Common Recruitment Challenges in the IT Industry

My position in my LinkedIn profile is a CEO of a team of 25 for several years now (nowadays 45), and yet I still do receive about a dozen emails every week through LinkedIn inviting me to apply as a junior developer somewhere or take on a senior position for an industry that I hadn’t even heard of.

Additionally, even though I’ve had the opportunity to build technical solutions in numerous platforms and stacks over the years, I regularly receive invitations for a senior engineer gig in one of the few stacks I’ve never worked in, don’t have listed anywhere on LinkedIn – no recommendations, endorsements or any mentions whatsoever of the given technology.

The Recruitment Process Is Broken

The vast majority of the recruiters are lazy, use automated tools, post fake jobs and so forth. It’s insulting, time-wasting and often they repetitively call and email without having any idea what they’re selling.

Diamonds HR listed some of the main challenges with bad hires:

Primary Causes of Hiring Mistakes
A screengrab from http://bestsalestalent.com

Over the last 5 (or more) years the HR community worldwide has been growing constantly, which only leads to more unsolicited emails and calls, often repetitive by several people in the same agency pitching for the same job – which is a major mistake given the flawed hiring process that is notable in almost any large organization nowadays.

The Backstory Of LinkedIn For Recruiters

Someone once said that LinkedIn nowadays is merely a recruitment platform, the vast majority of its users being HR reps and their various synonyms – “Talent Expert”, “Opportunity Presenter” or anything related to finding someone desperate enough to take on a gig.

Or you may have heard the joke, being that “LinkedIn is a Tinder for HRs”.

In reality, agencies often brag about their opportunities and hide essential information from contractors. This results in a poorly filtered candidates’ list and a price that’s not competitive or acceptable by both parties.

Recruitment Challenges in the IT Industry

Commendable HR Activities

There have been only three instances of HR activities that I have admired over the past 3 years:

1. The Non-Intrusive Recruiter

A recruiter once emailed me that I’ve been constantly popping up in his feeds, and he’s incredibly excited to meet me in person – listing my accomplishments, community activities etc.

He asked me for a short meeting next to my office over a coffee, where he asked me a bunch of questions related to my community, folks in my field, what we’re looking for in a job, what are our priorities (cash, time, working locally).

He was not selling anything, but merely getting acquainted with our needs and assessing what sort of opportunities may be desirable for me and my network of contacts.

2. Business Partnership Opportunities

One local HR agency asked me to prepare a curriculum for a short technical training (a series of seminars) on technologies, stacks, frameworks and the like.

At the end we couldn’t arrange all of the details and conduct the training, but during our initial meetings they were eager to coach all of their reps on certain tech topics:

  • The differences between server, desktop, web, mobile, embedded technologies
  • Which language is suitable for what
  • What’s the difference between the main programming languages in different niches
  • Which frameworks are comparable
  • How to filter requirements from employers before passing on to candidates

Even though we didn’t get a chance to train the folks, I think that this is paramount for any recruiting agency hiring niche employees – be it in IT, legal services, finances and so on.

3. Community Participation

I’ve met several HR reps at some conferences and community events.

One of the main reasons software engineers may be rude to recruiters is simply because developers often don’t receive outstanding offers while getting tons of emails and calls every single month.

Being able to exploit different contact mediums (including face to face) and get educated about an industry by meeting people in person, listening to conference talks and discussing similar problems with other agencies in need is a great step toward becoming a professional recruiter who closes more deals and annoys fewer people.

What Recruiters Need to Value

Many experts who are well compensated and have been working in the industry for 10, 15 or 20 years, value their time more than their money. They have reached to a level where they are able to work in a great organization due to their background and earn a good living, and therefore interruptions and distractions on a day-to-day are adding up and building tension accordingly.

Given the value of their time, I would compare it to an enterprise sales transaction – it requires a lot of communication, background research, meetings, organizing events, building referrals and much more before the deal is closed, while most recruiters hope to land an engineer simply by sending a template email to hundreds of LinkedIn profiles, which is defeating the purpose.

It’s indeed incredibly challenging to find good computer programmers and there are other several legitimate reasons for that.

Why Hiring Computer Programmers Is Challenging

Recruitment Challenges in the IT Industry

Variety of Skills

There is a wide set of skills that good programmers possess.

It takes a lot of time for mastering those skills, implementing the right design patterns as applicable, writing compliant and backward-compatible code, taking care of performance and security, ensuring stability and code quality.

Market Demand

There’s the retention problem as well.

Good programmers are in demand. Large organizations or funded startups would be willing to pay a premium price and offer a variety of extra benefits for talented staff.

The European Commission has reported a realistic shortage of up to 900,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020 – Digital skills, jobs and the need to get more Europeans online – European Commission – European Commission.

Business Opportunities

Good developers are not always open to employment opportunities, either.

Excluding the ones who work at reputable companies already, there are plenty of great engineers who freelance, consult, run their own companies or build their own products.

That causes additional friction for companies looking for the right profile during the recruitment process.

Exciting Work Assignments

Good developers want to be entertained at work. This requires a constant adjustment of the workflow and the types of problems a developer is assigned to.

Good developers get bored often if they are stuck with repetitive work that doesn’t involve a lot of R&D or solving complex problems.

Additional Requirements

When paying a high salary for a qualified developer, companies are looking for productivity, clean code (including automated tests or lack of internal back-and-forth), understanding business problems, coordinating with other developers, communicating promptly and reporting to management.

Developers are no different from other company roles within a team. Therefore, it’s expected that they could attend business meetings and provide insights, uncover potential risks in a project, and come up with efficient alternatives and options.

All things considered, that turns the recruitment process for developers extremely challenging.

Advice To Young Developers

It takes over a decade of building back-end systems, configuring server environments, altering front-end layers for different browsers and operating systems, applying design patterns, and dabbling with the latest trends in software engineering (big data, machine learning, embedded development, whatever comes in).

You’ll be wrong more often than not. But that’s fine — you can monitor commits and reverse-engineers the reason for taking a certain approach instead of what you read.

Over time, you’ll get more confident and nail more of the problems right away. If your organization is comfortable with assigning you small fixes and change requests, take on the opportunity and keep learning.

Otherwise, you may consider another job. Before you quit, make sure you’ve built a portfolio of at least a couple of practical applications that showcase your skills.

The market for junior developers is stagnated. It’s not easy to land a job without the right tech skills in place. If you can comfortably build a moderately complex project, give it a shot. Otherwise, get back to the drawing board, keep learning, keep practicing, and you’ll get there.

But full-stack? This will take a decade. At least.

It’s a poor action plan to start with.

Full-stack developers are programmers who mastered a skill and gradually moved to other areas in software engineering. By “moved” I mean a long transition phase of handling small bits and pieces first, owning small components, taking on larger ones over time.

Pick one area of expertise in software development. Study it.

Apply your knowledge at work — as best as you can.

Talk to your colleagues. Let them know what you’ve found and what your assumptions are.

Slowly get to the point where you can effectively debug and stipulate on best practices.

Showcase Your Best Profile

I see thousands of profiles with just a couple of sentences in their bio, the last 2 jobs with little or no description, and probably a few listed skills.

When you compete with another 500,000,000 users on the platform, you need to maximize your profile’s potential — and this is a very easy step to start with.

Grammar

Grammar mistakes (or all sorts of spelling, typos, incorrect capitalization) are not uncommon. It’s especially tough for non-native speakers (like myself) who can’t even notice after re-reading their copy.

Additional Accolades

Recommendations, publications, portfolio, presentations, other case studies, volunteering — all of that matters.

Makes a real difference when reviewed by the right people.

Storytelling

There are different strategies in shaping your bio (and your job description). Some are emotional, others — statistical. Some speak from a first-person.

Writing an engaging story or outlining your accomplishments in a clear, concise manner, can keep attention in the right place long enough.

Focus

Tailoring your profile to your audience and focusing on the right areas of expertise is what gets the job done.

That’s why hiring experts often suggest excluding areas of expertise in your CV unrelated to the job at hand. And the reason why people often keep 2–3 variations of a CV for different job opportunities.

Beginners often try to list each and every one of their accomplishments over time. This is understandable (due to limited experience) but appears as chaotic and raises flags.

SEO

LinkedIn’s search is SEO-optimized in its own way. One example is recruiters looking for specific terms and keywords (programming languages, tools, communities, universities), as well as people who are actively looking for a job:

  •         “Looking for a job”
  •         “Open to offers”
  •         “Currently unemployed”
  •         “Looking for a position”

Showing up on top of search results in your area could increase your odds.

Visuals

Mostly your profile photo and the cover image (the latter is less important).

There are different studies on which profiles photos convert best — certain aspect ratios, enough light, taking a solo photo (not a group family portrait or a beach photo), etc. It helps to use the same photo across your other social accounts for better recognition.

Results-Oriented Experience

Job description (and your bio) should showcase accomplishments.

Demonstrating specific results on the job or at school is much more actionable than “being present at the office or in class”. Anything that contains hard data is really helpful.

While this doesn’t cover the full list of opportunities when updating your profile, it’s a good starting point for everyone.

There is a growing percentage of technical project and product managers. Not necessarily a bright idea whenever the strongest technical hires are promoted to management and you miss out on tech brilliance while trying to project managerial skills.

In a nutshell, recruiting for IT companies isn’t trivial. But there are specific 101 basics that headhunters have to comply with to avoid ruining the brand’s reputation of their clients.

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