Jan 11, 2017 12:00:37 PM | Hiring Developers: Moving Past Traditional Employee Acquisition

Learn some of the approaches that come with hiring developers in today's market. We'll teach you how to pick and attract the best devs out of the bunch.

Media can report that employee acquisitions are "bullish," but HR knows the truth. Hiring developers (especially the good ones) is going to be a slog using traditional methods. The best devs seem to be purposefully hiding from recruiters who employ a traditional process, and with good reason: A traditional process is usually linked to a traditional company. Young, vibrant, bleeding edge developers have been showing their disdain towards these companies for quite a few years now.

LinkedIn and online job profiles are no longer supplements to the resume; most hiring processes have already acclimated to digital as the primary vetting space. However, the digital hiring model has farther to go, according to HR experts and top hiring managers. Here is a look at some of the trends that will play an increasing role in the developer recruiting process.

Skills Over Education

Deliverables are the new accreditation. By the time that a full-scale technical program graduates a new class, the technology that class is using is obsolete. Savvy recruiters are finding a much shorter path to quality dev work through open source boards, checking to see if devs are using up-to-date tech. Community leaders in these environments are often tapped for institutional jobs. Top employers still keep an eye on liberal arts programs, but not for the reasons that you may think. Elite schools understand the importance of showcasing student work as a practical deliverable. Schools now partner with local companies on commercial projects as course requirements, giving students their first portfolio entry before graduation.

Recruiters also vet potential devs by following their trail of work around the Internet, including participation in relevant conferences, business incubators and municipally funded tech initiatives. Seeing the same name pop up in a few different places means that individual already has a body of work and a reputation, quite a step up from a few good marks on a possibly antiquated IT skills test.

Video Interviews

Most devs that have kept themselves up to date understand they need to employ cutting-edge technology in every aspect of their job search. This includes a digital portfolio and a video introduction, and possibly even a working beta (at least) of a current project. Why all the extra work? Leading companies will not even consider a dev without the foresight to simply use the technology he claims to have mastered and can also modify.

Moving past the traditional employee acquisition process means reducing your own candidate pool and creating a more exclusive pot to pick from. Your HR department may feel as though this narrows the field too much. The truth is that exclusivity directs acquisition efforts more precisely into the narrow communities where elite devs hide. Think of it this way: No elite restaurant keeps a "no shirt, no shoes, no service" sign on its front door. The best establishments assume its constituents will consider this by default. By default, the best devs have already updated their job search strategy to include these web 2.0 components. There is no need to look beyond them.

Employer Branding

Like it or not, your company is being interviewed by top devs just as much as you are interviewing them. Aside from digital multimedia infused resumes, elite potential employees have embraced the 1099 lifestyle as a default. It is likely that the people you want are already generating at least a part time income from freelance and vanity brand work. They are perfectly willing to take a more traditional job, but they must be enticed by more than a paycheck.

The best devs are self-starters; you can automatically vet for this character trait by appealing specifically to the more exclusive set of candidates described in this article. As such, you can bet they are not fans of traditional cubicle culture. Allowing remote work or telecommuting is a big thing among the current generation of elite devs. Make sure that they know you prioritize performance over proximity.

If you equate youthfulness with bleeding edge as most companies do, then you must also face down the trend that Millennials and Gen Zers automatically see any corporate space as part of a hegemony straight out of Orwell's 1984. These young candidates value authenticity and social responsibility almost as much as they value a great benefits package (almost, not quite). Google and Apple are trying to keep this under wraps, but the word is out: One of the rewards they offer for a great month on the job is the freedom to go out and volunteer on behalf of the company.

The benefits package that your company offers is also essentially important. Today's young candidates may have acclimated themselves to the 1099 lifestyle, but the echoes of the good old Baby Boomer days of corporate family structure still linger in their ears – the last bit of their parents' waning influence. Younger devs may view a great health insurance, 401(k) and stock options package as a status symbol, which means you may be able to get away with a smaller paycheck for the same amount of work.

Recruiting employees is the same as playing the stock market: Do not try to time whether the wind is blowing in the favor of buyers or sellers. Fundamentally change your perspective on how employees are won, and you should perform ably in the continuously more competitive world of elite dev procurement.

Written By: Frances Banks