Jordan Thomas: Team Building in a Hot Market part 1

Jordan Thomas: Team Building in a Hot Market part 1

This text is written by Jordan Thomas – If you’d like to star as a guest writer on the Talented blog, let us know at hello@talented.fi

Technical team building

Does this sound familiar?

The sales pipeline is healthy. Revenues are growing. Morale is high. On the flip side, our digital initiatives can’t keep up with requirements because we can’t build new teams fast enough. We can see that our experienced developers are under constant approach from competitors. Our growth is being constrained because we simply can’t find the “right” people.

If this sounds familiar you’re not alone. Ask anyone involved with technical team building and they will all say the same – “Good developers are hard to find”. EVERY company experiences this to some degree. Having done a stint of heavy technology recruiting for one of Finland’s top digital consultancies I can say that even the most desirable places to work face strong competition. Some just face more than others.

When I started getting involved in technical team building I thought it would be as simple as placing a few ads on LinkedIn and Facebook and waiting for all the applications to start rolling in. Unless you’re hiring at Google or Facebook, this probably won’t be the case. In fact, I quickly found that on its own this strategy was not particularly effective. What on earth was going on? Where were all the good developers? Aren’t they looking for work?

recruiting

As I started to learn more I quickly found out that the undersupply of good developers on the market is real. Good developers often start an internship whilst at university and then go on to work at the company they intern at. They stay with the company for a number of years after which they get their next job through contacts, by starting a startup or following their boss/teammates to the next company. During this time, they never touch a job board. Obviously, this is a generalisation but I think it does have a ring of truth to it.

Back to basics

Before going further, I think it’s worth thinking about what team building really is. At the heart of it, recruitment is another form of sales where you are trying to sell your company to the very best candidates you can find. Distilling it down we can simplify the recruitment process into three key components:

  1. Sourcing new candidates.
  2. Screening suitable candidates.
  3. Selling the company to candidates.

As a team builder, your methods and strategy will be built around each of these three components whilst keeping in mind what works for one company may not work for another. It is important that you are creating an integrated, well thought out strategy that works around your company culture.

Sourcing new candidates

This is probably the most difficult part of the process. In what can be classed as a hyper-competitive market sourcing suitable new candidates is challenging. Software Development is the most in-demand profession in the world at this point in time. Finland has a huge shortage and the situation is not improving. Good developers know (rightly or wrongly) they can afford to be choosy so don’t be surprised when the good people you do find tell you they are already interviewing elsewhere if they don’t already have offers on the table. The market is hot and many developers you contacted are already fed up with being approached by both headhunters and companies alike. It’s not quite the pre 2001 tech bubble but it’s not far off it.

developer recruitment

There are a number of strategies that you can employ. How you slice and dice them is up to what works best for your company. Be aware that often it comes down to the people executing the ideas which determines the success of each idea. Very briefly, some of these could include:

  • Scatter Gun: Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), job boards, company website, etc. A mostly untargeted approach which will require a good candidate screening process. I feel somewhat disillusioned with this approach because although it’s easy to advertise in this way, it’s also just as easy to apply. There are too many unsuitable CVs coming through leading to a lot of wasted time weeding out the good from not so good.
  • Get ‘em whilst their young: Hiring young developers straight from university either before or after graduation. This may even be via an internship after which they move on to becoming full time employees. This requires more investment, more support (you need some good senior developers to mentor) and you will lose many along the way but nearly everyone needs to apply for their first job. As a consolation, young developers cost less, are enthusiastic and learn quickly.
  • Community Interaction: Taking the company to the people through meetups, recruitment fairs and conference attendance. Present ideas, interact, target specific subject areas. Talk to people, get out there, get known.
  • Community building: In contrast to interacting with the community through other people’s events, this is about fostering developer interactions and branding through community building around the company. This is not easy and it requires its own strategy to execute effectively. In many ways, I reason that this simply comes down the people executing the strategy as some people are naturally better at connecting with people.
  • Hiring for potential: Experienced hires with an incomplete skillset match but who have the right attitude and complementary skills. I like this idea a lot.
  • Recommendations: Qualified leads based on recommendations from existing team members and other friends. Although this could be a good way to source new people it can also be fraught with danger. Think about it.
  • Agencies: Get help with hiring but choose your partners wisely. This could be an insourced arrangement or a candidate sourcing arrangement. What are you gaining and what are you losing?

It goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list but it does highlight that team builders need to get creative with how they approach their search. Moreover, no single strategy will work effectively in isolation. It’s hard work that requires real focus, dedication and creativity to make the connections and build the brand.

Agencies

Good recruitment agencies can be indispensable but be mindful of the approach they use. Having dealt with many traditional volume-based recruitment agencies I felt that they would not be able to deliver the quality I was after. I know that many agencies run their candidate pool as a meat market where keywords rule and candidate insights hardly feature. This is not compatible with the “get shit done”, open-minded, progressive attitudes that are so important in high performing teams. Too many people are missed and often the keyword junkies are the candidates who are presented. When an agency is the first candidate contact with your company you want that experience to be a good one. It helps sets the stage for what’s to come so it’s worth considering any recruitment partners carefully.

 

Technical team building is such a wide topic, so let’s take a break and continue with screening suitable candidates and selling the company to them in the second part.

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