5 tips to hire tech talent when you’re not a techie

job candidates

Being a technical recruiter isn’t always easy, especially because a lot of technical recruiters aren’t necessarily technical themselves. Technical skills are extremely diverse and change on a daily basis, so it’s very hard to keep up and to understand what is and isn’t important to the company you’re hiring for. In this article, I’ll offer 5 tips to hire tech talent when you’re not a techie. I’ll also discuss tools and mindsets that are increasingly important for hiring in 2018 and onwards.

1) Take time to understand all objectives


It’s crucial to spend extra time with the hiring manager to really understand their needs, the skills and the priorities they’re looking for in a candidate and role. Often all areas of knowledge are mentioned in the job description, but only few are actually needed and core to the job. Reducing the requirements to what’s actually needed, or better categorising skills, will result in clearer objectives and a better understanding of what the company is looking for.

For example, if you’re hiring a front-end developer, the focus is on front-end development; however, this developer at minimum also needs:

  • server management as the code will eventually run on some kind of server,
  • networking to understand how a request from your browser results in a webpage,
  • billing and accounting knowledge as nothing runs for free and cost needs to be assigned to the right places.
  • communication skills,

  • etc.

In most if not all cases, all these skills are mentioned on the candidate’s resume, but the main focus should be on the front-end developer skills and what the employer specified as important. Often technical people don’t explain their skills at a high level, but rather use the specific names of coding programs (e.g., JavaScript) and protocols (good understanding of Ipv4 and OSI model) to demonstrate their skills. This becomes very confusing very soon if you’re not familiar with the particular programs or protocols. Bottom line: do not hesitate to ask the hiring manager what they mean at a higher level and where the priorities are.


2) Branch out in your recruiting


How do you find the right techie? Increasingly popular is LinkedIn, and as useful as this recruiting tool is, there are other efficient ways to get in touch with techies. In my city, Calgary, there are many meetups and events organized for techies. From talks about mobile development, to big data, to (IT) infrastructure migrations, there is a wide variety of events. They’re usually free to join and open to everyone.

These events are full of people that are interested and excited about technology. Chances are some of these attendees are looking to make a career change. You get the added benefits of speaking in person and building a personal connection, which your potential candidate will remember much longer than a digital connection. Did I mention there are (usually) free drinks and pizza? All I see are benefits!


3) Company reputation: curse or blessing


Increasingly, I find candidates are doing their homework before contacting a hiring company or recruiter. They will research the company, what group they might be working for, the company’s culture and values (like work-life balance). Arguably, as a result we’re now in a candidate-driven market, which has a lot of potential or drawbacks depending on your situation.

If your reputation is awesome, like Google, people will be waiting in line to work for you. However, if you had some rough financial years, reorganizations or layoffs, your reputation could be at an all-time low. Even though you may have changed (increased sales, started hiring again, changed focus to increase employee happiness, etc.) your reputation will still be low for several years to come. What’s important here, as a recruiter, is to spend time with the hiring manager to understand where the company is in regards to their reputation, how it got to where it is now, and if and how the future will be different.

I think it would be greatly beneficial to write a summary of that knowledge on the job description to provide an accurate description of the company to the candidate. It’s either that or the candidate reading reviews on an online (and potentially negative) job board. The choice is yours…


4) Widen your horizons


In my experience, techies are often very particular, which could mean you’re unintentionally fishing in a very small pool of candidates. As mentioned earlier, wording is important so make sure the job description is not only accurate to what the hiring manager is looking for, but does not exclude candidates by accident. If the company offers flexible hours or the ability to work from home, mention that on the job description as it could be critical to some candidates. You could also benefit from highlighting company values, like maintaining a work-life balance, which you may not normally include on a posting. If this particular job does not require a team to be physically located together to be successful, mention you’re open to hiring in other cities as well.

Again, it is important to review your wording. Some industries like technology are a predominantly male workforce. The wording used in a job description could (unintentionally) be more geared toward men. As a result, some women may pass on an otherwise great opportunity. In the links below, there’s an article that references a study on words that are more male vs female. It includes a recommendation to use a mixture of both groups of words to create an inclusive job description.

While increasing your pool of candidates, by doing the above, you’ve also created a more inclusive job posting, widened your reach and created a more accurate job description.


5) Use pre-screening tools to your advantage


You’re probably well versed in marketing, designing a hiring process, communication skills, understanding hiring needs, etc., but what about evaluating the technical capabilities of candidates that look promising? Here’s where pre-screening tools prove to be very useful.

Whether it’s a behavioural or technical test, pre-screening tools save you time and money and generally also deliver detailed reports based on an objective test. Even if you know exactly what kind of technical skills an employer is looking for, how would you know if a candidate actually has these skills and is not just putting buzzwords on their resume with the sole purpose of increasing their chances of landing an interview? Or maybe you do know how to test for these skills, but why not outsource this time-consuming task so you can focus on other critical tasks in the hiring processes? Tasks like ensuring the job description is inclusive and less restrictive, for example.

Use tools to your advantage and not just as “yet another tool we have to use”.




Candidate-driven market study
Employer branding ideas
Study with regards to gender wording in job advertisements
Gender decoder for job postings
Gender bias bot
OSI model 


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