One of the foremost challenges in recruiting and hiring is the skill gap between the Human Resources personnel involved in making hiring decisions and the employees hired for technical positions.
Some roles, like customer service, sales, and manual labor, do not have a high skill ceiling; this is why they are so frequently identified as “unskilled labor,” though there are skills involved. Other roles, such as mid to upper-level Information Technology, developers, accounting, or skilled trades such as machinists or engineers, are more technical positions. Per Codility:
“Technical jobs are most often found within the industries such as IT, engineering, and manufacturing, but they’re not necessarily exclusive to these segments. Technical skill sets are required in a wide range of different organizations, especially in digital-first work environments. Examples of technical jobs might include systems engineers, software developers, machinists, or data scientists.”
How do you manage to hire for technical positions when you don’t know what to look for? You can’t expect your hiring managers to be experts in software development, building codes, and everything else all at once. Though technical recruiting focuses on digital and technological skillsets, it can be a valuable process to establish for any skilled position.
Enter Technical Hiring
Technical hiring is the art and science of hiring skilled employees for highly technical positions. It is a challenge because it requires HR managers and recruiters to accurately and appropriately screen, test, and interview technical candidates.
Technical hiring requires the services of a technical recruiter. A technical recruiter is a specialized recruiter:
- They are capable of developing a technical hiring strategy, from advertising technical positions to interviewing candidates.
- Technical recruiters contact and work with technical candidates in ways that engage them.
- They manage job advertisements and postings with an eye towards what matters. These focus on what the company needs from a technical hire and what the candidates care about.
- They assess and interview technical candidates in a way that matters, testing skills and asking relevant and up-to-date questions.
Effectively, the technical recruiter is a recruiter who “speaks the language” of the type of candidate the company seeks. They do not need to be jack-of-all-trades recruiters, but rather, they are specialists focusing on a given industry or skill set. They are recruiters in every other way and specialize in recruiting within specific sectors and for particular kinds of roles.
Technical recruiters come in three forms.
- A company such as Google may have specialized technical recruiters for specific areas, for example, someone who can appropriately recruit machine learning and artificial intelligence specialists. These recruiters are kept on staff because the need for new employees with those skills is ever-present.
- A technical recruiter may be an independent contractor with their own business and connections. A company can contract with the recruiter directly to fill specific open roles within the company.
- External Firms. Specialized recruiting firms may have broad connections and lists of candidates within their area of expertise and can be hired by a company looking to fill open positions quickly.
From the Holloway Guide to Technical Recruiting and Hiring:
“The relationship between recruiters and hiring managers is akin to a vendor-client relationship. Teams have hiring needs and make requests, and recruiters take the order and deliver the candidates. This works some of the time, but it takes a partnership between recruiters and hiring managers to be truly successful. The goal is for both parties to be aligned around a common goal, to agree on priorities and expectations, and to be comfortable working together and giving each other feedback. This allows a recruiter to truly understand a hiring manager’s needs, and a hiring manager to understand the complexity and commitment required to hire successfully.”
Each option has its pros and cons, depending on available budgets, consistency in hiring needs, and desired volume of hires.
How Technical Recruiters Succeed
While it might seem like technical recruiters are simply recruiters, they are often significantly more skilled themselves and highly specialized within their areas of expertise. This skill means they are typically more effective and much faster than generalized recruiters. They do this through a variety of techniques, along with experience and training.
Technical recruiters have reliable sources of information they check regularly. They specialize in a single industry, so they follow publications and news sources related to that industry. This specialization allows them to keep abreast of any changes in the industry as a whole, in their specific niche, in emerging technologies, and any other relevant updates they should be aware of when recruiting within that industry.
Technical recruiters have at least a moderate understanding of their chosen specialization. A technical recruiter who deals specifically with candidates and companies looking for roles in machine learning will learn enough about machine learning to determine what specifics a client needs and assess a candidate for their ability to fill that specific role.
Many, though not all, technical recruiters once worked in their chosen field and thus have first-hand knowledge of the subject. As BetterTeam says:
“Being familiar with technical jargon and really understanding the differences between terms is the most effective way to source tech talent, write enticing job descriptions, and properly interview tech candidates.”
Technical recruiters use tools, technologies, and assistants to relieve the burden of mundane tasks from their workflow. These tools can be anything from using Zapier to automate simple tasks to hiring a virtual personal assistant to handle everyday email conversations, meeting scheduling, and other organizational tasks. The best technical recruiters tend to be highly skilled and sought-after individuals, and they achieve this by focusing all of their time and energy on areas where they can excel.
Technical recruiters build networks that feed them connections. These networks come in two forms. The first is the candidate network. A technical recruiter might have agents or advertising on university campuses seeking out fresh candidates with modern skills. They might have specialized recruiting websites designed to attract the specific kind of candidate they need to match with their clients.
These networks feed them candidates who they can assess and refer to appropriate roles within the second network. As SocialTalent says:
“Recruitment is a competitive industry. Tech recruiting is like recruitment on steroids. Candidates are in high demand and short stock, so being a mediocre recruiter will get you nowhere fast. To hook the cream of the crop, you have to be prepared to go the extra mile. That extra effort means they have to stand out from the crowd. Looking for talent in places that you wouldn’t necessarily think of, reaching out to potential candidates through the channels that they’re most open to hearing from you on, and impressing them with your knowledge of the industry.”
The second network is the client network. This network is the group of individuals and connections that leads them to client companies.
A client company hires the recruiter to fill roles, and they leverage their candidate network to pull in candidates quickly and successfully. Meanwhile, their satisfied clients, along with advertising, testimonials, and other marketing techniques, allows them to find more clients and grow their services.
Both networks feed off one another, and the bigger they each grow, the more successful the recruiter can become at matching the perfect candidate to the ideal role.
Technical recruiters know what candidates in their industry want. While this might seem like the bare minimum for a recruiter, the truth is, many non-technical recruiters parrot similar job listings, write overly-generalized job posts, or otherwise fail to tailor their recruiting to the needs of the candidates involved.
The best technical recruiters understand what their candidates want the most. Is it continuing education? Job stability? A specific salary range? Regardless of what it is, explicitly identifying it and advertising it is crucial for technical recruiters.
How to Pick a Great Technical Recruiter
Hiring a great technical recruiter to work with, either on a contract basis or as an employee, might seem like it has the same issues as technical recruiting itself. After all, how can you assess a good technical recruiter without knowing the ins and outs of technical recruiting? The truth is, while technical recruiting is indeed a skilled field, it’s much easier for an existing HR manager to understand what they need and how to identify it. Here are some of the keys to picking a great technical recruiter.
Know what you need, in generalities. You know what role you have open, in what department, with what team. Talk to the team manager and department to pin down what you want from a candidate to fill that role. This conversation should primarily focus on skills that can be precisely assessed and, of course, are relevant to the position.
If your company as a whole focuses on one area, such as software development, finding a tech-focused technical recruiter is a simple choice. This information is relevant data to consider if you need specific experts on narrow aspects of technology, such as enterprise networking, machine learning development, or specific programming languages.
Create a “recruiter profile” to identify candidate recruiters. Much like creating candidate profiles when you want to hire a specific person in a particular role, you can create a recruiter profile for the recruiter you want to contract. Do they need to be familiar with certain aspects of your industry or have connections with specific educational resources or recruiting sites? Know what you want before you start looking for it.
Ask about their experience with similar clients or filling similar roles. A vital aspect of every hiring decision is asking about the recruiter’s background. This situation is valid whether you’re hiring a software developer or a technical recruiter. Particularly for individual recruiters or recruiting firms, it can be worthwhile to ask to talk to past satisfied clients or candidates who successfully obtained jobs through the recruiter.
You want proof that they can be effective at what they do.
Consider a contract recruiter. Sometimes, finding a recruiter is itself enough of a trial that you want someone else to recruit the recruiter.
Hiring a contract recruiter can provide your company with access to skilled technical recruiters in various roles and specialties without needing to go through the entire process for each of them.
Be willing to invest. Skilled technical recruiters are among the best individuals around when it comes to helping a company fill open roles. As such, they tend to know their worth and charge rates accordingly. While budget is always a concern when hiring, this is one decision where you cannot afford to scrimp.
You may also need to consider investing in skills assessment platforms and other tools to help both you and your chosen recruiter assess candidates appropriately.
Can You Afford Not to Hire a Technical Recruiter?
In the fast-paced world of technical, skilled jobs, talented employees are in high demand. Competition is fierce. Indeed, some of the most common advice for qualified employees is to spend no more than a couple of years with any one company before moving on to get paid what they are truly worth.
Moreover, technical recruiters with a proven track record are also relatively rare. So much so that the general impression of recruiters is that, for technical positions, they do not deliver. Many even believe that AI-enabled applicant tracking systems do a better job!
Finding an effective technical recruiter to find the best candidates to fill your open roles is among the best decisions you can make in hiring. The better you can fill positions with appropriate candidates, the less turnover and the more loyalty you will have. When the cost of a bad hire rises, both in money and in time, it’s not a decision you can afford to waste.
Power up your recruiting and HR by working with a skilled technical recruiter for each significant industry you need within your organization. It’s well worth the cost.
Do you have any questions for a technical recruiter? Please get in touch with me, or leave me a comment in the section below! I’d love to hear from you and get a conversation started.