4 Tips For Finding And Retaining Tech Talent

Hiring is a gamble. The cost of a bad hire is high — tens of thousands of dollars down the drain, from onboarding and training, not to mention re-recruiting, re-onboarding, etc. And the job market for tech talent is tighter than ever: if tech pros aren’t a needle in a haystack, they’re a very popular — and poachable — haystack.

According to the BLS, in the 10 years from 2014-2024, employment of computer and information technology occupations will grow 12% — far above the average for all occupations, swelling from 3.9 to 4.4 million jobs. Credit the cloud, big data, mobile and social, and the burgeoning Internet of Things. But the supply of candidates won’t keep pace. We’re already facing a narrow recruiting field. By 2018, it’s estimated that the U.S. will face a shortage of about 224,000 high tech workers. The pressure to find the right candidates is going to get worse.

Wondering how to recruit and hire the tech talent you need? Here are four tips for staying ahead of the curve:

  1. Call in an expert.Tech is different; it is all about very specific, tangible skills. Not all recruiters know how to assess them; some aren’t even sure what they are. A survey last year found that 67% of CIOs were well aware they were facing increasing challenges to find qualified IT talent. One solution: team up with a tech pro on recruiting — they have the skillset and knowledge base to accurately assess the tech skills of potential candidates, and help your company make smart hiring decisions.
  1. Go big and innovate. Welcome to your tech recruiting base: there are some 53.5 millennials in the workforce. Millennials tend to prefer innovative workplaces and benefits they can actually use. They like flexible schedules, work-from-home options, and an employer culture that respects the fact that its employees have lives (and families). Rather than scrambling to layer a perks package like a veneer of sugar coating around a fat salary that still can’t match the offers of Silicon Valley giants (for instance), consider more enticing, millennial-relevant benefits. Align your employer brand and recruiting platforms to better speak to the most innovative workplace values. 
  1. Make a problem your solution. No riddle here: transparency in the tech industry has peeled the layers off an unsettling lack of diversity in the workforce. Mention of that 2013 blog that revealed 90% of Pinterest’s engineers are male can still evince shudders. But a push towards diversity — as reflected in events like Grace Hopper — is an ideal way to widen the recruitment pool. Given the proven advantage diverse perspectives have in the workplace, and the fact that without a broader (and more secure) talent pipeline, the supply of tech talent is going to shrink even more. It’s a no-brainer to be recruiting with diversity in mind.
  1. Improve engagement.Here’s one thing we know: the workforce is shifting to a revolving door sensibility, even on payroll jobs. And while there may not be a proportionate increase of qualified tech candidates, the pressure’s on. The number of employers in IT planning to hire is above the national average, at 44 percent, and a recent study found that tech companies in the Fortune 500 have the highest turnover of any industry (including poaching). One way to keep your talent: keep the grass green.

True technical expertise is hard to find — and it’s just going to get worse, or better, depending on your ability to stay ahead of the competition. But one thing’s clear: whatever your workplace, whatever the size and scope of your organization, you’re going to need it. And hiring for tech needs requires a far bigger picture than simply filling the 14th floor. So don’t be short-sighted. That’s not going to keep your talent. They’re smart. So get creative, leverage your advantages, and go for it.

This post was first published on Forbes.


How Leaders Hire Top Tech Talent

The competition to hire top talent, especially top tech talent, has never been fiercer. And no wonder. There is no substitute for raw tech talent. It can take your organization to a whole new level of performance. Here’s a little not-so secret: one sizzling star employee is worth 50 so-so employees.

The question becomes: How do you find these stars and then successfully recruit them for your company? Especially the passive recruits — those people who are perfectly happy in their current positions and will only leave when an offer is really tantalizing.

What you don’t want to do is contact them cold with a form e-mail and a generic or uninspiring job description. What you do want to do is slowly engage them in a genuine dialogue that intrigues, engages and inspires them to want to make a bold career move and discover your employer brand and other offerings.

Fortunately, social media and other technologies have handed Leaders, HR and Recruiters breakthrough tools to facilitate this delicate recruiting dance. Social networks and the vast amounts of professional and personal “big data” available today make it possible to get to know a potential recruit before you make that crucial first contact.

The key here is to mine and leverage the networks and data looking for a recruit’s true interests and passions, and to see where they align or dovetail with your organization’s mission, vision and values. Culture fit is always an important consideration.

A simple search of Google, Facebook and LinkedIn (and more) can uncover valuable insights into a recruit’s history, accomplishments, motivators, personality and passions. Then there are technologies and companies that can perform this profiling and vetting process for you. The bottom line in any case is actionable information.

Once you feel you’ve got a clear, 3-D picture of the talent you want to woo, you can take the first steps. You want to personalize your initial contact, key it into something you know will pique their curiosity. Don’t mention a specific job in your opening. Talk about the kind of work they’re passionate about, and how you may be able to offer them fresh and rewarding career challenges that will help them grow and flourish. Remember to keep the focus on the skill set and personality characteristics of this person, not on you or your organization at first.

Don’t throw around a lot of buzzwords or try to dazzle talent by tossing in references to the latest technologies. The latest technologies are a given these days for tech talent. It’s the big picture, interesting and innovative challenges that will excite them. So be specific. Talk about what your organization has accomplished, and wants to accomplish in the future. Get them interested in outcomes. Focus on the work.

Do leverage any connections you may have to the candidate. If you’ve both worked with some of the same people, that creates an instant common ground. If the person has done something amazing or interesting, reference it. This could be a product development strategy, a blog post or completing a triathlon.

Don’t overload the first connection. The goal is initial personal engagement. Mention an opportunity, and then ask to schedule a ten-minute call or video connect to discuss it, sometime in the near future. If the talent agrees to this, go for it and keep your promise to follow-up. You can then line up someone they will be working with directly, preferably a leader or someone very hands-on with the technology, to be a part of the next step of the recruiting process.

In the follow-up, get them talking. Although social media and data mining has given you a full picture of the recruit, the more they talk, the closer you will be to closing to the deal. Listen. Respond specifically, never generally. Ask them about what they’re working on and look for passion points – those places where their voices grow excited, their adrenaline flows.

Remember that the potential recruit has probably (definitely) researched you and your company brand since your initial contact. So make sure your profiles and posts are up-to-date, savvy and intriguing. That said, never be immodest or pushy. When someone (recruiters often get a bad rap for this approach) pushes too hard, the natural human instinct is to pull back.

Finally, invite them in to see for themselves what your organization is doing. Don’t fall into the recruiting trap of putting on a unrealistic or flashy show that does not genuinely reflect your workplace culture when candidates phone screen, video interview or arrive for an in person round – that’s false advertising and usually comes back to haunt you in the form of an unhappy, disillusioned, unsatisfied employee.

As I’ve said many times – a one size workplace culture fits no one. Use these guidelines and tools, provided by social media and technology, to craft a customized approach that will exponentially increase your ability to connect with, hire and hopefully retain superstar talent.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

photo credit: Expression via photopin (license)