Tech recruiters (sometimes deservedly) get a bad rap. Based on a study by Future Workplace, 60% of job seekers have reported a bad candidate experience. Not only could a poor tech recruiter cause you to miss out on a great hire, but a candidate with a subpar experience is more likely to leave negative online reviews, discontinue use of company products or pass up applying to your future, more relevant openings.
Think about it: Aside from researching mission and culture on your company website (and hitting the apply button), the first real interaction your future inventors, creatives and builders have with your brand is when they engage with a recruiter.
So, can your tech recruiters answer candidate questions? Are they equipped to shape a positive candidate experience and make smarter hires? And are they even talking to the right candidates?
A list of must-have skills is a starting point when building a talented tech team, but it’ll take a little more insight to remove the guesswork between unqualified and qualified, mismatches and potentially perfect hires. It’s not all on the recruiter: you need to make sure you’re on the same page and arming them with everything they need.
According to Indeed Prime (which has a number of previous tech recruiters on its team along with tech hiring managers), locking in on better-informed hiring decisions and positive experiences all around means ensuring your tech recruiters really understand engineering and product: must-have versus nice-to-have skills, alternate skills, team structure, and philosophy and culture.
1. Tech skills: must-have vs. nice-to-have
Define the must-have skills for each role (read: what’s absolutely needed to get the job done). Similarly, consider the skills that fall outside of the must-have zone but would be beneficial to have — your preferred skills.
For better boolean searches and phone screens, tech recruiters that know the difference between these two skill categories will move forward with the types of candidates you’re looking for without turning away otherwise great fits based on must-haves alone.
Ideally, before posting an open role, go through the job description and each bullet point with your recruiter, including required, non-core and/or basic skills.
1a. Non-core skills
Differentiate what skills are necessary for a role’s basic functions and what can be learned over time — what you thought was a required skill may actually be a bonus.
For example, you might want your technical marketing manager to know Python considering they would be working alongside a technical audience. But because they most likely won’t be writing complex code, basic Python can be learned post-onboarding and shouldn’t be listed as a core skill.
1b. Basic skills
Additionally, tech recruiters that are honing in on common, basic skills (read: HTML and CSS) should understand that a candidate may not list them on their resume depending on the role or experience level. With this in mind, your recruiters will know when to skip searching for basic skills as it might hurt their chances of surfacing top candidates.
2. Adjusting for a tight market
Competition for tech talent is high. For one, it’s nearly impossible to tick off every box on a candidate’s checklist, no matter if they’re looking at perk-friendly startups or enterprises offering hefty compensation packages. You also might be facing a talent shortage outside of tech hubs or find yourself in a market that emphasizes a different set of skills.
For example, Charlotte, North Carolina’s tech scene is growing and home to well-known companies, including Wells Fargo and Spectrum. However, in-demand tech roles and skills in Charlotte differ from those in the US as a whole. Indeed data shows that software architects are in highest demand in Charlotte, and on the skills side, Charlotte employers compete for those skilled in SOAP and .NET — a role and skills that didn’t make the top five for the US.
To account for market deviations and fluctuations (and rather than setting a must-have skill in stone), connect with your recruiter before and after the role is listed to see if you either need to look outside your market or consider related languages to draw strong talent in. Developing game engines in Rust in a small market? If talent skilled in Rust is few and far between, consider hiring an otherwise qualified candidate that knows C++.
3. Put the role in the context of the team
Engineering and product teams operate under their own set of processes and methodologies typically unfamiliar to outsiders. Likewise, engineering team structure may not be a direct representation of the larger organization — even if your company houses hundreds or thousands of employees, engineering teams may be kept small regardless of overall size.
Take Whole Foods Market: The company and its engineering department continues to grow, yet engineering teams stay small (fewer than 10) to maintain a culture that gives engineering a voice to contribute in meaningful ways. Teams also own end-to-end delivery, including production support.
Now think about how your team collaborates to do its best work. In an open office space with direct access to leadership? Broken down into pods of just a few members? Loving Agile or Waterfall?
By cluing your tech recruiters in, they’ll be able to ask more intentional questions and give candidates greater insight about how engineering and product functions. The result? Honing in on which candidates will (or won’t) thrive in your space — skill set aside — and whether it’s the right fit for them (i.e., saving the company time and money down the road).
4. Accounting for philosophy and culture
While still embracing overarching company values, engineering and product often follow their own philosophies. In what ways does your tech team culture mirror or differ from company culture? How do you plan on maintaining that culture as you scale?
For instance, Whole Foods’ engineering and product teams celebrate failure, as it gives them the chance to learn from those mistakes and unleash their full potential.
In the case of Atlassian, teams remain small (in light of continued growth) to keep the culture intact, with a heavy emphasis on autonomy. Shane Wade, Senior Development Manager says:
“We try to give [our engineers] space and allow them to be creative and own their own destiny. And that really, I’ve seen, is what drives our engineers.”
Values and culture are powerful influencers for nearly every decision. From ideation to production, the ways your team finds success should be clear to candidates from the get-go. Arming your tech recruiters with this insight helps them filter out those candidates with a less flexible, at-odds approach or mindset. It also guides candidates as to whether this is the right fit for them, helping them decide to either move forward or look elsewhere for the next step in their career.
Saturated market or skills shortage aside, attracting and retaining the best tech talent is tough. So rather than zeroing in on an elusive picture-perfect candidate, tune into market and talent needs to back your tech recruiters with more than a rigid must-have skills list. In return, you’ll build a more tech-savvy recruiting team ready to answer questions instead of deferring to a later interview — and you’re left with fresh new hires eager to learn and contribute full force.