How to recruit top tech talent

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
June 11, 2020
min read

A great tech team can launch a company’s reputation into the stratosphere. If you can promote your brand as a hub of cutting-edge ideas, you’ll gain value in the eyes of stakeholders. This is also a surefire way to attract the latest generation of eager tech talent. 

If only it were so easy… 

A recent Indeed survey found that 86% of respondents encountered challenges in hiring tech talent. The same survey also found that 53% of respondents hired candidates that they knew fell short. The reason? Talented technicians are highly sought after, making recruitment extremely competitive. 

But fear not. The talent is out there and if you have the right bait on the end of your hook you’re bound to get a bite (or should we say byte?). Stack Overflow’s annual Development Survey 2019 found that while only 16% of developers are actively seeking work, a staggering 75% were interested in new opportunities. 

Your hiring strategy needs to be twofold: promoting your company as a place for the best of the best to spread their wings, and having a process that identifies stand-out candidates. In this article, we’ll provide tips on how to achieve both. 

Make sure your Careers Page is as Appealing as Possible

For many companies, their careers page is a list of current vacancies that’s been relegated to the depths of a webpage footer. While they meet their initial purpose, pages like this aren’t going to inspire the best of the best. 

A good careers page shouldn’t just present people with opportunities. It should show why the opportunities are too good to pass up. What can a tech whizz stand to gain from working at your organisation? Be sure to not only highlight perks but also learning and development opportunities. According to Clutch, 18% of job seekers (just under 1 in 5) want to work with companies that provide professional development opportunities. So remember that there are a lot of rough diamonds out there. You might also want to add some testimonials from current employers. They will paint the most reliable picture of what day-to-day life at your organisation is like.

Hold Events to Attract Talent in the Community 

Of course, it’s always a great idea to find events where you can rub shoulders with tech’s best and brightest. But why not take it one step further and host your own? This will take time to organise. However, there are few better ways to promote your company to tech talent than by hosting a panel or better yet, a hackathon. Not only will you be able to scout for talent, but attendees will also learn what it may be like to work for you. 

Understand the Exact Position you Want to Fill 

Recruiters run the risk of falling at the first hurdle by not understanding the skills required for a position. The differences between a back-end, front-end, or full-stack developer may seem subtle to the untrained eye. However, each role can vary wildly in its requirements and responsibilities. So be sure that you have the best picture possible of who the ideal candidate is. 

We recommend that before you write your job description, pick 6-8 essential skills. The winning combination will be a mix of technical skills, working characteristics, and personal attributes. Defining the ideal candidate from the start reduces the chance of making subjective decisions. 

Another point to consider - which skills are required upfront and which can be taught over time? Don’t deter potential candidates by implying they’ll need to demonstrate more skills straight out of the gate than all the X-Men put together. 

Write a Fair and Inclusive Job Description 

This is important for two reasons. Firstly, by indicating a preference for a certain type of person, you’re restricting your pool of candidates. Secondly, the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields is a huge issue. According to Stack Overflow’s Global Survey, over 90% of global tech talent is male. We’re sure you’d rather be part of the solution than part of the problem. 

A 2018 report by HackerEarth found that 50% of surveyed women believe there is a gender bias in tech. A big part of this is ‘gendered wording’ in advertisements for tech roles. 34% of respondents agreed this was part of the problem. Many words used in job descriptions imply a preference for male candidates. Common examples in tech include ‘hacker’, ‘champion’, and ‘rockstar’. More subtly-coded words include ‘active’, ‘independent’, and assertive.’ These do little to dispel the stereotype of tech companies as either a hotbed for ‘bro culture’ or some kind of Darwinistic shark tank. 

If this is all news to you, we recommend you take a look at Applied’s job description analysis tool. Our tool not only detects examples of gendered language but also measures readability.

Move the Focus Away from ‘Qualifications’ 

Measuring talent by university qualifications can be problematic at the best of times. However, it’s a particular shot in the foot when recruiting tech talent. Most of today’s tech workforce is self-taught, whether by sheer trial and effort, or online courses such as those available on Coursera or Udemy. Stack Overflow reported in 2016 that 69% of developers are self-taught. With the growth of online learning resources in the tech community, this number is likely to have increased over the last four years. So don’t be fooled into thinking an impressive degree is the be-all and end-all.

Learn the Exact Language Used by Tech Talent 

A recruiter in tech doesn’t need to be Steve Jobs to do their job. However, they might end up with egg on their face if they think Python is a type of snake. Tech is specific and pedantic by nature. Therefore, be sure that recruiters and hiring managers are using the right terms.

That being said, try not to go overboard with the jargon. If a candidate has to Google every second or third word, they’re likely going to think the job is over their head. Furthermore, try not to focus too narrowly on a specific coding language or framework. This doesn’t take into consideration the ability to learn new skills. If you’re truly hiring the best of the best, they’ll have the right methodology and approach regardless. 

Make Sure That the Role Appears Fulfilling and Stimulating 

Most people go into tech because they love problem-solving, and tinkering with programs and gadgets. If you want to attract the top talent, convey both the opportunities and challenges that will motivate and inspire them. A great example of this is Uber, who has made fun ‘hacking’ challenges part of the application process. 

While your job descriptions should be focused on the specific role, you should also highlight exactly why your company is great to work for. This is what will help people make that final decision to throw their hat in the ring. 

Use Work Sample Questions and Skills-Based Tests 

Tech is all about certainty and reliability, and this should be reflected in your recruitment efforts. Predictive hiring assessments will help you understand what each candidate brings to the table. At Applied, we use work sample questions - giving candidates either a problem or scenario and see how they go about handling it. Before this, create the criteria you’ll use to mark their performance. For instance, how would you rate their ability to articulate key concepts? Do they not only solve the problem but think of a way to avoid the problem from recurring? 

Now you know how they handle certain situations, you can put their skills to the test. For software development roles, this will often entail presenting candidates with a piece of broken code. Each person will then be scored on their ability to fix the code, as well as readability, nomenclature, and scoping (hint: this is how we go about it!)

Evaluate Candidates Using Structured Interviews 

Ironically, interviews can sometimes hinder your ability to spot talent, since they allow unconscious bias to creep in. A person’s personality and demeanour can either wipe away initial concerns or cast doubt on their suitability. No matter how charming someone’s smile is, you must remain strong! We suggest using structured interviews. This ensures every single candidate is subject to a consistent evaluation process. In these interviews, bring in a diverse panel for a well-rounded insight. Also, make good use of scenario-based questions. This gives you a clear picture of exactly how each prospective hire would go about their daily responsibilities. 

Use Data to Validate Your Hiring Decisions 

Being able to quantify decisions helps us believe we’re making the right one. Therefore, look for ways to bring data into the process. Assign numerical values to how each candidate performs in tests or answers questions. This allows you to objectively see who the best person for the job is. If you’re only using metrics such as ‘time to hire’, you’re getting a base understanding of what constitutes ‘successful’ recruitment. 

The right data should inform you how you structure your recruitment process, and how successful it is in finding the right employees. If one particular metric doesn’t help you narrow down candidates, then it’s time to strip it out. Regardless, however, it’s useful to keep track of the data you collect from your hiring process – not only will it help you to refine your process, but it will give you visibility on any potential biases creeping in over time.  

At Applied, the nature of our work means we’re constantly developing unique insights into the recruitment industry. Want to really get into the nitty-gritty of how to build a successful tech team in 2020? Take a look at our free resource, ‘Solved: How to Scale a Tech Team.’ 

We’ve developed a recruitment platform that guarantees your organisation hires the right person first time around. By anonymising and randomising candidates and using skills-based tests, we drastically reduce the risk of unconscious bias affecting your hiring decisions. If you want to take the next step towards transforming your tech team, request a demo of our recruitment software today.