Main image of article Tech Recruiting Guide 2016: Modern Fundamentals

Whether you’ve been recruiting tech talent for a week or a decade, applying new tools and approaches to traditional, proven techniques will make you more successful in today’s highly competitive environment. “Yes, there’s pressure to make quality placements and new recruiters have to get up to speed quickly,” acknowledged Jay Powell, senior managing partner of Recruiting Factors. “But the recruiters who make an effort to talk to people, and present the right opportunity at the right time, are absolutely killing it.” Simply put, some recruiters are thriving in tight labor markets because they execute the basics better than others. Here are the modern essentials of tech recruiting success: 

Acquire Foundational Knowledge

As Kate Matsudaira pointed out in a previous Dice hiring guide, recruiters need to understand technical acronyms and jargon to decipher a job description and match opportunities with qualified candidates. While her advice still holds true, recruiters face increased pressure to make placements right away. Fortunately, even newbies can acquire enough knowledge to have intelligent conversations with tech managers and potential candidates within a few weeks, noted Rich Erb, recruiting team lead for the Solutions Division at Analysts International Corporation (AIC). What’s the secret? Implementing a sequential or stepped approach to learning. “Start small,” Powell said. “Focus on the simplest roles in a technical specialty or niche, get on the phones, score some quick wins and build your confidence.” Trainees should study the OSI model first, then the roles they’re trying to fill, and finally, the related software programs and tools. “The OSI model provides a functional foundation,” Powell said. “Understanding the basic framework of a network and how data flows through the layers helps you figure out various job requirements and the related technology.” Build your technical acumen on the job by asking the right questions and paying attention to the answers provided by competent tech pros during screening calls and interviews. For instance, Erb will ask a developer what they’re doing with C# and .NET, just to see if they know the differences between the programming language and framework. He can assess a tech pro’s competence and positional fit, all while expanding his own tech knowledge, by listening to their responses. (Need help deciphering complex technical requisitions? The Dice Skills Center offers at-a-glance access to information on hundreds of tech skills from ACF2 to z/OS.)

Reign in Unrealistic Job Requirements

Job descriptions used to be a valuable tool for sourcing candidates, but that’s no longer the case. To succeed, recruiters must turn long lists of technical skills based on unrealistic wish lists into useful specifications. “You can’t have an intelligent conversation with a candidate until you ascertain the top three must-have skills and how tech pros will use technology to carry out their daily responsibilities,” noted Mike Daly, Staffmark’s director of staffing over Southern California. Qualifying the requirements up-front offers other benefits as well, according to Jeff Todd, executive recruiting leader at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “You need to be an expert and consultant to build rapport and trust with hiring managers,” Todd explained. “Refining the requirements gives you the opportunity to establish reasonable expectations and educate the hiring manager on things that impact a search such as labor market conditions, hiring processes and diversity initiatives.” Developing strong partnerships with hiring managers is the way to go, according to Yahoo vice president and hiring manager Eric Stromberg: “There’s a two-way service level agreement and both sides are held accountable. That means you’re working WITH your hiring managers, not just for your hiring managers.”

Conduct Cogent, Personalized Outreach

Taking the path of least resistance when it comes to candidate outreach is one of the biggest mistakes committed by newbies and experienced recruiters alike. They send out cold, generic e-mails and write off anyone who doesn’t respond. Let’s face it: recruiting is still a people-intensive business. Top recruiters blend modern resources with tried and true methods. Think of social media as an intelligent Rolodex. Leverage online information to create a personalized introduction that connects your opportunity to the prospect’s location, industry, technical interests or hobbies. But don’t stop there: have coffee or chat via Skype to determine his or her interests and goals. Then make your ATS your ally by documenting and referencing previous conversations each time you reach out. “Employment provides a sense of purpose and the ability to provide for one’s family,” Daly noted. “Your passion for people and desire to help them comes across in the way you communicate.”

Build Your Network

Instead of trying to guess when a candidate is ready to move, Todd tries to stay ahead of the curve. For instance, he schedules meetings with conference attendees months in advance to discuss their career goals before adding them to his pipeline. He finds that tech pros are more likely to refer their colleagues and build relationships once they meet you in person. He also uses targeted sourcing to fill specific roles. For instance, he taps veteran groups and UC Berkeley students to fill help desk positions. Erb, on the other hand, uses niche job boards in different ways. He no longer expects to fill open positions immediately; instead, he builds relationships with the candidates he finds on Dice and helps them find their next job in a year or two. Smart recruiters are using talent networks and strategic messaging to stay in touch with the qualified candidates in their pipelines, Powell added. They present job opportunities based on a candidate’s interests, skillsets, occupation and geographic area. Most importantly, they don’t rely on email or social media to stay top-of-mind with passive candidates; they pick up the phone. “Anyone can go out on the Internet and find people,” Todd said. “The difference between success and failure is the ability to interact with people and converse with them on their level.”