How We Manage to Recruit Talented Engineers in a Competitive Market

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering how companies convince top producers and All Stars to come work for them, read on. While the tactics I mention here can be applied to any industry, I’m going to specifically make references to the vast world of Software Engineering.

Despite popular belief, people don’t always change jobs for money. And if you’re embarking on a recruitment strategy with the mindset that you can buy the best Developer or Engineer in any given market, you’re in for a tough ride. People change jobs because they’re in pain… not physical pain, but real pain nonetheless. Sometimes people don’t realize the pain they’re in, and that’s where a good recruiter comes in. Some pain is hidden and it can take quite a bit of dialogue to bring it to light.

So what do I mean by “pain”? Anyone who drives over 25 minutes to get to work or to get home from work is in pain. Anyone who has been working on the same type of projects for more than a year is in pain. Anyone who uses the same technologies over and over every day is in pain. Anyone who hasn’t been promoted or given increased responsibilities for more than two years is in pain.

One of our biggest fears as individuals, as humans, is being forgotten. The fear of doing nothing meaningful, the fear of wasting our potential, and the fear of not going for the gold when we should have can be paralyzing. In many cases, we get complacent or comfortable in our current reality and the idea of making a change is exhausting and seemingly unnecessary. This is the realization that we, as recruiters, have to keep in mind when speaking to potential candidates.

So how do we uncover this pain? Just like a doctor would… we ask questions. What is the next step in your career at your current company? What kind of mentorship do you receive? What kind of work-from-home, or other work life balance, opportunities do you have? How exciting are the projects you’re working on? What do you look forward to the most about your work day? What different frameworks and programming languages do you get to explore? How often do you get to expand your knowledge by learning to use new libraries?

What’s even more important than asking these types of questions is listening, really listening, to the responses. Most of the time, by asking probing questions and truly seeking to understand the candidate and their professional goals, a good recruiter can help the candidate realize their own pain. A seemingly happy employee begins to realize that they haven’t been able to use new technologies and perhaps their skill set, or even worse, their career, is becoming stagnant. The idea is to really understand what truly motivates that person, whether it be advancement opportunities, recognition, the ability to learn and grow, or challenging and exciting projects. Once you uncover that pain, you can start to offer the candidate relief.

So we know what pain is, and we know how to uncover the pain, but how can we help relieve the pain? We relieve the candidate’s pain by offering the ideal solution. Many recruiters make the mistake of sprinting into a conversation with a potential candidate about how wonderful their company is and how great their benefits packages are and how fun and exciting the culture is. A candidate will never respond to that approach if they don’t first have a reason to! Uncovering the candidate’s pain first gives the recruiter the distinct advantage of knowing exactly what pain points to target when introducing their opportunity.

There you have it! It’s entirely possible to find an All Star top performer at your biggest competitor and convince them to come work for you without relying on salary. It requires patience and a willingness to listen, and sometimes uncover, a candidate’s pain.

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