So, you are a busy (perhaps even overwhelmed) corporate recruiter and can’t seem to find enough time in the day to source and vet candidates. But decent IT staffing agencies worth their salt should have the time and the tools to come up with quality candidates, right? Well, in theory anyway. More often than not, however, IT staffing agencies wind up wasting your time by merely throwing resumes over the wall in the hope that something will stick. Unfortunately for you, their eyes are more set on that elusive placement fee than on the quality of the candidates that they are supposed to be diligently screening.

So what’s a corporate recruiter to do? How can you make sure that IT staffing agencies are actually going to help rather than hinder you? What can you do to ensure that a firm will not merely throw a pile of mediocre applicants your way that will continue to struggle through the interview process?
Collaborate instead of Dictate

Let’s first talk about what not to do. Don’t just send IT staffing agencies your job descriptions and then expect a neat pile of freshly printed resumes of primped and pre-screened talented developers to be delivered to your desk, ready for your perusal on Monday morning. Instead, take an active part in managing the relationship.

For starters, schedule a conference call with the IT staffing agencies that you would like to use. Include your internal hiring manager on the call, and let him/her go into gruesome detail about every aspect of the job requirements.
Develop Technical Pre-Screen Questions

Next, meet one-on-one with your internal hiring manager to develop a set of technical pre-screening questions for candidates. Provide these questions to the IT staffing agencies that you will be using, but be warned: not all IT staffing agencies are going to handle these pre-screening questions with the utmost care and confidentiality, so I strongly advise that you only use this practice with those IT staffing agencies that you feel have impeccable integrity and that you trust implicitly.

As an alternative to these custom-made technical pre-screen questions, suggest to your IT staffing agencies that they avail themselves of professional technical testing and interview services such as Codility and IntervewStreet. For a modest monthly fee, these two companies will give in-depth technical pre-screens to developers, all proctored by seasoned IT pros.

Okay, so now you have at least some level of comfort in the knowledge that your IT staffing agencies understand the details and nuances of the positions and that they will be making at least some attempt at technical screening of their candidates. Now what?
Filter Out Candidates

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Instruct your IT staffing agencies to filter out candidates rather than filter in candidates. What do I mean by filtering out candidates? Well, consider a typical software developer’s resume. How many technical terms appear on it? 50? 100? 500? And how many have they used extensively and know well? I would venture to say ten percent of that, meaning 5 or 10.

Admonish your IT staffing agencies to be careful not to present candidates with resumes overloaded with technical terms that are merely window dressing. Advise them to go through the candidate’s resume line by line and assess what the candidate’s exact experience is with each technical term on the resume.

Give them instructions to ask probing questions. If, for example, the skill is Java, then make sure that they know to questions such as:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your overall skill with Java?
  • On which projects did you use Java?
  • How long was the duration that you used Java for on each project?
  • What were your exact responsibilities with Java?
  • How many Java projects have you been on full lifecycle from inception through implementation? What was your role on those projects?
  • Were you responsible for architecture or design, or just coding?
  • What unique programming challenges have you solved with Java?
  • What innovative, creative out-of-the box things have you done using Java?
  • o Have you ever served as a Java Project Lead?
  • Have you ever mentored other Java developers?
  • How many others besides yourself were involved with Java on each project?

Then, have the candidate pare down their resume to only the skills for which they are proficient and have meaningful experience. Only then should they send you the resume, along with their notes.
Final Words

Get the best recruiting results by collaborating with IT staffing agencies, Work with them to develop effective technical pre-screening questions, and to filter out candidates that don’t have the technical skills and experience needed for you position. From these technically qualified candidates you can then look for passion for your goals and mission, a commitment to your company and industry, and the intellectual curiosity and problem-solving skills critical to your company’s profits and growth.

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