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Hiring Tech Talent

Tips for Development Managers on How to Find and Hire Talent

There is no holy grail, quick fix, or magic pill that will help you hire top tech talent. The reality is it is hard work. Over the years I have found some methods that have helped me hire top talent.

The shortage

I live in the Waterloo Region, an area that has under a million inhabitants, where there are two major universities, and over 1000 tech companies. There is simply never enough talent to fill all the jobs available. I have spent 15 years in the tech industry, 12 in the Waterloo Region. For 9 of those years I have been responsible for hiring developers, testers, and designers into my teams.

Big Company Recruitment

At BlackBerry we relied on getting applications to our positions through a talent management system. At the time we were a highly sought after company and we had many applicants. Even so, to grow our team from 5 to 30 people over 4 years we expanded to 3 locations, Waterloo, Mississauga, and Ottawa as we couldn’t fill that many positions in Waterloo alone. At BlackBerry we were competing for talent with big global names like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple. This gave us an edge over local companies as we were offering Silicon Valley level salaries.

Startup/Small Business Recruitment

Since my years at BlackBerry I have worked at a number of smaller companies that can’t draw talent simply on their name alone. The challenges in the small companies were very different from BlackBerry. In those companies we would get very few applicants through our online system because we were competing with everyone else in town. To make matters worse, at one company I also had to compete internally with other managers for every developer brought through the door by the recruitment team. However, if you brought candidates in yourself, you didn’t have to share them! So I became my own recruiter.

Always be Recruiting

I have no openings right now, I don’t need to worry about it. Yes you do! You should always be networking! Build connections with people, you never know when your boss is going to tell you that you can hire and you don’t want to spend 6 months getting your pipeline full. Tech companies move so quickly that by the time you get your pipeline full your opening might be canceled. (I learned this the hard way). If you keep your pipeline full you can reach out to people who might be interested in a new opportunity as soon as you are given the go ahead to hire.

How do I keep my pipeline full?

Networking is key. If you are a hiring manager you should be networking all the time, even when you don’t have open positions. Building relationships with people will help you in all aspects of your career, but they are very important for finding top new talent.

Create a buzz about your company online. Whether you are hiring or not, it is important to show that you work for an awesome company by sharing the successes on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. When your team does fun things tweet about them and include the company twitter handle. Make sure the marketing department knows you're going to do it so they can retweet it too.

Where do I network?

If your community has peer 2 peer groups or Hackernest meet ups then start going to them. Do not try and recruit people directly at these events (unless they are looking for a job), get to know them, build a relationship with them. If neither of these are present in your community search online and find out about tech events that are happening in your community and start attending them. Look for events that developers would go to, not the events that founders, and management go to. Too busy to go to a lot of networking events? Then check out my article on how to build your network in your pjs!

How to Build a Network In Your PJs

Not sure how to network or feel like you don’t know how? Check Cressa Price’s great story on how she found her own way to make networking work for her.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Network Events

My boss told me to hire 4(or 10, or 30) new people now what?!

Even if you have a full pipeline this isn’t going to be easy. It may take you a few months to fill that many positions.

Make sure you have clearly defined the roles you want to fill, write up job descriptions, and create job postings. This will help you both in getting applicants that match what you want, but also helps you clarify the skills you need. I highly recommend reading Johanna Rothman’s book “Hiring Geeks that Fit”. Her book steps you through how to write up effective job descriptions and includes many other great hiring tips.

Hiring Geeks That Fit

Once you have your job postings up, start sharing them all over social media! That includes LinkedIN, Twitter, and Facebook. Then ask your current employees to share those postings as well. You want to hit your network and their networks.

Start reaching out to the people in your pipeline. Find out if any of your connections are interested in the opening. If they are not ask them if they know anyone interested in the role you have available. People like to help each other out and I have had many great candidates referred to me through friends.

I recommend getting LinkedIn Premium as this will also let you reach out to people who are 2nd and 3rd connections without asking for a connection. This can be a lot of work, but I have had some success with this method. I typically reach out with a personalized message about the job asking for a quick phone call. In that call I try to determine if the person is a good fit while also selling the company and the position.

Don’t forget about diversity!

Limiting your talent pool to one type of person will make it harder to fill all the positions you have. It has also been shown that adding diversity to your workforce will help your company perform better.

Why diversity matters

To find diverse candidates you may need to look for talent in new ways. Check out my article on How To Change the Tech Gender Ratio for tips on how to find more female candidates.

How to Change the Tech Gender Ratio

What tips or tricks do you have in finding and hiring top talent?

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