How to Work With Tech Recruiters (Beyond the Job Description)

Tech recruiters can make or break the candidate experience. According to Future Workplace, 60% of job seekers have reported a bad candidate experience. Not only could a poor tech recruiter cause you to miss out on a great hire, but a candidate with a subpar experience is more likely to leave negative online reviews, discontinue use of company products or pass up applying to your future, more relevant openings.

Think about it: Aside from researching mission and culture on your company website (and pressing that much-anticipated apply button), the first real interaction your future inventors, creatives and builders have with your brand is when they engage with a recruiter.

So, can your tech recruiters answer candidate questions? Are they equipped to shape a positive candidate experience and make smarter hires? And are they even talking to the right candidates?

A list of must-have skills is a starting point when building a talented tech team, but it’ll take a little more insight to remove the guesswork between unqualified and qualified, mismatches and potentially perfect hires.

Locking in on better-informed hiring decisions and positive experiences all around means ensuring your tech recruiters really understand engineering and product: must-have versus nice-to-have skills, alternate languages, team structure, and philosophy and culture.

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Tech skills: must-have vs. nice-to-have

Define the must-have skills for each role (read: what’s absolutely needed to get the job done). Similarly, consider the skills that fall outside of the must-have zone but would be beneficial to have—your preferred skills.

For better boolean searches and phone screens, tech recruiters that know the difference between these two skill categories will move forward with the types of candidates you’re looking for without turning away otherwise great fits based on must-haves alone.

Ideally, before posting an open role, go through the job description and each bullet point with your recruiter, including required, non-core and/or basic skills.

Non-core skills

Differentiate what skills are necessary for a role’s basic functions and what can be learned over time—what you thought was a required skill may actually be a bonus.

For example, you might want your front-end web developer to know Python considering they would be working alongside back-end developers. But because they most likely won’t be writing complex back-end code, basic Python can be learned post-onboarding and shouldn’t be listed as a core skill.

Basic skills

Additionally, tech recruiters familiar with what skills are basic for any particular role should understand that a candidate may not list them on their resume depending on the role or experience level. For example, a mid-level software developer may not include HTML or CSS because these languages are common for almost any developer to know.

With this in mind, your recruiters will know when to skip searching for basic skills as it might hurt their chances of surfacing top candidates.

Adjusting for a tight market

Competition for tech talent is high. For one, it’s nearly impossible to tick off every box on a candidate’s checklist, no matter if they’re looking at perk-friendly startups or established companies offering hefty compensation packages. You also might be facing a talent shortage outside of tech hubs or find yourself in a market that emphasizes a different set of skills.

To account for market deviations and fluctuations (and rather than setting a must-have skill in stone), connect with your recruiter before and after the role is listed to see if you either need to look outside your market or consider related languages to draw strong talent in. Developing game engines in Rust in a small market? If talent skilled in Rust is few and far between, consider hiring an otherwise qualified candidate that knows C++.

Put the role in the context of the team

Engineering and product teams operate under their own set of processes and methodologies typically unfamiliar to outsiders. Likewise, engineering team structure may not be a direct representation of the larger organization—even if your company houses hundreds or thousands of employees, engineering teams may be kept small regardless of overall size.

Take Whole Foods Market: The company and its engineering department continues to grow, yet engineering teams stay small (fewer than 10) to maintain a culture that gives engineering a voice to contribute in meaningful ways. Teams also own end-to-end delivery, including production support.

Now think about how your team collaborates to do its best work. In an open office space with direct access to leadership? Broken down into pods of just a few members? Loving Agile or Waterfall methodologies?

By cluing your tech recruiters in, they’ll be able to ask more intentional questions and give candidates greater insight about how engineering and product teams function. The result? Honing in on which candidates will (or won’t) thrive in your space—skill set aside—and whether it’s the right fit for them (i.e., saving the company time and money down the road).

Accounting for philosophy and culture

While still embracing overarching company values, engineering and product often follow their own philosophies. In what ways does your tech team culture mirror or differ from company culture? How do you plan on maintaining that culture as you scale?

For instance, Whole Foods’ engineering and product teams celebrate failure, as it gives them the chance to learn from those mistakes and unleash their full potential.

In the case of Atlassian, teams remain small (in light of continued growth) to keep the culture intact, with a heavy emphasis on autonomy. Shane Wade, Senior Development Manager says, “We try to give [our engineers] space and allow them to be creative and own their own destiny. And that really, I’ve seen, is what drives our engineers.”

Values and culture are powerful influencers for nearly every decision. From ideation to production, the ways your team finds success should be clear to candidates from the get-go. Arming your tech recruiters with this insight helps them filter out those candidates with a less flexible, at-odds approach or mindset. It also guides candidates as to whether this is the right fit for them, helping them decide to either move forward or look elsewhere for the next step in their career.

Saturated market or skills shortage aside, attracting and retaining the best tech talent is tough. So rather than zeroing in on an elusive picture-perfect candidate, tune into market and talent needs to back your tech recruiters with more than a rigid must-have skills list. In return, you’ll build a more tech-savvy recruiting team ready to answer questions instead of deferring to a later interview—and you’re left with fresh new hires eager to learn and contribute full force.

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