Kerry Marker
Kerry Marker

Standard technology recruiting practices no longer work. Here’s why… and what to do about it.

When technology hiring managers have a strategic vacancy in their organization that they need to fill, they typically kick-start their hiring process by creating a job listing that is submitted it to the human resources organization. From there, human resources will post the role externally, scan resumes and profiles for top skill keywords, briefly interview candidates with a list of canned questions, and then submit a stack of profiles for the hiring manager to review. Although this seems like a practical process, there is a problem: the vast majority of IT hiring managers that I speak with on a daily basis are not satisfied with the quality of candidates they are receiving. These standard practices lead to a flood of vastly underqualified applicants and a lengthy recruiting cycle, which in turn can lead to an underwhelming hire due to the urgency of the need. So what is wrong with IT recruiting, and how can companies improve the overall success of the hiring process?

What is wrong with IT recruiting?

While there are several key problem areas in IT recruiting, it’s not any one portion of the process that is solely to blame. Recruiters, staffing agencies, and employers can all make strides towards improving the process. Three suggestions for improvement are:

  • Create more realistic candidate expectations
  • Move the interview process towards real-life problem-solving
  • Enable internal teams to more effectively screen for technical aptitude

Overly ambitious job listings – In a cutting-edge, ever-evolving technology landscape, it seems that more often than not, companies are looking for a “unicorn” candidate – someone that understands outdated technologies but also recognizes trends and the future of the industry, who has the ability to lead a team and set strategy but who will also get their hands dirty, who is young and aggressive but who also has decades of experience. Creating a “kitchen sink” job posting may seem like a good idea, but it is not for a multitude of reasons. First, it can deter quality candidates who do not feel that they meet every single requirement on the list. According to a study completed by HP, the women working there only applied for promotions when they met 100% of the qualifications listed in the job posting, as opposed to men, who would apply if they met 60%.1 Workplace diversity, specifically in technology, is important across all organizations so there needs to be flexibility in job postings to provide greater inclusion of applicants. Separately, having overly ambitious job postings also encourages subpar candidates to exaggerate their skills, which can lead to lengthy periods of time allocated to the vetting of nonqualified talent.

By creating a more realistic and flexible job description, focused on the skills and responsibilities that are critical to deliver in the role, companies will be able to identify a diverse pool of qualified candidates more quickly, ensuring a quicker time to value for their team.

Ineffective recruiting processes – Evaluating resumes by skill keywords might be a good first indicator of the strength of the candidate, but it does not really tell you what a candidate can do. By giving applicants a real world problem, companies can get a better idea of true technical aptitude, how someone reacts to real business challenges, and how they communicate solutions. This can provide much greater insight into how someone will perform on the job – and it is certainly a much better indicator than a few bullet points written on a resume.

Nontechnical recruiters – Effectively screening candidates for a technical role or project requires specialized knowledge that most HR employees simply do not have. Anyone can ask questions about years of experience and tools used to check off boxes but it takes someone with technical aptitude to truly grasp the breadth of knowledge and the scope of a candidate’s experience. When candidates are not properly screened from the start, it places the burden for vetting for technical skill on the hiring manager and leads to lengthy cycles.

The problem with staffing agencies

Staffing agencies claim to take the headaches out of IT recruiting by providing companies with a pool of prescreened, quality applicants. While they do have the bandwidth to recruit and most likely have a database of people they can tap into, many do not have the technical experience to vet candidates, especially for strategic roles. Most staffing agencies employ recent college graduates, not technical leaders, so their ability to screen candidates for “quality” is minimal. This often exacerbates IT hiring problems rather than helping them and further complicates the hiring process.

In order to overcome all of the issues mentioned above, companies must partner with staffing agencies that specialize in technology recruiting. Outsourcing recruiting to an organization that truly understands technology requirements, challenges, and trends ensures mitigated risk and quicker time to value in the recruiting process. Above all else, it ensures quality candidates who can help an organization drive business outcomes.

Kerry Marker
Vice President, Talent

Kerry is responsible for talent acquisition and management at Wavestone US, where she blends her skills in recruiting, marketing, selling, and operational leadership to fulfill client demands. Prior to Wavestone, she served in marketing-management positions at leading technology companies such as Apptio, Qlik, Siemens Enterprise Communications (now Unify), and SAP.

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