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Attract Top Tech Talent with this Hiring Formula

July 2017- by Chris O'Hare, Vice President - Operations, Principal at Apex Systems, Erica Woods, Manager of Contractor and Community Relations, Principal, and Cate Murray, Practice Director - PM/BA

As a manager, building and maintaining a strong team is one of your most important priorities. As a manager in the technology industry, the battle for top tech talent is fierce (http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/best-technology-jobs). Therefore, even more attention needs to be paid to having a strong, effective, and efficient hiring process that lands you those coveted individuals that have both the desired technical competencies and are team-oriented culture fits.

Do you feel like you’re not generating a strong candidate pool for your IT positions? Are you losing candidates during your interview/selection process? Do you feel like you’re losing out on the people you want to hire to other companies? If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of those questions, you’re not alone.

Here’s a formula we’ve identified based on years of experience and as a leader in the IT industry to help ensure you’re appealing to the talent you’re hoping says “I do” to your interview requests and offers!

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Assess Current Culture and Identify “Target Culture”

Having a strong culture of like-minded individuals is instrumental to long-term team success. As a first step to your hiring process, it’s helpful to flush out your current culture, or your target culture if you’re not satisfied with the current state of your team dynamics. Identify the traits you’d like each of your future employees/contractors to possess, and then develop an interview question or interview QA measure (i.e. what could you ask a reference?) that can assess that target culture trait in future candidates you interview! For example, if you want to hire positive people, ask a question such as “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate their attitude and optimism?” to a reference.

Create Candidate Scorecard to Ensure Future “Culture Fits”

Once you understand the candidate characteristics you want to assess to ensure you’re bringing on candidates who are both strong technical and cultural fits, it’s time to build a consistent scorecard to use with each candidate! Look online for sample templates, decide which skills and traits hold the most weight, and attribute point values to each. Have a score range in mind that the ideal candidate would achieve in an interview.

Understand Motivators of “Target Tech Candidates”

The third piece of the formula is all about understanding what your audience cares about! As a manager, what matters to the people on your team? What gets them excited? What can make or break their interest in a job/project? Often, you might be too far removed from a skill set to know what can be an “interest igniter,” or you might not know enough about the motivators of a specific level (entry/junior vs. senior) or other demographic (i.e. those millennials!). If you’re not sure, ask some of the individuals on your team what they like about their job and/or what motivates them. During each interview, especially with candidates you’re interested in, always get a gauge of their motivators as well.

Clarify Hiring Needs and Determine “Market Availability”

Much like you wouldn’t give a Programmer instructions to start building an application without requirements gathering, analysis and clarification, you shouldn’t write a job description and get your Rep/Recruiter started on identifying the best talent without truly identifying a few important pieces. These pieces include: What are the major goals and priorities for this role/person? What skills does a person really need to walk in the door with vs. what could they learn (skill vs. will concept)? What skills are the most important skills needed to accomplish goals/priorities? Are the skills I’m asking for realistic in one person?

Write a Customized and Quality Job Description for the Role

Once you understand some of the key motivators of your common target audience and have a quality picture of what you truly need, you’ll be able to write a better job description that attracts your audience! Ensure you’re speaking to not just the requirements of what you need for the position, but also communicating what the candidate wants to know. Include aspects of the role, team, company and benefits that might appeal to candidates, better ensuring your target talent applies.

Determine Any Other “Talent Attractors”

For each opening you have, evaluate and improve your ‘Opportunity Attraction Strategy!’ What else could you do to enhance the quality of the job description? What else could you do to give the candidate visibility to your culture, the projects/initiatives they’d have a chance to positively impact, the benefits and other perks of working there, etc.? If it’s a more mundane role, are there any elements that could make it more exciting, even if only a small portion of the role (i.e. 5-10% of responsibilities)?

Optimize the “Interview Experience”

A huge trend is becoming more “customer centric” in every team/vertical across an organization, where you improve the “customer experience” of every stakeholder group. Even if you don’t want to hire the person, the amplification of a candidate’s voice via Glassdoor, social media channels, etc. means you should still deliver a positive “interview experience.” Taking a consultative approach could be incredibly beneficial here. Ask your Apex contact, current employees/contractors, team leads, and recruiters questions like “Have you received constructive feedback on interviews our team does? What was the feedback and any thoughts on how we can improve? What else could we be doing to deliver a better experience?”

A major point to emphasize, since we see it happen so frequently, is to take measures to build the candidate’s interest during the interview! Share details on what brought you to the company, why you like working there, why your team members enjoy the work/environment, all the “perks” of working there, the complete technical landscape, some of the projects on the horizon they might get the opportunity to work on, etc. Ask them what questions they have and ensure you’re addressing them completely. If you’re really excited about them, give them a mini tour, introducing them to a few individuals and showing them the space.

Use a Quality Assurance Process to Minimize “Bad Hires”

There are endless studies that have shown the detrimental impact a bad hire can have on your bottom line and team. Recognizing that you will interview candidates who are amazing at “talking the talk,” a solid Quality Assurance process so you minimize the risk of making a bad hire is imperative to a strong hiring process! Speaking with at least one prior manager who oversaw the person for at least a year is a major recommendation here. During the interview itself, ask the candidate to complete a short exercise that relates to the job to evaluate competence first-hand. Some of our clients will ask candidates to complete a short homework assignment to evaluate follow through, listening skills, and initiative as well. Whatever it is, have at least one QA measure in place.

Sell Candidate on the Opportunity/Team/Company

After the interviews are completed and QA measures are done, managers might need to negotiate with strong technical candidates who have competing offers! Whether it’s scheduling a follow-up call to address questions and concerns, negotiating the package and offer, sharing more information on the role and perks, or scheduling a call with HR to discuss benefits, it’s often not as simple as extending an offer and then getting an immediate acceptance. Especially with certain technical skill sets, the demand is higher than the supply, so additional communication and other measures might need to be taken. Being clear with your contact on your interest in candidates and having open lines of communication about ‘Next Steps’ for each of those candidates will help ensure you don’t lose them! Even better, make sure you share your interest with the candidate on why you think they’d be such a valuable part of what your team is doing and how they’d directly contribute.

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