Tech talent is evolving: Four top tips to finding the best and brightest

The demand for tech talent in the UK today is at a fever pitch. Five years from now, we are facing a predominantly digital economy, with it being forecast that the UK will require 2.3 million digitally skilled workers.

This means recruiters at companies looking for candidates with computing and technology skills face an uphill battle. As a result, the recruiting landscape – both for candidates and for employers – is very different now than in the recent past.

Previously a company deciding between two individuals for an engineer or developer role would probably look at the respective candidates’ academic qualifications to help guide their decision. Today, a more holistic approach is needed, as the traditional idea of what makes an “ideal” candidate changes. Here are four guidelines for employers who want to be sure they’re keeping pace with the way the modern workforce is changing.

  1. A degree should no longer be a barrier to entry

Previously, the training necessary to enter the software engineering job market could only be found through tertiary education programs that were fiercely competitive. Today, not every would-be engineer or entrepreneur has access to these courses, or even wants to attend university in the first place. Hired’s co-founder, Matt Mickiewicz, is just one such example of this phenomenon. He founded his first company at age 15, and went on to start three additional hugely successful startups despite barely finishing high school and never attending university.

Increasingly, training opportunities such as Google Code In, Decoded and Codecademy offer candidates the chance to develop skills they might, at one point, have only found through tertiary education. University degrees are still a valuable indicator of ability, of course. But the lack of a degree is no longer a barrier to entry, as candidates can often learn the skills they need from bootcamps and publicly available tools. The flip side of this is that even candidates with degrees can’t afford let their skills stagnate, and should instead be continually adding to their experience.

It's these candidates that should stand out to employers. Practical experience – whether gained on the job or in their spare time – should be the first consideration when looking to hire a new team member.

  1. Look for the thirst to learn

Stories about self-starters teaching themselves in their spare time and tinkering around with new ideas and personal projects used to be the exception. Today, however, they are becoming be the rule. Individuals now have incredible opportunities to teach themselves the skills that will make them desirable in their chosen field.

And it’s these candidates who show a constant thirst for learning new skills are what should be considered top talent. Those who attend regular developer ‘meet ups,’ or work on collaborative projects using open source and private project platforms like GitHub, are the types of achievements employers should be searching for on a candidate’s CV.

No matter how skilled a candidate is, they should no longer see their role as simply a way to pay the bills. The ideal candidate should show desire for solving problems, be excited for an opportunity to constantly learn, and display eagerness to work on something bigger than themselves. This is the kind of mind-set employers need to identify when searching for top talent.

  1. Recruit without bias to attract diversity

Unconscious bias is an innate human characteristic; even the most open-minded and well-meaning individuals unwittingly allow unconscious feelings to guide their decision-making. In other words, the most sincere corporate commitment to inclusion and diversity may be derailed by biases that employers and hiring managers don’t even realise they have.

It is important that organisations take proactive steps to ensure that biased recruitment practices aren’t preventing them from attracting a diverse set of candidates. For example, structured interviews that ask a set list of questions in exactly the same way to each candidate can help remove bias and subjectivity. Another easy fix is using gender-neutral, inclusive language in job descriptions or questionnaires. This could involve removing the option to add salutations such as “Mr.,” “Miss,” or “Mrs.” from any written materials a candidate must submit in order to be considered for a position.

Gendered language is not the only deterrent for worthy applicants. The technology landscape knows no borders – with developers often moving country for ideal job roles. It is important to review a company’s policies around visa sponsorships which might affect its ability to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds. Enterprises should work with both an immigration company and their HR department to avoid artificially limiting the candidate pool by discriminating against candidates who might need sponsorship support.

A study conducted by Harvard Business Review reports organisations that have a more diverse and inclusive workforce tend to be more innovative and experience greater market growth than companies that do not embrace such a philosophy.

  1. Understand what candidates are looking for

When looking to hire talent, organisations often fall into the trap of selling their company vision, rather than what will actually interest and attract candidates. To attract the right talent, organisations need to change this mind-set, focusing instead on highlighting culture, potential for learning and development and mentoring and leadership opportunities as reasons to work for their company.

Candidates today care about flexible working or the challenges, in terms of the languages, frameworks and technologies, which they will be working with. No matter how engaging a company’s vision is, how a potential employee will benefit from joining an organisation will be the deciding factor in accepting an interview or job offer.

Employees today are well aware of how sought after their specialist skill-sets are. To attract the best individuals, organisations need to look carefully at what they are offering that will challenge and excite candidates. They need to demonstrate how they, for example, allow their teams to work from home, or will offer complex and engage projects to work on.

Simply put, companies need to make the job seem like an exciting prospect for the candidate. By highlighting how a candidate will be an integral part of the team, or have the potential to progress and grow, employees pique the interest of talented individuals and will ensure they attract, the very best talent in the industry.

Tech blazes a trail for finding the best of the best

Given the tech industry’s record for disruption and ability to transform quickly, in many ways it has the power and opportunity to change the traditional recruitment process, and provide a new model for hiring. Using methods as mentioned above, this trend setting sector can completely remodel how all industries, across all sectors search and secure top talent.

This, however, is a leading role that must be taken seriously. While the tech industry is successfully setting the standards for new hiring practices, it must ensure these methods are planned and implemented correctly to set a high precedent for the other industries that are sure to follow suit.

Sophie Adelman, General Manager, UK & France, Hired

Image source: Shutterstock/Kirill Wright