Tech Recruiting: Your Best Innovation is Your People

The coolest story I have as a recruiter in this space is when I ended up ultimately hiring my Lyft driver. He took me from A to B, and, during that time, I found out he was a looking for a position. I informally interviewed him, set up next steps–and now he’s a valuable part of our QA team.

Let’s Talk About Growth Markets

That’s a fun story, but it also reveals a major shift in the recruiting arena–especially in a growth market like Austin (or Vegas, Nashville, Denver, etc.). A large part of what recruiters do is informal recruitment like online/social recruiting and reaching out using local job boards and extensive LinkedIn networks. We aim to interview without feeling like “an interview” and maintain a high level of respect for nuances and individuality throughout the hiring process.

But don’t be fooled–there are specific challenges, for recruiting professionals, as well as candidates, tied to industry evolution. As a result, we have to keep iterating alongside tech capabilities. Tech recruiters, in particular, need to know their candidates–and the market–on a deeper level, and an ongoing basis. And candidates need to present themselves in ways that show their ability to innovate (which means something different to every tech company out there).

Tech Stereotypes & Competition

Common misconceptions and extreme competition represent the main barriers. As excited as candidates are about applying and potentially working in tech, it’s a special, fluid environment–and that’s not for everyone. On the flip side, recruiters have to recognize this excitement and present their roles and companies with genuine enthusiasm, a willingness to add value, and buckets of vigor.

The Agency Assumption

There’s a reasonable fear of the boiler room agency JUST GET IT DONE mentality. Many tech companies look, act, and even brand themselves like agencies. Fortunately, that’s often not the reality. (Spend a week at an ad agency. Report back.)

Delivering design, assembling a strategy, and building/testing an actual product–these are all very different capabilities. Digital strategists are a different breed than Program Managers. We understand these things because we’re “in it”, but for many job seekers, the lines are blurry. Eventually a talents and intentions will steer seekers toward companies and roles that make sense for them–but I see it as my job to help accelerate that process for them.

Unique Buying Signals and Pull  

The competitive nature of the market–which could possibly be at an all-time high for tech–demands clear definition and USP for candidates and employers alike. What and why have to offer the best possible solutions for open positions–filling them AND applying for them. And then of course there’s financials, relocation (domestic and international), benefits, and all of the things that check the boxes and inspire confidence.

Need-to-Knows: Tech Recruiters and Companies

In tech recruiting, there’s wide acceptance of the “resumes never tell the whole story” sentiment. How we as recruiters tangibly follow through on this concept is what determines our long term success. We must clearly define and present what innovation means from our companies’ people perspective.

Prove it With a More Personal Approach to Benefits

Good candidates, like business partners, need proof. ROI. Here are some ways you drive home your company’s long term investment in their employment–and humanity:

  • Reinforce the desire to work there to stay there–this isn’t just a stepping stone.
  • Demonstrate maturity by discussing flexibility, trust, and being treated like an adult.
  • Pair high performance expectations with high degrees of independence.
  • Drive home the basics: be a good human, respect and individuality have value.
  • Tell stories about the company making mistakes and how they fixed them.
  • Temper fears and assumptions by inviting them in to experience the environment.

Understand Different Roles, but Treat Them as Equals

Tech companies house a wider range of professionals than many assume. From devs to designers to sales to marketing–we have (and hire) it all in varying degrees and capacities. It’s important, and enjoyable, to observe departmental approaches and tendencies.

For example, design candidates tend to have a more intuitive approach and understanding of client work and partnership models. Dev prospects, on the other hand, are often looking for the opportunity to be highlighted as more than the code they write. The key take-away: to an extent, the roles don’t matter. Everyone should be offered the same cultural, big picture, brand benefits of being a part of the company.

The Main Driver: Better Communication

The promise of a more open, communicative environment is the major line item on candidates’ list. Whether it’s referring to client/partner communications, internal alignment, or not wanting to work in silos, people want transparency early and often. Open communication promotes a feeling of stability, even in dramatic growth phases for the company.

Interview Exercise:

Paint a picture of the last company all-hands meeting. What was discussed? What message did leadership present? Tell the candidate the story around why you’re hiring for this role right now. The more open you are with them, the more confidence it instills in them to return the favor.

No Matter the Result, Add Value

Even in the largest cities, the biggest of industries, and growth markets–communities remain small. The tech community in Austin, for example, is ripe for overlap, referrals, and reviews. One of the things I find interesting is the amount of boomerang employees. If people like a company but leave, coming back isn’t walking on scorched earth. It shouldn’t be.

Take a moment and picture the people who don’t get the job–or turn down the offer. Big group. Could be valuable later? Absolutely. Which is why we need to give all candidates feedback. Provide advice that adds value and makes the experience a mutually positive one.

It never hurts to make a relationship count. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s how recruiters can raise the bar within our field.

5 To-Dos for Tech Job Seekers

We’re responsible for introduction, evaluation, and education. But when it comes to approaching a position in tech within a high-growth market–candidates have growing responsibility in turning leads into opportunities. The “selling yourself” concept in tech is a bit more complex. Before speaking with recruiters or hiring managers, you should be prepared to do some, if not all of the following:

1. Do your own homework. Decide for yourself.

Glassdoor can be like Yelp. A big fat echo chamber. You often only see extremes (angry people are loud). Clearly if you have contacts that all have the same negative feedback, there’s something to it, but the important thing is that you take the time to see and believe. If you’re not sure, take a chance.

2. Clearly explain your intention.

Check your boxes for salary, benefits, responsibilities, etc. But have a very clear intention. What is going to make you happy personally and professionally with your next role. Know what needs to be in place to set yourself up for success. Provide appropriate context around why you want to invest in a tech career and culture, specifically.

3. Talk about who you are…really.

You’re not a widget doing a job, you’re the whole package! Tech companies are particular about culture fits, so don’t leave them with questions around what makes you, YOU. People who work in tech are dynamic, multi-talented, people who often have many hobbies. We want to hear all about it. Tell me a story.

4. Be definitive about your growth expectations.

Growth isn’t just for junior candidates. In fact, if senior executives don’t have thoughts and ideas around how they want to evolve–it’s a bad fit. Tech professionals can’t be stagnant. If you are a junior-level employee, however, it’s good to set expectations. Tech companies offer challenging environments that demand substantial growth to earn tenure.  

5. Clearly describe how you solve problems.

In order to understand and apply tech, you need to be able to problem-solve. This doesn’t mean solving logic games like you see on the LSAT, or fixing the wiring in your garage. There are many ways to problem-solve, just like there are many technology solutions. Be ready to talk about how you think through tough situations. You need to be able to test, learn, REPEAT.

The “30 Years and a Gold Watch” Era is Long Gone…Good.

The one-and-done career path has retired. We’re all benefiting from the range of experience and personal growth that comes with change and adaptation. I think technology has driven this change. When candidates talk about getting out of a rut, I love it. The energy around the tech environment and culture is real. And if anyone is ever on the edge of a decision, I tell them: “You don’t grow when you’re comfortable.”

Staffing and managing people operations within tech is a pressure cooker. That’s not a bad thing. Transitioning from the staffing agency world into tech has given me the opportunity to offer careers, not just “jobs.” With tech candidates, there is an intelligence and dynamic that warrants excitement on both sides of the table. The people are fascinating.

Senior project managers, junior designers, CFOs. Teams of one, or 20, or 200. The most important thing is knowing you’re in a place where your talent, intentions, and personality continue to have potential. And it’s my job as a recruiter to identify and grow that opportunity from day one.





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