In one of the best blogs on growth out there, Benji Hyam recently stated that only marketers should hire marketers. Indeed, in an ideal world, there would be no generalist recruiters or HR staff, and to find your next UX designer, for example, you’d use the help of another UX designer.
Unfortunately, the real world is a lot more complex than that, especially in areas where many demanding positions need to be filled very quickly – as is the case in tech. The role of a technical recruiter is especially difficult, because they have to learn things such as different complex programming languages to tell apart good from bad candidates.
Here’s what technical recruiters are, how to spot a good one and how you can become better at recruiting for tech roles.
What is a technical recruiter?
A technical recruiter is an HR expert specializing in sourcing and hiring for roles most commonly in the field of IT. Some of these roles include software engineers, developers, system administrators, DevOps, data science specialists and even roles within the field of digital marketing.
Why are technical recruiters important?
Hiring technical staff has become increasingly difficult. According to Stack Overflow, the employment rate with developers is 87%. For some more concerning data, there’s 5 open jobs for a single software developer. Finally, the demand for developers will increase by 22% by 2022.
As is evident, there will be a huge demand for developers and technical roles and not enough people to fill these positions. This is where technical recruiters come in place, with knowledge and tactics specific to hiring professionals in the sphere of IT.
Do developers really hate technical recruiters?
In the past decade or so, developers around the world have gathered around a common issue – the apparent hatred for recruiters. In reality, people in technical roles have a dislike for some things that tech recruiters do, such as:
- Not having knowledge about the technology
- Not disclosing information about the position/company
- Sending out mass emails/InMails with little to no personalization
- Not researching the candidate/their skills/location, etc.
If you take a look around online, it won’t be too hard to find pages upon pages of people mocking tech recruiters for their failed attempt to attract applicants. Here’s what great technical recruiters do instead.
The traits of a good technical recruiter
While they have a few things in common with generalist recruiters, technical recruiters have a set of unique characteristics that separate them from the bulk of other HR staff.
They have great communication skills. While this is a valuable skill for any recruiter, it’s of utmost importance for technical recruiters. According to research, only 25% of developers spend any time looking for new work – with the rest being uninterested or passive candidates. Communication is the key difference between being seen as a knowledgeable HR expert and someone who just learned the difference between frontend and backend. Speaking of which…
They know their roles. One of the most off-putting things for developers is when the recruiter has no knowledge of the role they are hiring for. This means knowing the difference between different coding languages, listing the right tools and frameworks for the job and asking for the right amount of experience (you can’t demand 8 years of experience in a framework that’s existed for only 4), for example.
Not knowing your tech does double harm. First, recruiters appear clueless in front of candidates, who quickly become uninterested in the role. Second, recruiters run the risk of being duped: a candidate with no experience or relevant skills could pick up a few buzzwords and come off as a knowledgeable expert to an inexperienced tech recruiter.
They are tech-savvy. Besides staying on top of the latest technologies, there’s another trait that technical recruiters must have – being tech savvy. This entails a range of skills, from scraping the web for candidates’ email addresses, scraping profile data, using APIs to get candidates’ information – the more you’re comfortable with tech, the easier will it be to find and hire new candidates for technical roles.
They maintain a good relationship (and have quite a bit of patience). We’ve already mentioned that hiring for technical roles can be difficult, but it also takes quite a long time. The average time to hire someone new is 42 days, and it gets even longer for technical positions. That way, even if you found your ideal candidate on day 1, it’s going to take over a month for them to receive an offer. This means that plenty of candidates will be lost in the pipeline and won’t make it until the offer.
Try to foster a great relationship with all potential applicants because their job status may change somewhere along the line, and if they’ve had pleasant experience with you as their technical recruiter, they will remember you.
They reveal just enough information. Here’s the deal – people in IT roles are actually willing to consider different positions, if the recruiter gives them something to consider. In a lot of pitches by tech recruiters, they leave very little data about the position, the company, the hours, the location, the salary… Which is why it’s a huge loss of time for potential applicants. While it’s impossible to disclose all relevant information, try to reveal enough to inform candidates and spark their interest to apply.
They are active in the community. Going hand in hand with the previous point, as a technical recruiter you should strive to know the ins and outs of a technical community to stay on the lookout for new talent. If a company just closed its branch and a number of people just lost their jobs – you should be the first to know it.
They are confident to speak about technical topics. As a recruiter (even a technical one), it’s not your duty to know how to write code in the latest Python framework. After all, this is not your job. However, you should be frank about the amount of knowledge you possess and how you present it to potential candidates. If you’re trying to appear more knowledgeable than you really are – candidates will see through it.
They’re great at digital marketing. People in technical roles work, rest and live online. Therefore, it’s necessary to have a great knowledge of digital marketing – copywriting, SEO, social media management, PPC campaigns, etc.
They’re a superb researcher. As mentioned, candidates in technical roles get a lot of messages from recruiters who want to hire them. In order to stand out from the rest of the crowd, do some digging and find out more about the potential candidate. What do they excel at? What’s their biggest achievement? What kind of languages/tools/frameworks do they like? By doing research and sending out highly targeted messages, you’ll stand out from a sea of spam in their inboxes.
How to become better at technical recruiting
Let’s be honest – recruitment in tech is just too wide of a field for recruiters to learn every coding language and infrastructure under the sun. However, you can take some steps to ensure you become a better tech recruiter.
First, pick up some reading materials. We suggest Full Stack Recruiter: The Modern Recruiter’s Guide and Full Stack Recruiter: New Secrets Revealed by Jan Tegze to pick up on some great bits of wisdom on sourcing and recruitment in the tech world. Second, check out Technology Made Simple for the Technical Recruiter by Obi Ogbanufe, which is one of the first technical recruitment pieces out there. Although a great read, consider upgrading your information with something else after reading, since it was published in 2010.
Another great book worth your attention is called Smart and gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky’s Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent. Although published way back in 2007, its lesson still holds true today. Joel Spolsky uses his own experience from working at Microsoft and his own software company to quickly find the best technical talent out there.
Besides reading, there’s another key thing you can do to become a better technical recruiter – research. There are far too many disappointed tech specialists who lost faith in the HR world because of a recruiter who doesn’t know their CSS from HTML.
By staying up to date with the latest technologies, developments and terminology, tech recruiters ensure better communication with candidates, shorter time to hire and time to fill and happier employers.
With the number of tech jobs increasing by the year and the number of qualified candidates dwindling, the battle for top technical talent in the future will be fierce. Only those technical recruiters who are willing to go the extra mile to attract top talent will have a place in the hiring economy of the future. Are you ready to come on board?