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Lessons in finding the right candidates for your role

10 July 2024 , by Nikki Smith

The tech hiring market has cooled considerably since 2021, but that hasn’t necessarily made it easy to fill open developer roles. In fact, with the influx of talent into the market and tighter budgets, hiring quality candidates has become even trickier.

To help hiring managers overcome this challenge, OfferZen’s VP of Product Stephen van der Heijden hosted a panel discussion with Henri Kotze (Product Manager), Gert Barnard (Account Manager) and Liba Mawala (Tech Talent Advisor) to unpack the common mistakes, wins and valuable lessons our team has learnt from helping companies and developers navigate the tech hiring market.

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Create a candidate-centric experience

The first step in attracting top talent is to understand what developers are looking for when searching for new roles. Liba noted that one of the key factors here is giving developers insight into the problems that they’ll be solving for your business.

“Something that comes out quite often is that candidates feel like they’ve hit a ceiling or they’re stagnating in their current role. They’re looking for new challenges and ways to take that next step in their career,” he said.

While their main concern is solving problems, Liba also pointed out that company culture – and how that culture plays out in practice – is another important factor that developers take into account when assessing job listings.

“Developers are motivated by solving engineering problems, but there’s still the desire for a good culture fit. Diversity and inclusivity are two of the most important company values; a lot of candidates are looking for a welcoming, supportive and innovative environment to join,” he added.

“Transparency in those company values, and how they’re actually implemented in everyday work life, is important too. It’s not enough to just see it on paper, candidates want to see how it works – even if it’s implicitly throughout the interview process or with interviewers explicitly articulating how those values are implemented within the company.”

Set up your team for hiring success

Measuring the success of your recruitment efforts can be tricky. Gert outlined some key metrics that OfferZen uses to measure tech teams’ hiring success:

  • Interview acceptance rate: How many candidates say yes or no to the offer of an interview?
  • Offer acceptance rate: How many of the candidates accept offers of employment?
  • Time to hire: How long it takes to go from initial contact all the way to signing the employment contract?

There are a variety of reasons why companies might not be performing optimally in terms of these statistics. Fortunately, there are a few simple strategies you can use to change this.

1. Be clear on what you’re looking for while staying flexible

Start with figuring out exactly what you want to achieve by hiring a new developer. You may have some specific needs that must be fulfilled and others that are more vague or flexible. Knowing what these are will help to give you a clearer picture of the type of candidate you’re after.

“Having a conversation around the core skill set is – for example being able to code C sharp or .net – and knowing what those key skills are when reaching out will set you up for success,” said Gert.

Henri agreed with this, adding that it’s not just about clearly defining what you need, but also having some flexibility around what you’re looking for.

“One of the most important things that we’ve learnt is that you really need to be super clear on which of your requirements are non-negotiables and which you’re willing to play around with a bit,” he explained.

“Depending on what’s available in the market, you’ll probably need to adjust what you’re looking for and adjust some of your needs. Essentially, you need to know which things are critical and which things aren’t.”

2. Write a strong, specific job description

Knowing which skills you need to take your team forward is critical, but you’ll also need to communicate your expectations clearly if you want to attract top talent.

“One of the key selling points for candidates using OfferZen is that they receive a clear job spec. Clearly outlined responsibilities, expectations and required skills are essential on those job specs,” said Liba.

Gert noted that this is where a deep understanding of the competencies a developer will need to succeed comes in handy. “Look at what your non-negotiables are. Outline what the two or three core skills that they need to do the job are and then build the job spec from there,” he said.

Liba added that this is also a great place to outline the learning and growth opportunities that your company offers. “If a company emphasises opportunities for career development and professional growth, those are usually the kinds of things that appeal to candidates when they’re reading a job spec,” he explained.

3. Front-load your hiring manager’s involvement

Tech team leads are busy, but it’s essential that they collaborate in the recruitment process. “It seems counterintuitive, but getting your hiring manager more involved – and earlier – will reduce your overall time to hire,” said Stephen.

“What I’ve seen that works quite well is when the hiring manager works quite closely with the recruiter,” Gert added. “Giving them a first look at the candidate’s profile and getting that initial screening from them helps a lot.”

The OfferZen team has also found that candidates are more likely to accept interviews and offers when the manager on whose team they’ll be working is the first to make contact with them.

“When hiring managers are engaging and personalising their communication with candidates, that goes a long way. Acknowledging any unique qualifications, interests or skills – essentially showing that you’ve interacted with their profile – that’s usually a really positive thing,” said Liba.

In this vein, Henri highlighted that interacting with candidate profiles on the OfferZen platform will help to widen your reach.

“When a hiring manager identifies a certain candidate’s profile as a potential good match, whether that’s by favouriting, reaching out or making a note, that’s a signal of intent that we can use to identify which types of candidates you’re looking for. Then we can recommend you more, similar candidates,” he explained.

3 top recruitment tips from the OfferZen team

There are loads of strategies to improve your hiring process for recruiting top-notch developers for your tech team. Here are three top tips from our team:

  • Engage actively: “Inaction is probably the biggest block for making a decision about the candidates that are available before having interviews with them. You’re not going to know what the market is like if you’re not actively engaging with it.” – Gert.
  • Focus on the candidate experience: “A good portion of candidates will treat the interview experience as a preview of things to come if they join the company. Communicate regularly, manage expectations and emphasise the ‘why’, and you’ll never go wrong.” – Liba.
  • Be open: “Start broad and then narrow down your requirements; don't jump in with the very specific, exact requirements because you might not find what you're looking for. Also consider using both proactive and reactive approaches when searching for candidates.” – Henri.

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