Simple Things You Can Do to Be Better at Recruiting Developers

It’s not rare to see endless amounts of advice on principles and best practices to follow when hiring.

What is rare, is for all of this information to be applicable in practice and not just theory.

In this post I’ll outline 7 things you can do today to be better at recruiting the right software engineers for your company.

Ensure Technical Skillset and Cultural Fit are BOTH Evaluated Equally

All too often, hiring managers assume that programmers who have the necessary skills are going to do great things for their organization, while overlooking the very important aspect of cultural fit.  To ensure you are placing equal importance on cultural fit, I highly suggest panel or multi-tiered interview processes.

A multi-tiered interview process involves more than just HR or the Recruiter.  These types of processes include key players such as the Director or VP of Software Engineering, the Development Team Lead, and/or a Senior Project Manager.  Having multiple team members meet and evaluate your candidate’s skills and abilities, as well as their cultural fit potential, ensures a strong balance of a skill and cultural match.

A word of caution here: don’t overdo it.

I had a client recently that was undecided about a candidate after the fourth (4th) round interview. They were thinking that maybe a fifth round would make the difference. I told them that it wouldn’t. In fact, it was a mistake to allow them to get to four.

Do you know what the fourth round interview says about your hiring process? It says that your process is broken.” – Tim Sackett on TLNT.

Understand Supply and Demand

The demand for software engineers today is at an all-time high.  That being said, overly critical screening processes or unrefined job descriptions won’t be doing your company any favors!  Remember to cast a wide net when recruiting developers and keep an open mind regarding their potential suitability for the position.

Another necessary point to cover with supply and demand is passive recruiting – that is, candidates that aren’t actively looking for a job.  While active recruiting typically works for most positions, it doesn’t always work for positions in which supply is low and demand is high, as is the case with software engineers.  It’s very likely that you’ll need to invest more time in reaching out to passive candidates, doing research on your competitors, and really convincing potential applicants of the benefits that come along with working for your organization.  

Refine your Interview Process

Nothing attracts top notch candidates like a clean, simple and direct interview process!  If you choose to incorporate a multi-tiered interview, communicate that to applicants during their initial screening.  Set realistic expectations for how long the process will take and exactly what the standard timeframe is for decision making.  If a technical assignment will be required, candidates should be made aware of this during their first call.

I highly recommend that you take at least 5 minutes during every initial screening to explain each step in the interview and hiring process to the candidate.  Some common steps and processes that should be explained to applicants include the following:

  • Next steps after the initial screening
  • Total number of interviews and style (panel, 1:1, etc.)
  • Technical assignments and/or relevant testing and timeline for completion
  • References required
  • Background checking required
  • Criteria used in decision making
  • Expected date or timeframe for decision regarding hire or non-hire

Research Salary Trends in the Market

While this seems obvious enough, it’s a critical step that is often overlooked.  Do not assume that the same salary you offered a new hire 3 months ago will be relevant and applicable to the similar position you are recruiting for today.  Always conduct market research to ensure your salary and/or compensation package is properly aligned and competitive depending on the specific role and location.  

Be Prepared to Sell the Opportunity

Software engineers are all about technology (obviously) and being ahead of new trends.  For this reason, it’s critical that you, the hiring manager, know how to sell your opportunity as the BEST way for the applicant to get ahead, learn how to use new technology, and advance their skills, making them even more marketable in the future.  

As silly as it sounds, write out your sales pitch!  Just as the interviewee has probably written down some notes about your company and the position, you should have jotted down some key selling points as well that will generate even more interest from your applicant.  

Don’t forget to look at research about what developers actually value in a company to see where your company aligns with them. A great place to start is with this post by Lynne Tye, the founder of Key Values. It contains data from over 21,000 people about their highest rated values.

As I mentioned above, it’s a competitive market with more demand than supply.  Simply talking about a position won’t always cut it. Sell the opportunity and be prepared to answer questions.  It’s even beneficial to prepare videos or testimonials from current employees as a recruiting tool, or at least have these available on the company’s website for applicants to see.  

Ask the Tough Questions

Have you ever interviewed the perfect candidate that you knew would be ideal for the position, but then they disappeared?  Or perhaps your perfect candidate accepted another position before even hearing your offer. This happens all the time, and it’s even more likely to happen when you’re dealing with software engineers.

We can avoid these situations by pre-closing when we think we’ve identified a top-notch candidate.  Pre-closing can be difficult and uncomfortable because it involves asking some tough questions, but it’s much better to ask these questions up front than to lose a candidate you never really had in the first place!

Here are some “tough questions” that should be asked when pre-closing a candidate:

  • Are you currently interviewing with other companies?
  • Are you currently working with other recruiters or agencies?
  • Have you received offer letters that you haven’t yet signed?  If so, why have you hesitated?
  • Have you thought seriously about leaving your current job and the level of discomfort you might experience when working out a notice?  
  • How quickly are you willing to accept an offer once it’s been made?

Getting to the bottom of these tough questions will significantly decrease the chances of having your best candidates disappear.  

Great Engineers Know Other Great Engineers

Finally, take a look at your current staff!  If there’s an opening within your organization, no one will understand that position better than someone who is already doing the job.  Ask your current staff who they know that would be a great fit. In some cases, you may even find that implementing a referral incentive encourages current staff to recommend peers or colleagues.  

Wrapping Up

Recruiting talented developers is hard and chances are nothing will change that. Though thats not to say you’re not making life harder for yourself! Follow these simple guidelines and it may make recruiting just a bit easier for you.

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