Navigating Tech Talent: Strategies for Success in Atlantic Canada

Navigating Tech Talent: Strategies for Success in Atlantic Canada

Episode Transcript

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It’s time for All Hands on Tech. Climb on board as we explore all the amazing things happening in Nova Scotia’s tech sector. Each episode, we’ll chat with local experts to uncover the secrets of what makes Nova Scotia the best place for collaboration, innovation, and creativity. All Hands on Tech is proudly produced by Digital Nova Scotia, the industry association for Nova Scotia’s growing tech sector.

Welcome back to All Hands on Tech. 

I’m Ashley. 

And I’m Claire.

Today we’re talking Tech Recruitment with Venor, a firm deeply committed to fostering success within the business community of Atlantic Canada. Venor prioritizes sustainable solutions over quick fixes, and their team is dedicated to nurturing the long term achievements of both clients and job seekers.

From navigating tech talent acquisition to the dynamic and evolving tech job market, including strategies for standing out in a fiercely competitive environment, we are covering it all today. Plus, we’ll explore the impact of emerging technologies such as AI on the job search and hiring process. So without further ado, let’s extend a warm [00:01:00] welcome to our guests, It’s Venor partner, Nick Meissner and McIntosh.

Hello, welcome. Thanks for having us. Excited to be here.

We’re so excited to have you as well. Thank you for coming. And we just have to say, you know, for listeners who are involved in the tech scene, you probably know these two because they’re everywhere, which we love because we’re also, I feel like we’re everywhere as well.

Yeah, that’s true. So we’re so excited to chat more with you today about tech recruitment. So for folks who maybe haven’t heard of you guys and Venor, what exactly do you guys do? I don’t know if I can outdo the intro that you both just provided, but I’ll give you my quick elevator pitch. So, we’re a talent and recruitment firm headquartered here on the East Coast.

We have offices in Halifax, Moncton, New Brunswick, as well as a newly opened office in Toronto. St. John’s Newfoundland, and we partner with our clients to connect them with tough to find talent. Additionally, further to that, we provide HR, consulting on a fractional basis as well as, leadership advisory services.

I’d like to think that we’ve become known as the go to tech recruiters on the East Coast. Within our tech recruitment practice, which Steph is a key contributor, in any given year, we’ll complete upwards of 100 successful searches on behalf of our tech portfolio of clients. Among those clients are international software innovators, as well as locally owned and operated Atlantic Canadian businesses as well.

Wow. You said that one before. That was beautiful. I wish I had it written down, but yeah, we’ll see. We do have some fun questions just to get to know you both a little bit better before we dive into the more serious tech recruitment questions. Sounds good. So, I will go first. , what do you prefer, in person interviews or virtual ones?

Honestly, in person. We’re social animals. There’s certain things that you can’t replicate virtually, in a pinch, I definitely prefer in person. An in-person interview. The flexibility of of virtual is great, however, and it does give us reach that extends beyond our local circles across the country and internationally as well.

[00:03:00] I have to say virtual  because I think that it’s so much more convenient within a day to not have to jump in person meeting to meeting. It’s just so much more efficient to get everything in. That’s fair. Both good points. Yeah. I also just have to say Steph just got back from a very long, , remote work and I feel like I can tell in your like soothing voice and like she’s relaxed yeah she’s chill she’s very zen. So next question, what do you find better or more success in sourcing candidates through software online or in person the reach that you have through through online tools linkedIn indeed it’s just that much more extensive so definitely software allows us to reach a bigger broader audience and really specifically Target our searches.

However, you know, being a familiar face and having an in person relationship. With someone ultimately gives us a better response rate. So if you combine the two, that’s the best path forward. But to answer your question directly, I’d have to go with, with software  for reaching candidates. I’d echo that.

[00:04:00] Can’t have one without the other. I think that they’re complimentary. You need both is the answer. Maybe this next one will be hard. I’m not sure. We’ll see. Lobster roll or donair. That’s not difficult for me. Lobster roll. Yeah, it’s lobster roll all day. Okay. Yeah, that’s the right answer. Yeah, I agree.

Sometimes though, you know seafood people don’t like it. So sorry, you’re a donar person. Yeah, donars are like literally only like you have to have a craving for them in my opinion. I couldn’t eat them all the time. It’s like a post beverage. Exactly. So you told us a little bit about, but can you share a bit more about the current state of the tech market locally?

You know, on one hand, we’re seeing major layoffs, but on the other hand, we have examples like Cognizant, who are just committed to bringing potentially up to a thousand new people to the region. So if you can kind of give  your two cents on the state of the market, that would be, that’d be awesome. Yeah, 100%.

So yeah, won’t dance around it. There’s there’s definitely a mixed bag in terms of what we’re seeing in the tech market right now from an Atlantic Canadian perspective. So the long term outlook really remains incredibly strong in tech and tech jobs. So I always reassure people that things are looking positive as we go forward.

But there’s been a lot of layoffs across the board. Global tech companies that look to dip their toe into the water here in Halifax in years past have been pulling out to an extent, they’ve been cutting back. We’ve seen VC funding dry up. as well as a lot of startups facing a lot more scrutiny as they raise funds and as a result they’re more restrained, on the hiring front.

One thing that’s really kept us busy and it’s kind of been a silver lining in all this is the strength of the local Atlantic Canadian industry outside of, you know, traditional tech companies. So universities, public sector, crown corpse, traditionally owned and operated maritime businesses that need IT and tech people.[00:06:00] they’ve remained really resilient to this time and they’re actually able to punch above their weight class so to speak when, when they’re hiring because there’s a better availability of talent. It’s definitely employee employer friendly market for for hiring and there’s a lot of folks that were unfortunately impacted by layoffs that we’ve seen happen over the the past 18 months for sure.

There’s been a lot of volatility So we’re trying to at times get a grip on what’s going on right now and prepared for what’s to come in the future, too but sometimes it’s it’s unknown It sounds like though digital adoption is kind of driving a lot of the jobs that you’re saying is maybe some of those non tech companies are still hiring for digital roles.

Yeah, 100%. And I mean you look at universities, you look at Sobeys, which has their, their corporate head office in Stellarton and another one in Dartmouth. All of these companies have, you know, Tech as the underpinning and backbone of their organizations. Now, digital transformations, adoptions of cloud [00:07:00] infrastructure, increasing sensitivity around cyber security.

These are all things that are at the forefront right now, and they’re driving a lot of hiring amongst non traditional tech organizations. So I think it’s really important to note. It’s like, yes, you know, software, and traditional tech companies are cutting back, but more and more organizations are becoming tech organizations in their own right.

 When perhaps they hadn’t been known that way previously. It’s something we’re definitely noticing too. Like we just onboarded parts for trucks as a new member to DNS. And that’s because they’re really trying to bolster their data team because they’re a coast to coast company.

They really just want to make sure that they’re doing things smart. They’re looking at their data to drive business decisions. So I thought that was really interesting. A company that might not normally you would associate as being like a tech company. It just echoes kind of what you’re noticing as well.

I think it’s cool because people can apply, you know, same or similar skills, but across industries so if they’re not confined to just like a a traditional tech company or a role, [00:08:00] you know, they can work in whatever which is really cool. Yeah, or maybe a company that you never thought of being associated with tech is a really good fit for someone’s particular skill set if they have suffered from a layoff or they’re looking for a new move.

Do you have any technology that you use to forecast the market? In terms of forecasting the market, we’re really working in lockstep with our clients to predict. Their needs in terms of specific technology. I mean outside of our traditional market intel, which we’re gathering on an ongoing basis.

I wouldn’t say there’s there’s one go to tool for us. We we have communication channels set up in our firm that allows us to stay up to date on current tech trends and things that we’re seeing in the market we’re having those ongoing conversations, but in terms of that one silver bullet. I wouldn’t say that we have a a tool that is our is our go to per se.

Yeah, probably just a combination of like other reports that you both would also see come out. I love referring also to [00:09:00] CBRE’s Market Outlook when that becomes available. But other than that, Definitely relying on LinkedIn for reports that they would put out, but data sources from all over. Yeah, fair enough.

 I guess if there was a silver bullet, everyone would use it. So that makes sense. Yeah. We would, we would tell you if we knew. Ah, thank you. I was hoping to expose a trade secret here. I won’t get keep that. I appreciate that. Okay, so curious, what are some specific skills or qualifications that you are noticing that are in specifically high demand right now in tech?

First off, would definitely be on cyber security and the like, like around InfoSec. Most companies right now would be noticing the importance of having people in place who are able to protect their assets and data people and those who don’t are unfortunately suffering the consequences perhaps at some point in time or are at risk of that.

So cybersecurity, and in addition to that, I would say like [00:10:00] data related roles, data analysts, data architecture. And, and just to chime in off of that we’re seeing a lot of hiring right now driven by organizations that are looking at critical hiring and, and must have positions. So, so again, there’s a lot of restraint across the board in the markets.

Every hire is under that much more scrutiny. So when companies are coming to us it’s oftentimes for a position like a corporate IT manager or a network security analyst. Positions that are viewed as mission critical and essentially keep the lights on. Whereas in years past, we were seeing a ton of growth out of R and D focused groups specifically relating to software developers, DevOps, engineers, cloud architects and, and positions in, in that realm.

So there’s been that fundamental shift from growth and R and D through to, you know, I. T. Infrastructure related roles. So big shift there and then traditional organizations like Steph said that are modernizing from a [00:11:00] digital perspective and want to unlock insight from the data.

So big focus on business intelligence as of late as companies dive deeper and deeper to to understand the data behind their operations. Is there anything like that you might not expect that employers are kind of looking for, like maybe for thinking more soft skills or anything like that, that comes up often enough?

Soft skills are, are critical. Almost every position that we recruit for has some element of interacting with, with others on your team. Even if you’re a developer that’s hands on you know, writing code each and every day you need to sell your ideas to others and advocate for why this design pattern is better than another one or why you should build this new feature in this way versus another.

So communication, teamwork, those soft skills and tangibles are super, super important and probably at times understated when we’re looking at tech recruitment. That’s a big topic, soft skills, because they can be harder to measure, you know? There’s one role that I’m recruiting for right now that [00:12:00]is, has a requirement of someone who’s coming from a technical background, and with that, That skills and years of experience.

But the role itself is not hands-on tech whatsoever. It’s just the in-between person of communicating from the client side to vendors, but a person that’s in charge of all of those relationships. So exactly what we’re describing. Yeah. I’m looking for actively That’s a lot of skills. You’re listening and you’re this person.

Just contact me. Okay. So we talked about the job market and we know it can be competitive depending on the kind of the role you’re looking for. What advice would you give to people in order to stand out? Kind of just in general for anyone, but maybe even more particularly for people who have a non technical background who are looking to kind of break in into the scene.

We could talk about this for an entire podcast itself. I would probably just highlight the classic advice of like sharing your resume with friends and colleagues and getting as much advice [00:13:00] as you’re able to or feedback from different people. There’s some people who prefer to have different information that’s displayed there, so different perspectives that you can get are useful.

And same with interview skills, like you want to make sure that you’re presenting your best self by getting, you know, critical opinions on how you present and people who are going to be honest with you about that is super important. Same about your LinkedIn and what you present on there. And of course, as recruiters, I’m definitely going to suggest to be active so that people like Nick and I would be able to, to find you if you’re posting content and growing your network there, then that makes it easier for us when we are doing searches.

Yeah, I think a big part of this is finding a way to stand out. from the other resumes in the pile and what I always point to is the human to human interaction. That’s where sparks fly. If you can interact with other people and you’re in the right place at the right time and they think that you can help them, good things happen.

So it’s really [00:14:00] important to, like Steph said, Leverage your network, get in front of people, and find ways to have communication with folks that you’re looking to work with and do what you can to stand out from the resume pile. Again, familiar face yeah, you might get a, an extra look at your resume and sometimes that’s all it takes for you to, you know, get an opportunity and, and find that dream job.

So I know a lot of people get frustrated because, like you said, there’s a stack of resumes. I mean, how do you, any tips on even just getting people to look at yours? Like, is it, does it come down to, you know, it’s well written? Is it like it has flashy graphics? Like, you know, like it looks modern?

Is there, there’s probably a lot of different answers there, but you can find a lot of conflicting advice out there. There’s advice that’ll tell you to, write one page. There’s other ones that’ll say, you know, make it three pages. You know, some advice will suggest. Three pages? Three pages is out there.

Some will say, you know, put your picture on it. Other, other people say, don’t put your picture on it. Yeah, I know. It’s really confusing. And a lot of it I find is, is cultural [00:15:00] too. Like a lot of people from anywhere they’re applying from will have super long resumes because that’s what is, Yes, that’s what it is, expected and acceptable.

So yeah, there’s, there’s very subjective advice. There’s one kind of objective point that I’d like to make, which is whatever, you know, you’re applying for whoever you’re getting a resume in front of, make sure that you capture interest in the first, 30 seconds. The stats out there are proven time and time again.

Resume, whoever’s reviewing resumes is crunched for time. And there’s, their first pass of resumes is literally scanning them for 20 to 30 seconds. So if you don’t have your best, most meaningful accomplishments and skills presented in the top half of your first page you can easily be overlooked.

If you capture someone’s interest in those first 20 seconds, they’ll read the rest of your resume and you’ll get more consideration. So I always encourage people to really, really fine tune their resume and put the, you know, best possible highlights. In the top [00:16:00] half of their, their first page and it’ll ultimately yield better results.

But I mean you know, to, to your point, Claire, I remember applying to jobs overseas. This is a number of years ago now. I was actually applying to schools to teach in, in in Korea and I wasn’t getting any calls. And eventually a recruiter came to me and gave me advice. He’s like, well, Nick, like your resume is terrible.

He’s like, there’s no birthday. And he’s like, I don’t even know how tall you are. So like, these are just cultural standards. So I said, I tweaked my resume per the Canadian standard or per the Korean standard. And I started getting calls. So there’s that cultural nuance, as you mentioned, that’s really, really important and it’s, it’s super subjective.

So just taking the time to get feedback. And highlight the things that you should be highlighting that’s per expectations for the roles you’re applying for. That’s going to result in the best odds of success. I think that’s interesting because I came from before kind of I came into the tech world. I was in broadcast journalism and like no journalist really is on LinkedIn [00:17:00] like we never used it.

So but it is interesting. So if you are in tech and you are looking for a job, it’s important to be active on there. Yeah, definitely. We have recruiters at our firm who are recruiting for. People who are in engineering and construction a little bit industries outside of tech and have to take different methods than perhaps we do to reach out to those professionals, but a lot of folks who are in it are on the platform.

So I would say that you might be missing out if, especially if you’re a job seeker. If not to develop your own personal brand, the jobs that are posted up there would. help you immensely. When people who are looking at your profile after you do apply, go to click on your profile and learn more about you in addition to the resume that you’ve submitted on the platform.

I’m going to ask an off the cuff question here about LinkedIn because we’re talking about the importance of it and being active on it. So what are your thoughts on kind of the new transition? I’ve, well, at least I’ve, [00:18:00] I’ve noticed on LinkedIn of people posting more personal Updates and personal content, which used to be like the complete no, like a total no, no.

So like interested on your perspective on that, like if you’re looking to hire and someone’s posting personal info, is that there’s such a hunger for authenticity? Isn’t there for not only content, but personal content? Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s it’s a mixed bag. People want to feel that personal connection and it can help you stand out from the crowd.

On the flip side, am I going to, you know, reach out and hire someone or try and recruit them because they posted a picture of their dog? I don’t know. I like dogs, but It’s, it’s, it’s a mixed bag. I’d still encourage people to, you know, tie things to work or your professional capacity in some way.

Some kind of way but things are, things are changing and shifting and who knows maybe I’m off base on this. And it could be that dog picture that gets you to notice their profile from being connected, second or third connections. Dog pictures are a good idea then. So I guess it’s kind of like there could be advantages to it, [00:19:00] but you know, it’s also adding some risks like They hate dogs Yeah, if you’re putting content out there and generating a following It probably depends on the kind of followership that you want to attract as well Like if you’re a dog lover group, then it’s excellent There’s risks involved too that Maybe you disclose too much or maybe, you know, someone’s, you know, someone doesn’t feel great about what you posted.

So, it can be challenging or, you know, on the flip side, maybe there’s cultural differences and someone receives things in a different way. So there’s, there’s definitely challenges as people reveal more and more of their you know, their own personal stories. personal side of, of, of things, but yeah, if you can relate to someone else and someone else relates to your content, you might make a meaningful connection.

We do remark quite a lot when we’re talking about our content or something that somebody at the firm has posted up about how well, how much engagement we’re able to generate from face pictures with the team, especially, or at an [00:20:00] event. Those seem to perform quite well if we’re looking at analytics from what we’ve shared.

No, but I mean, LinkedIn is probably like our most engaged with platform and people love photos. Like people love those are best performing content time after time. Yeah. Blog posts are out. That’s for sure. I’m curious how have some of your hiring practices and particularly in response to AI and, you know, the shift to remote work as well probably change things as well for for sure.

So we’re using a couple of tools at the firm to streamline the recruitment process. I mean, sure, that we’re capturing You know, the best possible information and insight on the candidates and clients that we’re working with. One piece of software that we’ve recently integrated into our stack is a transcription software called Quill.

It has an AI bot that joins a call transcribes a call, but also auto populates our interview guides. throughout the conversation. So we’re having conversations with people. It’s plugging in salary expectations, reason why they want to [00:21:00] move, you know, key accomplishments and other things related to, you know, the actual interview guide and the information that we’re hoping to, to pull from these conversations.

And that integrates with our applicant tracking system. So it feeds all this in and updates it into candidate profiles as well. So huge unlock there just from like a, an AI tooling perspective. Chat GPT is, has really simplified a lot of our processes as well. Generating interview guides creation of job descriptions.

Obviously we, we tweak and make sure that the prompts are conversations that we’re having, but there’s a lot of things across the board that we’ve been utilizing. From an AI perspective that made our jobs a lot more efficient and and effective. I’m thinking of like chat GPT that’s helping me understand perhaps the best questions I would be able to ask a specialist of Even when I’m learning more about them and what they do, how I can best do that.

I also use quite a lot, Grammarly the AI to [00:22:00] assist with writing emails quickly, that of course can go in at the end and add more personalization to it and make it sound more human, but it provides great templates in a lot of instances. We feel the same way, like we have built it kind of into our operations.

I’m not sure, you could probably speak to projects more, but marketing, I mean, it’s been a huge help with, we do so much social media and I, yeah, emailing, like getting ready for this podcast, like it’s just such a helpful tool, so. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, from the project side, like you can use it for process documents, we use it for events, agendas, you know, presentations or like script prompts and all that kind of stuff.

So there’s just a lot of opportunities. I’ve been having a lot of fun, particularly with the image generator. Yeah. We have like a paid account and it’s It’s good stuff. It’s not perfect, but that just makes it funnier. I was gonna say I’ll have to try that one out. It’s the image generator, it does really good work, but it can’t spell.

Like, I don’t Yeah, sounds like terrible words. And it will be like, yes, and it will quote you back with the right spelling, but it will [00:23:00] misspell it. And you’re like, I don’t understand how this just keeps happening. But it’s just crazy though, because This is like, we’re so early into it, and it’s like, this is the first iteration of this, and it’s this good.

Like, it’s just, it’s nuts to think about, you know, even six months from now, a year from now, like, what it’s going to be doing, and yeah, it’s crazy. So now, we’ve asked all of our questions. Anything you want to plug? Anything coming up? I’ll give the plug. If you’re looking to build your team here in Atlantic Canada, or if you’re an Atlantic Canadian company looking to expand globally or nationally please give us a call.

We’ve hung our hat with, you know, some of the most prestigious tech companies in our, in our region. And this is what we’re super passionate about. So absolutely feel free to reach out to myself or Steph to have a consultation or if you’re looking for your next big thing your candidate looking to make a move we’re always open to network.

So find us online or. Find us at a DNS event. We’d love to chat. Couldn’t have said it better myself. We’re active in the community. Happy to meet you if you do see us out [00:24:00] and about at an event. Or, yeah, hit us up on LinkedIn, on the Vinohra website, where podcasts are available. Laughter Thank you both so much for being here.

This is awesome. Yeah, thank you so much for having us. You guys are awesome. 

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