Technical recruiting

Technical recruiting

The ultimate guide for modern companies and candidates

May 6, 2022
21
 Min Read

Why we created this technical recruiting guide

Wherever you look, industries from B2B consulting to dentistry are reinventing or reimagining business with technology. More specifically, companies are thinking critically about how they bring more of what they do into digital spaces to meet consumer expectations and new technological norms.

As a result, not only are technical professionals like engineers and software developers in high demand, but technical recruiting as a hiring need and a profession is also on the rise. 

But a wealth of opportunity is almost always followed closely by its own unique set of challenges. In the field of tech recruiting, specifically:

  • Many organizations are struggling to determine whether their tech hiring needs demand a full-time, in-house tech recruiter or if another solution is a better fit.
  • Recruiters at all phases of their career may be looking to niche into tech recruitment as a new and exciting growth path. But is it the right move?

If either of these scenarios resonates with you, you are in the right place. 

For companies with technical hiring needs, we’ll talk you through determining if a full-time technical recruitment resource is the right move for you. And if you’re considering technical recruiting as a career path, this article will empower you with the self-evaluation tools you need to make the best decision.

Part I. The importance of technical recruiting for modern companies

If you’re considering bringing technical recruiting expertise (either in a single individual or even a team) in-house, you have a unique set of challenges in front of you:

  • You have a business you need to drive forward, but you currently lack the technical expertise to build what you need on pace. You might have engineers and others in-house who, in theory, could take on those tasks, but they’ve already got a full workload.
  • You may have tried to recruit for these technical roles on your own, just as for other positions, but you’ve struggled to make progress in getting them filled for your company. They’re challenging roles to fill, often with far lower response rates than you may see with other positions.

On top of that, today’s job market isn’t making your talent searches any easier. 

While we commonly lean on the term “The Great Resignation” to describe the record levels of attrition seen across all industries, a macro narrative thread that is sometimes lost is one of the core reasons we are seeing such a high degree of churn. Now, more than ever before, people are more thoughtful and intentional about the work that brings joy and meaning into their lives as they consider what their next step should be in their careers.

The tech talent market is also not as talent-rich as you might think

At a surface level, the current conversation in today’s post-pandemic job market is that, with so much attrition, there are plenty of candidates for companies to evaluate for the roles they need to fill. While this is true in a broad sense, the story for those looking to hire for technical roles, in particular, is quite different.

Yes, recent data shows that there has been a meaningful increase in the number of job postings for technical roles. If we dig deeper into these numbers, this rise is despite Fortune 500 companies scaling back their technical recruiting. The increase in demand for tech talent comes from startup, public, unicorn, and other companies ranging between 28% and 49% across those categories, reaffirming the narrative that more and more companies are becoming “technology companies.” 

👉 Related: How to attract and recruit top tech talent in 2022 and beyond

However, that same research also points to a trend you need to be aware of as you consider your technical recruiting options. In 2021, although the number of tech jobs posted increased by 81%, the number of applications submitted for those jobs decreased by 25%.

In short, more companies than ever before need technical talent, and the pool of technical candidates you can draw from has contracted significantly in recent years.

Why do technical roles need their own recruiting solution?

If your company is relatively new to hiring in-house tech talent (at scale or otherwise), you may be wondering why you should look to a recruiting specialist (in-house or outsourced) that has a niche focus on technical roles rather than a recruiting generalist with a broad focus. 

  • Why do technical roles require their own type of recruiters? 
  • Aren’t general recruiters adept at hiring for all different types of roles across a wide variety of disciplines, such as marketing, legal, sales, graphic designers, website specialists, and more?

Those are valid questions. Recruiters who fall into the more “standard” or “generalist” category of recruiting are immensely talented. By suggesting you seek out a recruitment agency with a technical specialty or an in-house technical recruiter for your company is by no means a denigration on our part of the all-star recruiters out there who don’t focus on technical roles. 

We see you out there, recruiters of all stripes – fighting the good fight in a wild job market! Keep crushing it! 

Think of hiring a technical recruiter like hiring a lawyer with a specialty. A lawyer specializing in contracts and a lawyer specializing in tax law can be equally talented. However, if you’re looking for help with contracts, you’ll likely want to go with a lawyer who focuses in that space. 

With that out of the way, let’s dig into the two main reasons tech recruiters (in-house or outsourced) are the edge you need when hiring tech talent.

1. The tech talent market is a challenging one

If you’re new to hiring technical talent, what you may find interesting is that hiring technical talent wasn’t easy before the pandemic either

For example, your company could have had the branding, benefits packages, and recruitment strategies to bring in candidates for other incredible roles. But those approaches may have demonstrated little (if any) effectiveness for your technical positions. 

Due to the reasons we’ve already covered in this chapter, your road to hiring the tech talent you need is more challenging than ever. That means you need to put a more concerted effort around outreach to pull suitable technical candidates into your pipeline.

Before the pandemic, it was already hard enough to score highly qualified engineers for your role; that’s even more true today.

2. Technical recruitment requires more technical understanding

If you’re looking to bring in the technical talent you need, you need a recruiting partner who can speak the language of the people you’re trying to hire–coding, technical stacks, the understanding of different types of engineer preferences, and so on. They also need to know where to look for tech talent, as well as how to get creative in sourcing tech candidates who are not always easy to find.

Unless your recruiter either natively understands those things through commensurate experience or consciously chooses to immerse themselves in the language of these technical roles, they will likely struggle (if they aren’t already) to fill those seats for you. 

With this foundational understanding of the need for technical-specific recruitment expertise at your disposal, it’s time to dig into the real issue … 

Part II. Outsourcing technical recruiting vs. hiring an in-house technical recruiter

So, you’re a company with big aspirations of hiring a dream team (large or small) of technical wizards. It’s time to address the elephant in the room.

Generally speaking, there are two “flavors” of technical recruiting help you could consider:

  • Working with a third-party technical recruiting solution, like an individual headhunter or a recruiting agency with technical hiring experience, such as Hired.com or Triplebyte.
  • Hiring an in-house technical recruiter for your company, in addition to technical roles you need to fill.

Depending on how ambitious or urgent your hiring needs may be, the second option may sound very attractive. Or it may sound like a waste of time and money—a distracting “side quest” that will only derail your actual hiring needs.

Whatever your initial thinking, this is a choice you need to make. So, which is the right one for you? Here’s some guidance on making the right decision.

Let’s assume your technical hiring needs are indeed acute and mission-critical to your company’s short- and long-term success. How you solve for the deficit you have in recruiting that essential tech talent depends entirely on your answers to the following two questions:

  • Do you have long-term plans to scale your team from a tech talent perspective?
  • Do you have a clear picture of what you need to build from an engineering perspective in the next two years?

You’re trying to determine if you will have the volume and consistency of empty roles to necessitate the creation of an additional one. 

If your long-term plans include scaling your in-house technical resources, you should consider hiring a technical recruiter. If not immediately, sometime soon.

On the other hand, if your need for technical hiring only has a six-month shelf-life (or if you don’t know where you’ll be in six months), you should not be looking to hire a full-time tech recruiter. Once they’ve staffed up your tech team, you may find yourself paying the salary of a full-time recruiter with nothing to do.

Different types of outsourced technical recruiting solutions

If you choose against hiring your own technical recruiter, you need to decide on a type of outsourced technical recruiting solution:

  • A traditional recruiting agency with technical hiring experience
  • An individual technical recruiter or headhunter
  • A talent recruitment technology platform

Before you consider your options, you need to assess where in your hiring process you need help. If you’re strategic in evaluating what parts of the hiring process need to be optimized or handled by someone else, the right third-party recruiting partner may be able to help you fill the short-term technical roles you need.

For example, you could still work internally with your current engineering team (if you have one) to figure out how to most effectively sell the position you’re looking to fill. You could also collaborate with your marketing department on how to translate that into powerful recruitment messaging and job descriptions

Whatever the mix may be of what you still keep in-house from a hiring perspective, this is what you want to think about first before you seek an outsourced recruitment solution. Understanding what you will maintain control of will tell you, for instance, whether you need more of a talent recruitment platform for teams (like WhoCo) or a more traditional recruitment agency.

👉 Related: How to write better job descriptions

Technical recruiting agency and headhunter considerations

Of course, you need to consider a few parameters with the third-party approach to technical recruitment–more specifically, when we’re talking about agencies and headhunters. 

1. Their network

Your success will depend on the network of the individual headhunter or recruiting agency you choose. The depth will vary depending on several factors, including location, experience, etc. In addition to the types of roles they specialize in (fingers crossed, technical!), they may also excel in particular fields–e.g., ad technology, B2C eCommerce, healthcare. 

Depending on your industry, you may find an outsourced recruiting resource with technical recruiting expertise in your specific space and the network to back it up, which can be powerful. But that’s not always easy to come by.

2. Their cost

The initial appeal of outsourcing is that you don’t have to increase your team’s headcount–meaning you don’t have to spend money on the salary, benefits, and other needs of a new, full-time employee. But the cost of an outsourced recruiting agency or headhunter can be remarkably steep: 25% to 33% (on average) of a position’s annual base salary.

Moreover, agencies are not in the business of making you self-sufficient when it comes to your hiring practices and processes. Be mindful of thisf you think your technical recruiting needs will continue. You could spend more to be part of an agency’s portfolio of many (depending on how many positions you have them fill). Hiring your own dedicated in-house technical recruiter could be a more cost-effective investment.

3. Their technology 

At WhoCo, we firmly believe technology can never replace the need for human recruiters. But having the right technology in place is essential for modern recruitment strategies, especially when it comes to hiring tech talent, given how challenging it is.

Unfortunately, as WhoCo CEO and co-founder Amit Kapur recently shared, the recruiting industry, on the whole, hasn’t done a great job of leveraging technology the way we should:

“In this moment, across the entire recruiting spectrum – companies with open seats, recruiters tirelessly trying to fill positions, candidates making choices about their future – there is a lot of pain and dysfunction … Recruiting is failing because we have abstained from embracing technology and data in a meaningful way to make recruiting smarter and less of the inefficient, painful, messy process that it is today.”

Although not true in every instance, you’re more likely to run into agencies and independent headhunters that are more archaic and traditional than progressive when it comes to technology. Given the “battlefield-like” nature of today’s tech talent-hiring landscape, you need every competitive advantage, so this is something to keep in mind.

What about recruiting and talent management platforms?

I mentioned a third outsourced recruiting option earlier in this chapter, and that is technology. Although the recruiting industry overall has struggled to embrace technology in the way other sectors have, you can supplement and scale your in-house recruiting resources with recruiting software solutions.

For instance, similar to how marketing automation solutions (e.g., HubSpot) have empowered marketing professionals and teams to work more efficiently, solutions exist that can help you do the same with recruiting, technical or otherwise. 

Of course, recruitment platforms built solely to help you automate recruitment tasks and workflows share the same drawback as HubSpot for marketing professionals or Salesforce CRM for sales. Pure automation is only as smart as the underlying, people-built strategy behind it. 

As WhoCo CEO and co-founder Amit Kapur also noted:

“We also can’t look to most of the recruiting automation platforms on the market to address the innovative shortcomings of our space. For the most part, all they do is “address inefficiencies,” enabling companies to run through (bad) recruiting practices faster, so companies are able to hire (poorly) at scale. They do nothing to empower smarter decision-making at a strategic level, and very few have begun to scratch the surface of what AI and machine learning can do to augment the invaluable expertise of the human recruiter.”

This shortcoming motivates WhoCo (and other solutions) to move the industry beyond one-dimensional automation from a technology standpoint. Our mission is to help companies build teams that move the world forward. And the way we do that runs deep, leveraging data across every step of our recruiting platform.

This conversation around technology isn’t technical recruiting-specific, as you can see. However, if you’re considering technology to help you fill technical seats, you need to be aware of these considerations as you vet possible platforms.

Part III. Hiring an in-house technical recruiter for your company

OK, let’s say you’ve gotten this far and you’ve made the following determinations:

  • “My company has acute technical recruiting needs, and our two-year roadmap indicates those needs will continue.”
  • “We want to have full ownership of our technical recruiting processes and strategies in-house, rather than looking to an agency or headhunter for support.”

That’s great! Hiring an in-house technical recruiter is the right move for many companies.

But where do you find great technical recruiting talent? It’s an emerging recruiting niche with a healthy candidate pool, but finding the right technical recruiter for you will require a little elbow grease and (potentially) out-of-the-box thinking.

Where can you find great technical recruiters?

Honestly, I could be lazy here and answer, “Duh, LinkedIn! Next question!” While that’s true, LinkedIn is a powerful platform for finding technical recruiters (or talent of any kind). Let’s arm you with a little more direction than that.

Whether you’re firing up LinkedIn, researching elsewhere online, or even simply putting out soft inquiries into your network, there are a few strategic options while searching for the technical recruiter you need.

👉 Related: How to find a technical recruiter on LinkedIn in 2022

First, look at other companies like yours. For example, if you’re a tech company in a specific industry, look at the technical recruiting talent at high-growth companies similar to yours. Like millions of other professionals right now, they may not be happy where they are, or they may be open to learning about a new opportunity. 

Second, you can look at recruiters coming out of talent agencies with a technical recruiting specialty. One note here is that agencies vary significantly in their quality and training. To vet potential candidates from agencies, ask about their client lists and specific experiences they’ve had personally with filling technical positions that mirror, as much as possible, your current circumstances. 

Third, you may want to think about someone who hasn’t been a technical recruiter before. 

How much technical recruiting experience does a technical recruiter need?

Finding a candidate who possesses direct experience in a specific role is always a big plus whenever you’re hiring. The same holds for technical recruiting; it’s more comforting to find someone who has held the title of technical recruiter specifically before.

Here’s the thing you need to know, though. Technical recruiting is a niche of recruiting, but with the right collective experiences and native skillsets, it is a niche role someone can step into from a different job. 

There are the basic skills of great written and verbal communication, as well as emotional intelligence, curiosity, resilience, time management, and empathy, of course. Those are important no matter what type of recruiting role you’re looking to fill. 

But great technical recruiters-to-be, in particular, excel with their communication. More specifically, they can communicate with people with wildly different communication styles and excite people who aren’t easily excitable. They also are interested in technology and have a hunger to learn more about it. This is important because you can always teach the specifics of your industry and solutions. 

Choosing someone a bit more green as a technical recruiter may not make sense for you. If you recently raised a bunch of funding and have to hire 12 engineers tomorrow, an experienced technical recruiter may be what you need. 

But, in many cases, this may be a great option for you. If your technology isn’t so highly specialized, training someone who possesses the raw talent and interest in being a technical recruiter could be the right solution.

(Pro tip: If you’re looking at a candidate with more general recruiting experience, take the time to understand the different companies they have worked for, as well as how they specifically went about hiring for different roles. Don’t rush the hiring process. Take the time to make the right choice.)

Recruiting software can still help your in-house efforts

Yes, we introduced the idea of third-party recruitment software and talent technology in the section about outsourcing your technical hiring. Sthese solutions also have applications for companies who choose to go the in-house route for recruiting. 

Data-driven, machine learning-based recruiting technology can empower your in-house recruiting teams to make their hiring processes smarter and more efficient. But which solution is the right choice for you is only a determination you can make, so do the work to understand your technology needs when it comes to hiring. 

Part IV. Technical recruiting as an exciting potential career path

OK, candidates! We’ve spent a ton of time talking to companies looking to fill technical roles. It’s your turn. 

Technical recruiters are in high demand right now, and no wonder. As more companies become technology companies, there is an increased need for people who know how to hire top-tier tech talent. Additionally, companies are struggling to fill technical seats because the pool of candidates has contracted in recent years, even though demand has ticked up significantly.

Every day, we see these numbers play out in real-world conversations we have at WhoCo with VCs. Their portfolio companies have technical hiring needs (often engineers), and they struggle to get the talent they need in the door. The problem for them has always been there, but it’s only gotten worse in recent years.

As a direct result of this evolution in the tech job market, technical recruiters have a lot of earning potential because of their increased value. But earning potential alone isn’t enough reason to pursue technical recruiting as a career.

Whether you’re at the start of your recruitment career and considering tech as your area of expertise, or you’re established in your career and looking to pivot into this specific niche, you likely are wrestling with the same question:

Is technical recruiting the right field for you?

Of course, the answer will be depend highly on you. So while we can’t tell you definitively yes or no for your unique situation, we can share a few questions that can potentially help you determine what’s the right move for you:

  • How and where do you find yourself really engaged in your work? (This is a great question to ask whenever anyone thinks about their career. Ever.)
  • What kind of experience do you already have in recruiting, and is there any overlap to the specific area of tech recruiting?
  • Are you interested in technology and do you geek out over new tech?
  • Are you able to communicate effectively with people who have different communication styles and postures?
  • Do you naturally have the ability to excite people who may not be naturally excitable or high energy?

Your goal in asking these questions, no matter who you are, is to understand if you have the raw skill sets and the genuine affinity for technology you need to find fulfillment as a technical recruiter. Your salary potential could increase by specializing, but you should only go for it if it aligns with your skills and interests.

Part V. In-house vs. agency for technical recruiters

If you get through those questions and conclude that, yes, tech recruiting is something you seriously want to consider for yourself, you have a big choice in front of you. Do you want to work in-house at a company as a dedicated tech recruiter, or do you want to work externally at an agency that supports brands with their tech recruitment needs? 

As you can likely imagine, there are pros and cons for each option that you will need to weigh to make the best decision for you.

Pros and cons of working as an in-house technical recruiter

One benefit of working in-house is joining a team building something together and focusing on one company instead of many, like in an agency environment. In an in-house role, you’ll be able to see the direct impact of your work as you bring people in to build out teams.

Additionally, working in-house as a recruiter may open you to different career paths for yourself. If you’re an in-house technical recruiter for a startup, you may have the privilege of building an entire department from scratch, or you could grow into a completely different role outside of hiring. 

The downside (for some) is that you’re only gaining experience in one industry or with one company instead of the breadth of experience you can accumulate in a more condensed timeframe at an agency. 

Pros and cons of working as an agency technical recruiter

Cutting your teeth as a technical recruiter in an agency setting can be incredibly valuable. Why? The high-level perspectives you gain in the technical recruiting market can’t be found anywhere else. Because of the diversity of companies you’re working with, you’ll amass a wealth of knowledge around trends, what works, what doesn’t, and more. 

In fact, that’s why many strong recruiters you now find in-house have an agency background. Whether you choose to stay in the agency world forever is up to you. But the right agency can be a fantastic strategy for getting boots-on-the-ground experience that makes you highly marketable to many different companies for in-house technical recruiting roles. 

The downside with agencies is that they are not all equal when it comes to quality and training. If you choose this route, come to your interviews with your own questions prepared in advance in those areas. The quality of an agency will be so critical to your long-term happiness and success there, so do your homework before you say yes.

Look at recruiting technology and software companies

When thinking about in-house vs. agency for a recruiting career, one option often gets overlooked. Recruiting technology and software companies have their own technical recruiting needs.

Heck, look at me. I’m a career recruiting professional working in-house here at WhoCo, a data-driven recruiting platform for high-growth companies and candidates, and I love it. I get to do what I love in a company obsessed with improving our industry overall. 

Technical recruiting isn’t going anywhere

We’ve shared a lot of data and trends in this guide that, at least in part, can be categorized as a direct result of recent global events (i.e., the pandemic) and shifts in technology. Still, the technical recruiting conversation itself isn’t a passing fad or something that will diminish over time, no matter what side of the discussion you’re on, company or candidate. 

In business (and society on the whole), we are becoming more technology-centric in almost every aspect of our lives. That’s why we’re seeing the demand for tech talent rise out of a diverse range of companies and industries rather than from the Fortune 500 giants that mostly “owned” the need for technical professionals in years past.

Whether you’re wrestling with tech recruiting questions for your company or your career path, be mindful that whatever answers you determine for yourself today, tech recruiting is a conversation that will increase with time rather than fade.

If your organization determines that you don’t need a tech recruiter on staff right now, you may need one a year or two from now as your needs shift along with changes in your industry. And if tech recruiting isn’t the right fit for you right now (or ever), it is a dynamic field that will only continue to grow and gain dimension. 

Yes, job markets will continue to rise and fall, with the perceived “power” shifting back and forth between companies and candidates. Tech recruiting, however, will not follow that same path; it’s here to stay.

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