24
 min read

Tech Recruitment: the ultimate guide

High competition for tech talent makes tech recruiting a challenging job. This is how you can succeed in tech recruiting.

September 29, 2020
Yuma Heymans
September 14, 2022
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Tech recruitment has always been one of the most challenging types of recruitment. 

Tech candidates are hard to find and tough to convince because there are so many job opportunities being offered to them.

There are always more companies looking for tech candidates than there are candidates offering themselves to companies.

In other words, demand is a lot higher than supply of tech talent.

This makes tech recruiting challenging, but not impossible.

The biggest opportunity for you as a (aspiring) tech recruiter is to do things a little bit differently than most recruiters.

When you expand your view and skills beyond sending InMails on LinkedIn, you already have a big advantage over recruiting competition in the market.

In this guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about tech recruiting and you’ll get the right material to put your new skills into practice.

In this guide we cover:

  1. A tech recruitment introduction
  2. Why tech recruitment is different
  3. Practical guide to tech recruitment
  4. Tech recruiting per role
  5. The tech recruiter’s profile
  6. The future of tech recruitment

A tech recruitment introduction

Tech recruitment is the recruitment of, typically hard to find, technical candidates

A technical candidate can be for example: 

  • Software developer
  • UX designer
  • Technical product manager
  • DevOps engineer
  • Architect 
  • or IT specialist

Because these roles are very much sought after, there are more companies looking for these candidates than there are available candidates.

Therefore tech recruiting has a competitive nature; many recruiters are chasing the same candidates.

The issue is that those recruiters all use very similar approaches. The biggest majority of them post generic job advertisements or go to LinkedIn to send InMails to candidates.

These methods have become less effective because too many recruiters are using them.

For tech recruiters to be effective in this competitive market, they need to adopt a more proactive and personalized approach to recruiting and be able to target the right potential candidates very specifically.

Why tech recruitment is different

What makes the one type of recruitment different from the other is defined by the candidates that are sourced for. Every candidate segment has its own characteristics and dynamics in terms of interests, skills, tenure and job opportunities (demand). 

Since tech recruitment is focussed on technical candidates, the tech recruitment job is heavily influenced by the evolution of the tech industry, how technology changes and how talent is reacting to that by quickly adapting skills and needs.

Tech talent: demand and supply issue

When you’re in tech recruiting there’s an important fact about the market you have to be aware of. There is a consistent and growing shortage of tech talent compared to the demand for tech talent.

Demand for tech talent is ever increasing. The amount of tech candidates available however, is not keeping up.

Technology hires and openings 2022

Because of this shortage you need to differentiate your approach from the rest. Otherwise you risk piling up in the candidate’s InMail box with generic messages that the candidate is not slightly impressed by because they get a dozen of those outreach messages daily.

Vacancies per industry. Source: Tech Nation, Adzuna, 2022

Many vacancies can mean different things. It can mean that a lot of positions are left unfilled because of, again, the demand/supply issue. But it can also mean that tech jobs are just a vast and quickly growing job market. 

The truth is, it’s both.

The practical guide to tech recruitment

So how do you find and engage tech talent?

To find and reach tech candidates you have to do more than just posting a job advertisement on a job board. Most tech candidates are not actively looking for a job and that means you have to proactively reach out to them.

openness to job opportunities, source: LinkedIn

‍85% of the talent market is open to job opportunities but 4 out of 5 of those potential candidates are not actively looking for a job. Candidates who are not actively looking for a job don’t look on job boards. That means that for 4 out of 5 of those potential candidates you need to reach them in a different way than job posts.

That’s why a more proactive approach, often referred to as outbound recruiting, is an absolute necessity to be successful in tech recruiting.

Outbound recruiting is searching for potential candidates and reaching out to them proactively. It’s different from inbound recruiting, where candidates land on your career page through job ads or other marketing channels.

Outbound recruiting is spearfishing. Inbound recruiting is casting a big fishing net.

In tech recruiting, outbound recruiting is the more successful approach because of the reason highlighted earlier; most tech candidates don’t have to go look for jobs and view career pages because they already get a lot of opportunities coming their way.

For the full outbound recruiting guide, follow this link:

Outbound recruiting guide

The outbound recruiting process consists of three steps:

  1. Targeting
  2. Screening
  3. Engaging

We’ll now go over how you can do outbound recruiting from targeting, to screening, to engaging.

1. Targeting

Targeting is about figuring out which candidates you want to reach out to. You need to have a good idea of where your candidate prospects hang out (do they spend most of their time on LinkedIn, GitHub, Medium, Stack Overflow or Kaggle?).

Also, you need to know how to search those platforms for tech talent. When you do your search in one of those platforms you want to end up with a longlist or shortlist of candidates who you want to reach out to.

The targeting step should result in three things:

Ideal Candidate Profile (ICP)

The ICP is a description and/or visualization of what the ideal candidate looks like. This can be a profile, real-life or fictional, put together by the hiring manager and recruiter. The ICP should at least give a description of the most important skills, interests and work preferences of the ideal candidate.

Talent market analysis

Your talent market analysis is the step where you will answer the question: where can I find my Ideal Candidates and how many of them are available in the market. With a so called talent mapping you can figure out roughly how many candidates there are in the market and what the difficulty level will be to engage them.

Target list

Your target list is your complete list of potential candidates that meet your search criteria. The profiles in your list can come from several sources. You translate your requirements into a search with certain keywords and filters so you get a targeted list of profiles. A tool like HeroHunt.ai can help build your search automatically from your job description, or even from your Ideal Candidate Profile. Based on that it finds your list of best matching profiles from several platforms.

Valuable resources for targeting:

Valuable tools for targeting:

  • HeroHunt.ai: find and reach 1 billion candidates worldwide (free version available)
  • Phantombuster: scrape profiles from several platforms (free version available)

2. Screening

Screening is the process of looking at all the candidate’s information from skills to interests to job history and job switching pattern to decide whether they are a good fit for your job.

The goal of screening is to decide which candidates to spend your time on to reach out to.

While screening, a tech recruiter looks at several things:

  • Knowledge and skills
  • Job history
  • Job switching pattern
  • Interests and personality

Knowledge and skills

The tech recruiter reviews the knowledge and skills built up by the candidate by looking at previous job titles and skills mentioned on the profile. But since anyone can put anything on their profile and information could be exaggerated, it pays off to validate the profile information found.

Validation of knowledge and skills can be done through for example looking at deliverables of candidates.

Examples of skills validation:

  • Software developer: look at (open source) code shared by the candidate on for example GitHub or their other contributions to developer communities
  • Data scientist: look at data models they helped build and possibly their projects on Kaggle
  • UX Designer: look at their portfolio of apps they helped design and build

Job history

One of the most obvious things to look at while screening candidates is looking at their previous job titles and the companies they have worked for. It’s helpful to look at the details of a position that someone held because a job title alone can be misleading or just too vague.

Job switching pattern

To make an estimation whether the candidate is open to moving from their current job and to estimate how long a candidate might stick at your company, it’s wise to look at how often the candidate has switched jobs before. 

A candidate who has switched every half year might also switch relatively fast in your company.

On the other hand a candidate who has been working 20 years for the same employer might not make a next move quickly so might not be worth your time reaching out to.

Interests and personality

A social media profile of a candidate can say a lot about a person. They might have a profile or background that says something about their passion, maybe they have posted something about their personal life or mention their hobbies.

Even though this information is less tangible than for example skills, it is still very important information especially when estimating if the candidate fits your company culture and team dynamics.

Valuable resources for screening:

Valuable tools for screening:

  • Pymetrics: soft skills analytics platform
  • Skillate: chatbot screening and resume analytics solution

3. Engaging

Engaging is the process of reaching out to candidates, following up with them and making them excited about your company and job. Engaging is one of the most overlooked processes of tech recruitment.

Many recruiters choose to blast out emails to a longlist of potential candidates, but because their targeting is often off, they are using unverified contact details and because they are not using the right messaging, not a lot of candidates convert to actual candidates in the end.

To succeed in engaging prospective candidates you need to do three things:

  1. Find the right contact details
  2. Set up personalized messages
  3. Automate outreach

1. Find the right contact details

Finding the right ways to contact a candidate is crucial. If you don’t have a verified email address, social media profile or phone number of the candidate chances are very high you don’t reach the candidate. 

In addition, if you use unverified contact details you risk wasting a lot of time and being marked as spam.

These are the most used types of contact details used by tech recruiters:

  • Email: email is the most scalable way of communicating with candidates. You generally need an email finder or a talent engagement platform which finds contact details.
  • Social media: for outbound recruiting, LinkedIn is the most used social media platform. But there are also many other types of platforms that are suited to reach out, like Twitter where many candidates have an open profile and can receive your message.
  • Phone: direct phone calls are not as popular as they were in recruitment but for certain candidate segments (for example sales people), phone calls can still be very effective.
Get contacts with a talent engagement platform

2. Set up personalized messages

If you choose to send messages through email or social media and you have the right contact details of the candidate, you need to draft your personalized messages. 

You can win a lot of time by using a tool that includes personalized information already for you. This way you can still send personalized messages to candidates but don’t have to do the manual copy and paste work to get information like the first name, company name and top skills of the candidate in your message.

Whether you automate or not, there are some things to keep in mind while writing your messages:

  • Hyper-personalize your outreach message and refer to the candidate’s relevant professional background
  • Don’t make the candidate work hard by asking too many questions
  • Be human in your language, not transactional
  • Provide one simple and call-to-action at the end of your message so the candidate take a simple action to follow up
Managing your own personalized templates

When you include personalisations like [first name], [company name] and [top skills] you will see that on average candidates will respond better to your outreach.

A very basic example is when you address the prospect with their first name ‘Hi John’ instead of something generic like ‘Hi there’.

Another example is referring to the skills that the candidate has on their profile.

You can see an example below.

Auto generated message including personalisations in HeroHunt.ai

3. Outreach automation

Automation in some cases has a bad name, especially when it comes to outreach. But if used correctly outreach automation can actually provide a lot more value to you but also the candidate compared to an error prone and time consuming manual approach.

By using message sequences for example, you can make sure to send the right message and follow-up message at the right time to the candidate. 

And by using automations it will also become visible for you what the impact is of your messages because you can better track when your messages are sent and if they are responded to.

This is what outreach automation can look like:

Email sequence with predefined sending times and reply tracking

With automated outreach your messages will also be better timed. 

You can for example pre-determine when you send certain messages. Are you working late and sending messages out at 11pm? Maybe not the best time for a candidate to receive your message. With simple automations you can schedule when you send your messages and follow ups.

Valuable resources for engaging:

Valuable tools for engaging:

Put everything together and it can look something like this,

Interactive tech recruiting demo:

Assessing

Assessing tech candidates is an important part of the tech recruiting process. 

The goal of an assessment is to validate the required knowledge, skills and psychology for the job once the candidate has shown interest in the job.

An assessment can have different forms like:

  • A questionnaire that assesses domain knowledge
  • A homework assignment to come up with a solution for a real-life business problem
  • An on-the-spot case or challenge to test the candidate’s problem solving capability
  • A psychological test to find out what the personal preferences are of the candidate

After a candidate finishes an assessment the company should have a better understanding of the candidate’s abilities and preferences and can make a better judgment about the extent to which the candidate matches the company, team and job.

These are some examples of talent assessments:

Interviewing

Interviews are an important part of the recruiting process because in the interview stages you get a deeper understanding of the candidate’s personality, knowledge and experience.

Some companies prefer to do only one interview but other companies can have up to 12 interview rounds.

The complexity and seniority of the role typically have an impact on the amount of interview rounds but also company culture and policy heavily influence the amount of rounds.

There are several ways of looking at interviews and decisions you can make to do interviews in a way that fits your goal of an interview.

These are interview styles that you can choose to follow:

Structured vs Semi-structured

Structured interviews are interviews with predefined questions which generally are used in a very similar way across different candidates. The advantage of structured interviews can be that there is less bias involved from the interviewer because the questions are already defined.

Semi-structured interviews are interviews with pointers to questions but which allows the interviewer to interpret and ask the questions in their own way. The advantage of semi-structured interviews can be that you’re better able to ask questions that make sense based on the response that the candidate has already given so you can follow up on things that the candidate said.

Group vs Individual

Group interviews are interviews with several interviews at the same time and can have the benefit of seeing how candidates interact with each other, stimulating real-life work situations.

Individual interviews are interviews with a single interviewee (but possibly several interviewers) and have the benefit of being able to focus on one candidate at a time.

Technical vs Personal

Technical interviews are interviews that are focussed on the expertise of the candidate. These interviews are more factual and question/answer based than most interviews and have the goal to assess the candidate’s deeper knowledge and skill. 

Personal interviews are interviews focussed on the personality of the candidate. They contain questions on identity and personal preferences and have the benefit of getting to know the person behind the professional.

Situational vs Behavioral

Situational interviews are interviews where hypothetical questions are asked about certain possible scenarios in the future. The goal is to assess how the candidate’s could react to relevant situations for their future job.

Behavioral interviews are interviews aimed at understanding the personality and resulting behavior of the candidate by asking the candidate about how they have reacted to real-life situations in the past.

Casual vs Formal

Casual interviews are interviews where the candidate can be ‘themselves’ and do not have requirements or much preparation and serve often as a means of introduction. 

Formal interviews are coordinated interviews that are part of the official recruiting procedure and usually have at least some requirements or preparation prior to the interview.

Tech recruiting examples per role

Software developers

Software developers can have a broad set of skills depending on what technologies and frameworks they like to focus on. 

Most software developers have a lot more than one technology or framework they work with but do mostly have a strong preference towards working with a certain technology or tech stack.

Main sources to find software developers are:

  • GitHub
  • Stack Overflow
  • Reddit

See full list of sources…

And here’s the full guide to recruit software engineers.

Sources to find software developers

Data experts

Data experts like Data Scientists and Machine Learning experts combine software, statistics and data science to prepare, analyze and present data. 

Data experts mainly are highly analytical beta’s who care about detail and a structured way of working.

Main sources to find data experts:

  • Kaggle
  • GitHub
  • Stack Overflow
Machine Learning skills sweet spot

Blockchain developers

Blockchain developers are currently amongst the hardest to find candidates. 

The blockchain word is a highly networked domain where community is everything. 

Skills in the blockchain world are generally hard to pinpoint because blockchain related technologies are changing very rapidly.

Main sources for blockchain talent:

  • Crypto.Jobs
  • GitHub
  • Stack Overflow

Here’s your guide to finding blockchain developers.

The tech recruiter’s profile

Tech recruiters have typically chosen their focus on tech consciously. Tech recruitment offers certain challenges and opportunities which attract certain types of recruiters.

Who is the tech recruiter?

There is not one tech recruiter but generally speaking there are some shared characteristics amongst tech recruiters which are interesting to highlight.

Tech recruiters typically:

  • Have an interest in technology itself, weather it’s having their own coding hobby or following technology trends and the tech market
  • Are hunters more than farmers in the sense that they like the chase (of talent)
  • Like to use tooling to find and reach candidates; they use technology to find people who love technology
  • Have a strong resilience and flexibility towards change
  • Can cope or learn to cope with lots of rejections
  • Are more data driven and analytical than the average recruiter

How much do tech recruiters make?

The average salary of a tech recruiter sits between $40.000 - $80.000 depending on experience (source, source, source).

Most tech recruiters who enter the industry already have experience in recruiting. That’s one of the reasons why average salaries can be higher than other types of recruiter roles.

The future of tech recruitment

The future of tech recruiting is a bright one. In a consistently growing market, job opportunities and growth will continue to present itself.

Since the industry is changing very quickly, as a tech recruiter you need to adapt fast to changes and keep up-to-date with the developments in technology because your candidates will grow with the pace of changing technology.

These are the most important trends to keep up with as a tech recruiter:

Data-first decision making

The amount of available data around talent is growing but also more and more scattered. This makes accessing data more challenging. 

There are a variety of sources where talent is spending their time, personal and professional life are increasingly merged and independence and creative expression become more important sources of talent.

This creates the need for tech recruiters to look beyond a LinkedIn profile to assess whether candidates are a good fit. 

Talent analytics becomes more important to get insights on the background, skills, interests and life of talent. 

Tech recruiters who have the right tools to gather a full view on candidates are one step ahead of the rest.

Multi-channel connection

Candidates do not only have profiles on a variety of social media platforms but also communicate across channels. Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, SMS, Email, Discord, Slack are just some of the platforms where candidates can prefer to be contacted on and respond to (or prefer not!).

As a tech recruiter it will be increasingly important to prioritize the communication channels that the candidate prefers so the chances of having a fruitful conversation will be a lot higher.

Outbound everything

Tech candidates are more ‘hard to get’ than ever. For them to even slightly consider a new job amongst all those opportunities being handed to them they want to get exactly the offer they want, at the right time and in a personalized way.  

Outbound recruiting is suited for the highly targeted spearfishing approaches that candidates need and will increase in popularity.

As a tech recruiter it becomes increasingly important to keep the interest of the candidate in mind and tailor your approach and offer to them.

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