowing the terms they’re likely to use increases your talent pool increasing your chances of finding the right person. Example?
Instead of searching for a Cloud specialist, you can search for people with the following skills:
Becoming familiar with the terms covered in the video above also allows recruiters to be more confident during the phone screening many companies include in their process.
You can increase your technical awareness in a number of ways. There are valuable educational resources about every possible tech stack out there. For example, if you need to hire a React Native developer, you can check out a guide on react native to help you understand this particular framework a little bit better, as well as going through a Tech Recruitment Certification Course.
5. Use work sample tests
What is a work sample test? According to Laszlo Bock, work sample testing “entails giving candidates a sample piece of work, similar to that which they would do in the job, and assessing their performance at it.”
Following SockPuppet, the principles of work sample testing are as follows:
- Mirroring the actual work a candidate will be called on to perform as closely as possible
- Standardization so that the tests are fully objective
- Generating data and a grade, not a simple pass/fail result
- Limited time scope (typically 1-2 hours)
Why should you use work sample tests when employing tech professionals? A study suggests that work sample tests come with high predictive validities, significantly higher than one’s years of education or reference checks.
Work sample tests are very useful when hiring employees in tech because seeing someone’s skills in action is a far better indicator of their performance than their CV. What is more, work sample testing allows you to identify the developers who can walk the walk rather than talk the talk.
6. Screen coding skills before interviewing people in person
The number one factor you need to address when you want to hire tech employees is to figure out a way to bring only viable candidates to the interview stage of your hiring process.
Your aim is to limit the time your internal developers spend assessing technical skills and conducting technical interviews. Since they’re busy and their time is expensive, they should only be interviewing people who passed the technical screening stage.
Even moving things around in the process can bring you outstanding results. For example, Spartez managed to decrease their number of technical interviews by 8.6x by just moving their technical screening procedure earlier in the hiring process.
7. Keep optimizing
When it comes to optimizing your process of hiring employees in tech, there are two main approaches you can implement: tweak your process, and use tools to streamline your process so you have more time to complete the tasks which cannot be automated
Unfortunately, two out of three of recruiters lack the tools to understand the market and talent pool they are recruiting from. Make sure you do your research, such as online reference checking, and find the right recruitment software to get the best possible results. Not all of these tools have to be expensive, complex platforms that you need to implement.
These are really important, but you can also make your life easier with quick fixes like this one:
The Stack Exchange Data Explorer allows you to find candidates by only entering parameters like location and tagname (which is your desired skill). It’s a lifesaver.
The simpler way to hire employees in tech
Hiring developers is tough, but finding the right approach is no longer an option. Given the rapid growth of STEM jobs, it’s a necessity.
Most companies hiring developers face the same pain points which makes researching them easy. To get on the right track, follow these seven proven techniques and improve your tech hiring results.
Need more insight on best practices for talent recruitment? See our comprehensive breakdown with ample resources!