How to Hire Software Development Talent in a Boom Economy — Part Two: Identifying and Engaging Top Tier Developers

How to Hire Software Development Talent in a Boom Economy — Part Two: Identifying and Engaging Top Tier Developers

This the second post in a two-part blog series on how to hire great tech talent… read Part One on Trusting the (Right) Process here.

So, your product team is growing and you need a new backend developer to fill a key role in your organization. You know what you need, but where do you start looking?

Well, the process of finding and hiring the elite few begins long before the interview itself. And an involved, systematic approach to properly identifying potentially qualified candidates is the key unlock. 

According to a recent report from CBRE, there are over six million highly skilled workers throughout North America comprising the tech talent pool that is leading global innovation. But the market demand for dev talent is outstripping supply at a dramatic rate. Organizations are having to expand the scope of their search efforts, looking high and low to uncover specialized talent that will help them grow.

You can have the best selection process in the world, but you need to have good candidates that are interested in joining your team. At Venor, 2019 was our busiest year in tech recruitment. Here’s some of our tips to the trade that will help you find that elusive top-tier dev talent.

Great People Know Great People

Without a doubt, the single best source of qualified candidates is personal networking. “Great people know great people” is a cliche that I throw around often, but it’s true. Study after study shows that professional and personal referrals dominate as the most productive source for recruitment, accounting for almost 1 in 4 hires.

Nothing trumps a meaningful relationship. Your chances of getting in front of someone and pitching them a job go up significantly when they know and trust you, whether you have directly worked with them before or know them through other avenues. Why the high rate of success? Because recommendations from real-life connections warm up the candidate, hence the phrase “warm introductions”. These soften the way for you by starting the relationship off on the right foot. 

“As a recruiter or hiring manager, focusing on communities/groups that developers are involved in and care about can pay huge dividends.” 

So take the time to get out to industry networking events, tech meetups. The initial legwork will pay off over time when you build a network through relationships. Employee advocacy programs, referral incentives and anything else you can do to tap into a trusted network of developer talent is the first place you need to start before commencing any search.

The Science of Sourcing 

Trusted referrals are #1. Sometimes though, we need to step outside our own personal/professional circles to find someone with a niche skillset or to diversify the talent pool. 

By trade, developers are tapped into technology and many have a well established online presence across various social media channels, Linkedin included. But that doesn’t mean you can be overly reliant on one source.

While Linkedin is a key recruiting tool, being involved in other online dev communities (Github, Stackoverflow, dev specific Slack groups) can dramatically increase your access to talent. These websites/apps also give you insight into the technical challenges/projects that developers have worked on and want to showcase. It’s a great way to identify who to reach out to. 

Despite all these great online resources, you still need to know your market. Incomplete profiles or unresponsive candidates who are inundated with messages from recruiters and hiring managers are the norms. Some developers even disable the ability to receive inmails or will go as far as removing their Linkedin profile altogether to avoid being spammed.  

The best recruiters can figure out a candidate’s tech stack, the nature of their work/projects, and how to contact them even if that info is not readily listed on their Linkedin or Github profile. This info is gleaned from triangulating information from multiple sources including first-hand conversations with industry peers and heavy research conducted over a sustained period of time. So be sure to put in the time to understand the market and your potential sources of talent so you can land that identify tough to find tech talent. 

Reaching Out the Right Way  

Once you’ve honed in on candidates with the right skills and abilities, it’s important to engage them in a way that will resonate. According to Glassdoor, ninety percent of global professionals are interested in hearing about new job opportunities, but as a recruiter or hiring manager, you will see nowhere near a 90 percent cold outreach response rate. And when you do reach out to top talent for new roles, it’s far more likely that the candidates you source will need persuading to become interested in your role. So how do you increase your odds here? 

Consider your first impressions. If your cold call gets a cold shoulder, you will have limited success convincing talented technical talent to join your team. Cold outreach results in a lower response rate than referrals as noted earlier in this post, but there’s still a number of tricks to the trade. 

Did you know that 44% of developers said they hate being contacted about new job opportunities over the phone? While it’s key to engage candidates in conversation regarding the role, your outreach methods should take these stats into consideration. The numbers show that email is generally preferred as a first touchpoint by candidates. 

Personalized outreach is key to grabbing these candidates’ attention. Making sure your outreach is tailored specifically to your target talent and that it clearly demonstrates why you reached out to them, will dramatically affect both your response rate and the receptiveness of a highly sought after software engineer. Top-tier dev talent is often overloaded with messages and calls, so you’ll need to stand out if you want a response. 

Some ways to accomplish this are:

  • Highlighting shared acquaintances/experiences (Again, being known and having a good reputation builds trust)
  • Tying their interests to the job (Did they study AI in school but are working as a junior web developer? If your opportunity gives them a chance to work on something they are passionate about, you will get a more favorable response)

The key here is to understand your target profile, what they are interested in, and refine your value proposition. Why do people want to work with your team? Is it the tech stack / technical challenges, purpose-driven mission, remote flexibility, corporate stability, startup upside, or just straight up compensation? Understand your audience, find out why they would want to work for you, and make sure to get that message across the right way. 

When you’ve done all this? Follow up plays an important role when the candidate doesn’t initially respond. Messages get lost in the shuffle, you may have reached out at a bad time or, quite simply, they might need a reminder to reply.

What we’re seeing at Venor, is organizations that are reinventing their hiring process – moving it away from an administrative task used to screen out applicants towards using it to sell the candidate on the role and organization. It’s more important than ever to show a genuine interest in candidates by asking meaningful questions that clarify things you’ve learned about them from a resume or social profile, rather than asking them to repeat the information contained therein.

Tapping into top talent requires an understanding of candidates’ motivations, and the ability to authentically illustrate how an opportunity fits what they’re looking for. The tech talent pool, from developers through to DevOps, have many opportunities to consider and will only continue investing their time in your process if you treat them like a valued candidate.

Yes, this takes a ton of time. But it will pay off when you make the right hire.

If you’ve missed Part One, click here: Trust the (Right) Process: How to Hire Software Developers in a Boom Economy. 

Nick Misener is a Senior Consultant with Venor, a relationship-centric search firm and talent partner. He specializes in recruiting top talent for Information Technology companies throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter!


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