Talent Acquisition

How to Recruit Tech Talent (When You’re a Luddite)

As in-house recruiters, we often have to recruit for a very wide variety of roles. These can range from entry level positions right up to board level management, and this is no different to the situation at Epsilon – we are a leading marketing technology services business, and not surprisingly a lot of our positions will be marketing technology specialists. It is hence easier to specialise with these positions, but then what happens when you receive a position not specific to your “core” specialty?

Software development roles are amongst some of the non-core roles that we recruit for. These candidates do not necessarily need to come from a competitor, but do require very specific technical skills.

I have decided to focus this article around software developers, as from past experience I have found these to be amongst the most difficult positions to fill. Below are some of the issues that can make recruiting technical specialists so difficult:

  1. Saturated market place: there is a massive number of software development vacancies available.
  2. IT agencies: there are a huge number of IT agencies in the UK, in line with the huge demand for IT professionals. This means there is more competition for candidates and it is harder to retain staff. These agencies are also able to specialise with technical roles, as internal recruiters will often have to cover multiple disciplines.
  3. Understanding: It can be difficult to really understand the kinds of developers that are required. It is far more than finding a buzzword!

A great way to start the recruitment process is to spend some time discussing the role with the hiring manager and have them explain the role in more detail (in a way that anyone can understand, a challenge in itself sometimes!) I have been in a very lucky situation where I have a good relationship with our Senior Architect, and he met with me and explained the different kinds of technologies and types of developers, for example: front end, back and the different frameworks, programming languages and database languages. You will often find that that architects and developers are more than happy to explain the different kinds of software development and this can be the best way to gain a better understanding.

Once I had spent time accessing the vacancy with the line manager, it was time to start sourcing some candidates. The main channels we use for direct sourcing are:

  • LinkedIn
  • CV Databases (Monster, Reed)
  • Existing network
  • Social Media (Predominantly to increase awareness of the position)

A job specification will often give keywords, for example “.NET.” Just typing .NET however into a CV database, isn’t going to help! Hence the first stage with the hiring manager is important, to highlight a set of key technical skills.

We will also use some of the other methods below, to draw candidates to the role:

  • Job postings: Stack Overflow, cwjobs, ITJobBoard, LinkedIn, Company site
  • Slideshare: Software Development PowerPoint for Slideshare (gives more detail on the position)
  • Referral scheme: Especially important to make any other technical staff aware of any referral scheme that may be in place.

It is just as important to screen the candidates correctly, as it is to find them. The Solution Architect came up with a great way of measuring a candidate’s competency with key technical skills. Even with a good understanding of the role, it is hard to know whether the candidate is as good as their CV states.

He told me to list the key skills for the role, and ask the candidates to rate themselves between one and ten for each of the technical skills. Again, candidates can obviously rate themselves however they like, but it is an interesting question to ask. Often, if a candidate stumbles on the one of the skills, you know that they are not comfortable with that particular skill. It also gives the hiring manager a better indication to the candidate’s confidence.

After the candidate has been screened by me, I always ask the hiring manager to conduct a short 10-15 minute telephone interview with the candidate, again, asking them to rate their technical skills. If a candidate passes both stages, they can move to a face to face interview. At this stage, it is vital to run a formal technical test, either written or online. We run a written test and find this reveals the candidate’s true technical ability. We also conduct an HR interview to access the personal fit; obviously this is vital with all potential employees.

Hopefully by following this process, the line managers will receive a higher number of relevant CVs, and the sourcing can be more focuses and time efficient. These roles can still be notoriously difficult to fill, but with the full support of the hiring manager and a structured recruitment process, these roles are possible to fill directly. Even if you are not a technical specialist!

By Jacob Kimber

Jacob Kimber is a Talent Acquisition Manager at Epsilon, a leading marketing services provider. Loves to learn about innovative resourcing strategies and employer branding.