A Managers Guide to Attracting and Hiring Top Talent

One of the most critical priorities for managers includes building and maintaining a solid team. Yet, for technology industry managers, the battle for top tech talent can be fierce. Therefore, it's essential to have a solid and effective hiring process that lands you the coveted individuals you require -team-oriented cultural fits with applicable technical competencies. Are you falling short on generating a strong candidate pool for your IT positions? Are you losing candidates during your interview or selection process? Are you losing candidates you want to hire to other companies?

Our guidelines will help ensure you're appealing to the talent you're hoping will say, "I do!" to your interview requests and offers.

If you answered yes, to any of these questions, you're not alone. There are numerous studies, including one by Officevibe, where they found that "The best candidates are off the market within ten days!" The good news is that we've identified guidelines based on our years of experience and leadership in technology services. Our guidelines will help ensure you're appealing to the talent you're hoping will say, "I do!" to your interview requests and offers.

  1. Assess Current Culture and Identify Target Culture

For the first step of your hiring process, it's helpful to examine both your current and target culture, especially if you're not satisfied with the team dynamics. Identify traits you'd like future employees or consultants to possess. Then develop interview questions or measures. Consider what to ask of the candidates' references to assess them for that target trait. Examples can include the following:

  • Questions for the candidate's references when seeking positive and optimistic traits:
    • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate their attitude and optimism?
    • Provide an instance of their positive influence on an individual or their team.
  • Candidate interview questions when seeking initiative traits:
    • Are there any responsibilities you took on outside your job description?
    • Have you ever lead a process, program, event, or initiative? If so, please expand.
    • Have you been on any steering committees? If so, what was your role, and how did you contribute?
  1. Create a Candidate Scorecard to Ensure Future Culture Fits

You want to assess candidates to ensure you're bringing on professionals that are technically strong and good cultural fits. Once you understand the candidate's characteristics, it's time to build a consistent scorecard to use with them. First, identify which skills and traits hold the most weight. Then, attribute point values to each. Have a score range in mind that the ideal candidate would achieve in an interview.

  1. Understand Motivators of Target Tech Candidates

The third piece of the formula is 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 or project? Always gauge the candidate's motivators during the interview, especially individuals of high interest.

Example questions you could ask:

  • Provide 2-3 enjoyable tasks from your last or current role.
  • Why did you leave your last position, or why are you leaving your current job?
  • What attracted you to apply to this role?
  • What are 4-5 aspects of a job, team, project, and company you evaluate when determining whether it is a great next career step for yourself?
  • What 4-5 evaluation criteria do you consider great career steps?
  • Provide 4-5 aspects that influence your next career steps.
  1. Clarify Hiring Needs and Determine Market Availability

You wouldn't give a developer instructions to start building an application without requirements gathering, analysis, and clarification. Similarly, you shouldn't write a job description and ask your representative or recruiter to identify the best talent without truly recognizing a few essential pieces. For example, what are the primary goals and priorities for this role or person? What skills does a person need to walk in the door vs. what could they learn, i.e., skill vs. will concept? What skills are the most critical skills required to accomplish goals and priorities? Ask yourself 'Are the skills I'm asking for realistic for one candidate to have?'

  1. Write a Customized and Quality Job Description for the Role

Did you consider that much of your target audience might not be applying for your role? Why? Simply put, the description reads like a list of requirements vs. an attractive opportunity that excites viable candidates. Speak to what you need for the position, but don't fall into the trap of NOT communicating details your candidates want to know and can get them excited to apply. What elements should you include? To improve and ensure your target talent applies, include at least five role responsibilities. Examples include team size, dynamics and culture, project details, technology tools, stacks, and methodologies, group or company details (high-level), and benefits that might appeal to candidates, such as training.

The other big issue we see with job descriptions is that many candidates are self-eliminating when they don't meet one or more of the outlined requirements. Even worse, many job conditions listed aren't even required or relevant. We've seen job descriptions mentioning travel when irrelevant. We've seen requirements for four or more years of experience with a technology or version that had only been out for two years. There have been instances when bachelor degree requirements are listed but not required and tool or technology requirements listed when only considered a preference. The list goes on.

  1. Determine Other Talent Attractors

For each opening you have, evaluate and improve your opportunity attraction strategy. What else could you do to enhance the job description's quality? What else could you do to give the candidate visibility to your culture? What about projects or initiatives they may have a chance to impact positively? Don't forget about the benefits, perks, and other incentives of working there. 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 position, i.e., 5-10% of responsibilities? Ask yourself, "Why would someone get excited about this role?" when looking at the job description. Suppose you can't identify at least three aspects. In that case, put on your marketing hat or consult your team members or a senior recruiter who specializes in placing that skill set to get ideas on motivators to add.

  1. Optimize the Interview Experience

The applicant's experience is a critical aspect to consider for your interview process. A bad interview experience can spread quickly and is further amplified when posted on social media or shared by word of mouth within communities where you source talent. So it's crucial always to deliver a positive interview experience to all candidates. Taking a consultative approach could be incredibly beneficial. Reach out to your resources and ask questions to evaluate and improve your interview process, whether it's your Apex contact, current employees, consultants, team leads, or recruiters.

  • Have you received constructive feedback in our team's interviews? What was the feedback?
  • Do you have any thoughts on how we can improve?
  • What else could we be doing to deliver a better interview experience?

A major point to emphasize, since we see it happen so frequently, is to build the candidate's interest during the interview. Share details such as:

  • What brought you to the company
  • Why you like working there
  • Why your team members enjoy the work and environment
  • All the perks of working there
  • The complete technical landscape or technical roadmap
  • Some of the projects on the horizon that they might get the opportunity to work on

Lastly, always allow candidates to ask questions and ensure you're addressing them thoroughly. If you're excited about them, give them a mini-tour, introduce them to a few individuals, and show them around. If you want more tips, check out this article on Avoiding and Overcoming 11 Interview Process Mistakes.

  1. Use a Quality Assurance (QA) Process to Minimize Bad Hires

There are ongoing studies that have shown the detrimental impact a bad hire can have on your bottom line and team. Recognize that you will interview candidates who are excellent at talking the talk but may not end up being the fit you hoped for. As such, a solid QA process to minimize the risk of making a bad hire is imperative to a robust hiring process! Which hiring QA processes do we recommend?

  • Speak with at least one previous manager who oversaw the person for at least a year, asking solid questions about your candidate's scorecard.
  • Request your HR or recruiting point of contact to conduct reference checks, giving guidance on crucial traits you want to evaluate.
  • Request an additional pre-screening measure, such as a short video interview with the candidate answering 2-3 questions or a technical pre-screening.
  • During the interview, ask the candidate to complete a short exercise related 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.

Whatever it is, have at least one QA measure in place.

  1. Sell Candidate on the Opportunity, Team, and Company

After the interviews are completed and QA measures are done, managers might need to negotiate or take extra steps with strong technical candidates who have competing offers. Consider the following potential extras you could do to turn an offer into an acceptance.

  • Share your interest and excitement in the candidate with them or the HR person or your account manager. Something as simple as, "I really enjoyed meeting Josh and am excited about them for the role because (fill in the blank). I think they'd add a lot of value, especially around (fill in the blank)."
  • Schedule a follow-up call to address questions and concerns, negotiate the package and offer, share more information on the role and perks.
  • Organize a call with HR to discuss benefits, PTO, etc., if the candidate has detailed questions in that area.
  • Setting up a call with a team lead, project manager, or a peer is a great idea, especially if they want additional details on the day-to-day, technical environment, processes, methodologies, etc.

Often, it's not merely extending an offer and getting an immediate acceptance, so additional communication and other measures might need to be taken, especially with certain technical skill sets or when the demand is higher than the supply. To help ensure you don't lose candidates, be transparent about your interest in candidates and have open communication lines about each candidate's next steps. 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!

Don't stop here, get ready for your next steps with these articles and guidelines.

Co-Authors:

  • Chris O'Hare, Executive Vice President of Operations at Apex
  • Cate Murray, Apex Director of PMO Solutions