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Jeff Szczepanksi

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How has tech recruiting adapted to the modern day?


Tech is one of the fastest-moving sectors around: for that reason, tech is often seen as a bellwether for other industries, and for good reason. Think of all the changes the tech sector has been through: fifty years ago, software engineers were scarce, whereas today, according to Stack Overflow’s Developer Ecosystem Report, they account for over 7% of London’s labour force.

As more products and companies emerge, all vying for our attention, the tactics used to fill technical roles have also become more sophisticated, involving more modern technology and recruiting methods. By looking at how recruitment in tech has changed, what can we learn about the future of recruitment and HR more generally?

The technology education revolution

In the 1960s, computers were relatively rare at universities. Due to the expense involved, access to computers was limited, meaning that coding skills were less widespread and software engineering skills were unusual.

Career paths for developers were not yet formalised, and software companies tended to recruit from a wider variety of backgrounds, including Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering and even Humanities graduates.

As software became more prevalent, software development as a job became more institutionalised. Increasing demand led universities to roll out specialist courses in software development.

As more jobs became available, companies began to use tactics employed by more traditional sectors — such as attending university careers fairs. Pretty soon a software engineer’s university degree became one of the key indicators of candidate potential to prospective employers.

Focus on doing thorough research into the field you’re recruiting for and try and ‘speak the candidates’ language’ a little.

Nowadays, Computer Science degrees are slowly but surely becoming less relevant. Today, there is widespread access for students and professionals to both formal, and non-formal coding education.

In fact, Stack Overflow’s 2017 annual developer survey revealed that just 15% of developers in the UK & Ireland ’ranked formal education as ‘very important to their career success,’ while over over a third of them said formal education was ‘not very or not at all important’.

There’s also a proliferation of free and paid courses outside of school, for students who did not study Computer Science at university, such as Udacity, Codecademy or Code First: Girls. It’s never been easier to enter computer science or coding, via online courses, on-the-job training, or open source contributions.

These progressions are allowing HR managers to finally look beyond the degree and access a wider pool of candidates: a trend that may soon be reflected in other traditionally ‘exclusive’ career paths like finance.

Personalised recruitment

Recruiting before the internet: can you imagine? Jobseekers would have to plough through newspaper classifieds, reading potentially hundreds of adverts before finding the one job that looked right for them.

Headhunters were common, but they weren’t specialised in the way they are today. They would use tactics that tend to make candidates groan – calling general office lines and crossing their fingers that they’d be connected to someone who was interested. Some businesses even employed unusual tactics like skywriting planes and fly-over banners. 

In many ways recruiting for technical roles is still stuck with these old-fashioned methodologies, with recruitment agencies sending out mass emails and cold-calls in an untargeted fashion.

However, changes are coming: internal recruiters and HR managers are starting to realise that developers don’t react well to these tactics, and that they need to look more carefully at where they’re advertising in order to target prospective employees more effectively. Recruiters are beginning to learn the language of developers and making an effort to understand exactly what developers do and what they want from a job.

Forming an individual rapport with a candidate is crucial across all industries when it comes to recruitment, and that’s very difficult to accomplish if recruiters don’t understand how candidates spend their time or the things that are important to them.

In this sense, the tech industry is leading the way for other sectors, with successful companies really investing time and attention into what developers want out of their jobs, and tailoring their job offers to suit those desires with benefits like unlimited holiday, remote working options and professional development sponsorship.

Forming an individual rapport with a candidate is crucial across all industries when it comes to recruitment.

Software development isn’t the only business sector to have changed beyond recognition in the past 50 years, and at times HR and recruitment has struggled to adapt. The tech sector has been an ‘early adopter’ for so many trends in business, from embracing flexible working to adopting technologies like Slack to replace email, benefits that are increasingly spreading to non-tech sectors.

HR managers and recruiters should pay attention to what’s happening in tech recruitment. It can tell them more than they think about what’s happening in their own sectors, and what is going to happen in the very near future.

Focus on doing thorough research into the field you’re recruiting for and try and ‘speak the candidates’ language’ a little. Reject overly-broad approaches in favour of one-to-one communications. Pay attention to educational trends in the sector and adjust your CV assessments accordingly. Armed with these tips you should be able to keep abreast of fast-moving changes in the world of HR, regardless of your sector.


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