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The secret to hiring (and keeping) top tier tech candidates

This is how to appeal to their “always on” job search mentality.

The secret to hiring (and keeping) top tier tech candidates

More and more, tech professionals can’t be categorized as either passive or active candidates. They’re just always on. They always have an ear to the rail; they’re aware of their own value and are ready to take the next opportunity at a moment’s notice.

“There is so much opportunity, it’s hard for tech talent to turn it off,” says Rod Adams, talent acquisition leader at audit and consulting firm PwC. For recruiters, there’s good and bad news in this trend. The good news is that literally millions of coders, software architects and CIOs are out there right now with a “never say never” attitude to new career opportunities.

The bad news? Your next placement isn’t closed until it’s closed—and it could still unravel on the candidate’s second day on the job if something shinier and newer comes along.

Here’s how extreme tech turnover has become: Google’s median employee tenure is 1.1 years, while Amazon’s is just one year, placing both tech giants near the bottom for employee retention among Fortune 500 companies, according to a study by Payscale.

Many of these tech pros are satisfied with their jobs, but feel little or no motivation to stick with them.  They’re “always on” simply because they can never escape the glare of recruiters’ attention.

“They make a hard decision to stay or to take a new opportunity,” says Adams, “and then there’s an element of debating internally, ‘Did I make the right choice?’”

So how can you succeed in the era of the always-on candidate? We asked expert recruiters for advice on how to woo those candidates and continue to win new clients.

Develop a sourcing strategy that engages candidates effectively

In 2019, a successful tech recruiting strategy must engage these cherished candidates. They’re solid gold prospects, but many are jaded by a job market that makes them feel like nothing more than a pricey commodity. The trick to differentiating yourself as a recruiter is to meet candidates on their own territory.

“We go where the talent is,” says Karen Gardner, chief learning officer at ManTech, a government contractor that hires out its own tech employees to various federal agencies.

One way that ManTech engages contract talent is by creating and maintaining “communities of practice”—forums for interaction with experts and resources in hot specialties like cloud technologies and offensive and defensive cybersecurity practices.

Two of ManTech’s communities of practice are called Network-Centric Solutions and Insider Threat Program, a cybersecurity forum.

“Our professionals really like getting together to hear about different contracts,” says Gardner. “Our communities of practice serve all of ManTech, providing the forums in which our professionals discuss best practices and common implementation patterns to deliver solutions that solve our customers’ most challenging needs.”

Recruiters must get more technical than ever

The latest tools for recruiting can help you identify always-on candidates before you make contact.

“For example, there are AI apps that can predict who’s more likely to leave a job based on their update activity on their [social media] profiles,” says Sean Dowling, partner and manager of recruiting strategy at search firm WinterWyman “Now there’s software that can aggregate all these little clues.” Entelo is one such application.

Recruiters also need to be active in the online forums where tech professionals live, by posting articles and updates on industry news, for example, Dowling says.

“I have shared commentary about new technology—comparisons between Angular 1 versus Angular 2, or software or new product releases,” he adds. (Angular is a Java-based platform for building web applications.)

Granted, you probably won’t master the technologies that candidates live for, but you can at least demonstrate technical literacy.

“Some of our recruiters are as technical as the technical guys, and they get smart on emerging technologies just as quickly,” says Gardner. Dowling adds: “Lots of recruiters don’t know how to look at code samples.” If you don’t know how, you should learn—perhaps from a candidate you’ve worked with for years.

Recruiters may need to invest time to identify the forums where candidates in a given specialty hang out. “You might recruit for a full day and find this one site that’s really niche to your client,” says Dowling. “When searching the other day for React.js developers, I found a forum called Hackr.io, a group of React developers that pose questions to each other.” In addition to user forums, Hackr.io features programming courses, meetup listings and tech industry news.

Get personal—fast—to build alliances

To succeed in the long term, tech recruiters need to dig in to build strong alliances with candidates. How? By showing candidates that you’re invested in their future, not just the gig at hand.

ManTech does this with a big education and training perk. “We're the only employer in the region that offers free tuition to our employees,” says Gardner.

ManTech partnered with Purdue University Global to close talent gaps in cybersecurity. Fringe benefit: For ManTech employees who are hired out on contract, turnover is 45 percent lower among those who take advantage of the tuition offer.

In the long game of tech recruiting, it pays to keep in touch with candidates whether or not you’ve hooked them up for their current gig. “We do have a focused alumni strategy, a team that drives engaging with alumni,” says Adams of PwC. “We provide continuing learning opportunities, so that we may be able to hire them back.”