Tech companies resort to all kinds of stunts, publicity moves, and shenanigans to try and differentiate themselves from their competitors to hire top candidates. This comes in the form of anything from massive policy announcements to crazy signing bonuses for new hires. We’re not saying that these techniques can’t be effective, but from our perspective they seem like shortcuts. Not all shortcuts are bad—some of them save time and energy in a way that boosts ROI—but these kinds of shortcuts seem to skip all of the important stuff, i.e. laying the groundwork for future recruitment success. After all, once the barbecue is over and the swag has been handed out, how many of the attendees are you ever going to hear from again? Perhaps more importantly, how many are ever going to hear from you again?
It’s easy to see why people take this approach: recruiting in tech is hard, and there simply aren’t enough qualified candidates to go around. But shortcuts aren’t the answer. The answer to create long-term, sustainable recruitment strategies that will strengthen your talent pipeline and continually engage passive job seekers. This can involve big events, sure, but it’s mostly a matter of posting online content to social media sites and other niche channels on a consistent, repeatable basis. In other words, it’s about recruitment marketing.
The Skills Gap Myth
At this point some of you might be wondering about the purported skills gap in tech hiring, i.e. the idea that not only are there not enough skilled workers to go around, but that this paucity of qualified candidates is exacerbated by rapidly changing requirements. How can you identify, target, and engage a specific demographic of users if you’re working on cutting edge stuff that even experienced developers won’t be able to help you with? It’s a reasonable question, but it’s also one that applies in fewer cases than you’d think.
A recent Indeed study found that, actually, the skills that businesses are looking for in the tech industry are actually changing a little bit less quickly than they are in other industries. This means that, by and large, workers with the skills you need are out there, and they can be reached.
From a recruitment marketing perspective, this means that you’re not looking for a mythical unicorn who may or may not exist. Rather, you’re competing fiercely for talent that we know is out there. The company that competes most effectively will come away with the best team. What does effective competition look like? At its heart, it’s about two things: the ability to craft a narrative that’s compelling to technically skilled workers, i.e. one that will let them know who you are, why you do what you do, and what’s in it for them if they join up; and the ability to get that message in front of the right people at the right time in the right way.
The first is a creative problem; the second is a technological problem.
Redefining Your Employer Brand
So, let’s start with the creative problem. Your ideal candidate is out there, and realistically they're already employed with another company. How do you tell her what she wants to hear without making any promises you can’t keep? The first task is to gain a better understanding of your ideal candidate’s needs and wants. In tech, this often comes down to things like flexibility, exciting technical challenges, and, yes, compensation. Start by taking stock of all the ways your company currently provides value (i.e. your employee value proposition, or EVP), and identifying both the things that would be most enticing to your target personas and the gaps that might cause them to think twice about applying.
Once you’ve gotten a handle on your EVP, your employer brand messaging might center around the way that that EVP plays out for your existing employees. Consider creating (short) employee testimonial videos for YouTube and Snapchat that feature your team describing the ways that you’ve helped them achieve their goals. Conversely, you might leverage ads on niche sites like Reddit and Stack Exchange with visual collateral that shows your team collaborating, socializing, or problem-solving.
Since your target personas already have jobs, you have to convince them in a concrete way that your company offers a better opportunity, whether that’s because of salary and perks, lifestyle benefits, company culture, or anything else that you do particularly well. Because tech workers can be extremely picky about where they apply, your employer brand isn’t going to become perfect overnight. Schedule posts, buy ads, and measure your success. Over time, you’ll get better at understanding the kinds of messages that highly-skilled candidates in your precise field respond to.
The Importance of Candidate Experience
Okay, that covers the creative challenge—what about the technical challenge? When it comes to making sure that the right people are receiving the message at the right time in the right way, it helps to be able to do two things: schedule posts in advance across a number of different channels, and provide a talent pipeline and application flow that's streamlined, mobile-friendly, and easy to use.
For the first item, the reasoning should be fairly obvious. If you’re going to hire a large volume of people, you need to make sure you’re constantly communicating with those people. This may require some level of automation.
For the second, you may need to rethink things like your online application. If it’s long, cumbersome, and mobile un-friendly now, it’s time to do something about it. Providing a good applicant experience is always important, but it’s especially crucial when candidates essentially have their pick of jobs.
Think of everything from the landing page that welcomes applicants after they click an ad to the email you send them after a submitted application as a chance to impress your applicants. If you can offer top-notch applicant experience in this field, you can convince picky candidates both that you value their time and that you’re adaptable in your processes. Offer anything else, and your best candidates will stick with the jobs they already have.