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Hiring Tips & Insights: Top sourcing strategies to find developer talent in uncertain times
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Top sourcing strategies to find developer talent in uncertain times

22 September 2023, by Alexandra Hanson

It’s a tough tech hiring market right now — the industry has seen a cooldown from its historic highs in 2021. In addition, AI disruption has arrived in full force, and the fast-changing nature of the hiring market has made it challenging to secure high-quality developer talent. To find the best developer talent, hiring teams need to adapt their sourcing strategies in this uncertain climate. But how?

This was the central theme of one of our recent Untold Stories webinars, where Anthea Hartzenberg, Head of Engagement at OfferZen, spoke with Vanessa Raath, a renowned Global Talent Sourcing Trainer. They unpacked how talent teams can stay agile and creative, despite a shifting marketplace.

Top sourcing strategies to find developer talent in uncertain times

Tips to adapt your developer sourcing strategies

Vanessa trains talent teams from all over the world on how to find candidates more efficiently and effectively than their competitors. During the discussion, she offered practical advice on how to unlock top talent in the current tech hiring climate. Here is what she suggests:

Adopt a moderate hiring strategy

With the gloomy short-term global economic outlook, recruitment teams need to pivot to a moderate hiring strategy. Many teams are now prioritising capital-efficient growth instead of growth at all costs, as we saw at the peak of the hiring parket in 2021.

Recent layoffs have shaken up the tech sector, especially in the North American market. “The US sneezes, and the rest of the world gets a cold”, Vanessa said, issuing a warning to HR teams to hire mindfully.

Talent retention remains crucial as everyone rides out the storm. She encouraged teams to look further than the low-hanging fruit of retrenchments, suggesting alternatives like a four-day week, or temporarily cutting pay. Market swings are normal, and you don’t want to have lost your best talent when things turn again down the line.

Connect with your shortlisted candidates

Talent acquisition teams should be using the slower hiring period to reconnect with their “silver and bronze medalists” which Vanessa terms candidates who have placed second or third in previous recruitment drives. Aside from signalling to these candidates that the company has an investment in their potential, it ensures that these talented individuals stay on the radar for later.

The simple act of checking in with silver and bronze medalists candidates sets your recruitment team apart from a majority of your competitors.

Vanessa suggested a coffee with them to talk to them about where they are, speaking freely about the market limitations and asking them how you can assist them in the long term.

Training and upskilling with a long-term view

For Vanessa, there is an indirect way to recruit top talent with a view towards the big picture. Times of uncertainty are a good moment for hiring teams to go through additional training and upskilling to tackle the challenges presented.

That’s not to say the company has to invest excessively in this, although that would be first prize. She suggests that HR professionals take up the process on their own. There are numerous ways to learn and improve skills, even just by finding free courses and videos online.

Setting an intention of professional development during a period when hiring slows down creates a solid foundation for when things pick up again, making it easier to find and land the best talent in the market using your newly acquired skills.

Understanding the nuances of engaging with tech talent

The changing hiring climate makes it even more important for companies to find the best tech talent when a new position has to be filled. When budgets are tighter than usual, it’s important to get the nuances of engaging with tech talent right. Vanessa suggested that hiring managers focus on the following:

Negotiate effectively according to the new climate

Negotiation is an important part of any hiring process. Effective negotiation is a core nuance of getting a positive outcome from both sides of the table.

Talk to candidates about their needs, to strike a balance between yours and theirs within the confines of the current economic climate. Find out what quality of life the candidate is after, especially in times where inflated developer salaries are less common than the height of the pandemic. Make this part of your offer if high salary packages are out of reach right now.

Reprioritise employer branding

For Vanessa, employer branding during the recruitment process is crucial as talent teams are brand ambassadors for the organisation, since they are often the first point of contact with candidates.

“Very few teams or companies in South Africa realise the importance of the brand and how they are positioning themselves at the moment”, Vanessa said, calling this a big mistake. Prioritising employer branding should also stretch beyond your talent acquisition teams, and be part of your company’s broader marketing strategy.

“Marketing is not just there to bring on customers, but also to attract people who want to work with that organisation.”

Engaging effectively with talent requires a deep dive into how attractive the company looks from a brand perspective. Even though the hiring market has slowed down, demand for excellent tech talent still outstrips supply. Anthea called employer branding “an easy win” in a sector where talent can be quite precious.

For example, if showcasing a diverse company is part of your employer brand, you should put effort into gathering real stories and video content from people who work there to showcase what it’s like to work for your organisation.

How to identify great developer talent in a shifting marketplace

When things are changing day-to-day, it can be challenging to continue to identify great talent using existing systems and methods. Vanessa offered the following advice on how to consistently identify great talent in a fast-changing marketplace:

  • Look in the right places. Linkedin and local job boards are not the holy grail. Hiring teams can’t bank on everyone in the world having a profile, or that the right people are going to accept (or even see) connection requests. Avoid putting all your eggs in one basket by also using tech-focused platforms to source developers, including GitHub. Read more practical tips here on what to include as part of your sourcing strategies.

  • Look beyond tertiary qualifications. These have long been a way for candidates to be filtered through the recruitment process. For Vanessa, far too many South African companies are still insistent on the candidate having a degree just to be considered. Don’t disqualify people with a degree equivalent, or even those with online courses under their belts. With less time pressure during slower hiring periods, there is more room to find talent beyond archaic disqualification methods.

  • Embrace AI training, because it’s here to stay. Vanessa thinks it’s senseless to ignore the potential of ChatGPT and related technologies. She suggested learning how to use the technology to handle standard admin processes as well as to train it to improve systems and create new ways of finding top talent. For example, you could save hours of time by utilising ChatGPT to do the following:

    • Write your role descriptions and adapt it for your specific context
    • Propose questions you could ask in interview
    • Conduct competitior research

Finding the best tech talent during turbulent times is no easy feat. That said, there are still numerous ways to land top talent, in a way that improves the ability of the hiring team to do so in future as well.

Market swings are perfectly normal, and riding the wave of uncertainty is a part of the process. Teams that are successful in adapting their strategies now will have the best vantage point as soon as things swing back around. They may even end up with better processes in place to outperform their competitors in the long run, too.

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