Do you want to attract the top engineers to your company? Who wouldn’t? But are you doing what it takes to get those people in the door?
All companies want to attract the best engineers. But few hiring managers actually understand how to engage the kind of talent pool that will produce top hires.
Here are thoughts and advice from dozens of recruiters, engineers and hiring managers asked a simple question: “What do you do to attract the best engineering talent?”
It comes down to honesty, authenticity, respect, and just a little more targeted effort.
1: Show them the big important problem they’re going to solve
If you want to attract great talent, “provide an opportunity to solve cutting edge technical challenges, with other exceptional technologists,” says Brad Hoover, CEO of Grammarly.com.
Make sure you can communicate the story of your company and the challenges you plan to tackle.
“Demonstrate why people should want to join you,” says Sara Fleischman, Senior Technical Recruiter at Expedia. “We as humans all want to see how we can make a difference, how what we do on a daily basis can make someone’s life a little better.”
“The best technologists don’t define themselves by programming languages (e.g., Java engineer). Instead, they are phenomenal problem solvers, who will use the right tool for the job,” adds John Vlastelica, Managing Director for Recruiting Toolbox.
2: Get personal quickly: Introduce prospects to the team early in the process
“When I found someone we really wanted, I made sure that the candidate spent time (usually lunch) with a group of his/her future peers,” says David Nason, COO and CTO of Robust Decisions Inc. “Once they get to know you, ‘warts and all,’ and share in the excitement and optimism of the team… it becomes more personal.”
In a departure from the usual interview process, Nason suggests waiting to bring in HR until closing. That way the candidates develop a personal relationship with potential colleagues.
3: Build a long-term relationship with the community
“What makes a difference is focusing on long- term relationship building and not only the short-term ‘hard sell,’” observes Katharine Bierce, Business Analyst for Opera Solutions.
Get your company’s name out there as a hub for the larger engineering community. Encourage engineers to think of your organization as a place where new ideas and solutions are created and fostered.
Bierce suggests these three techniques:
- Let employees blog on technical topics: Tout your organization as a leader in employing cutting edge ideas and processes.
- Host meetups at your office: Be a nexus of idea generation and cooperative thought.
- Maintain your reputation: This involves maintaining a good relationship with the media and your employees. You want the message about your company to be a positive one within the engineering community.
4: Engage the community in solving a problem
“Job descriptions give little insight into where your problems are,” says Ryan Brogan, Principal for 1xRUN.com / MagnetAgency.net. “Anything you can do to let them know you want to solve problems will get them engaged,” says Brogan. He thanks participants and lets them know they’ve got gobs more problems to solve if they want to come and work for his company.
Consider hosting a peer-reviewed symposium or poster session on, say, more cost-effective ways to employ solar energy in commercial buildings. Not only does your company shine as a leader in new technology, you can see which players in your field are producing the best ideas. These are the engineers you can identify to recruit.
5: Be careful about showcasing too many on-site perks
“Circa 1993, I was interviewing with a Microsoft partner that did custom software development. During the interview they touted all the perks that they offered, starting with bagels and donuts that were delivered each morning, the eight varieties of coffee that were always being brewed, the in-office gym and showers, the sandwich trays that arrived every afternoon, and the late night pizzas,” says Mark Bromberg, Director of Sales at IsoSoft Solutions. “The message I got was not that the company provided great benefits, but that they expected their staff to be on site working 24 hours a day.” Some organizations have on-campus housing and will shuttle you back and forth to your place morning and night.
“This really just makes it so they are always close to work and rely on work to get home,” says Stephen Lytle, Southeast Pharmacy Campus Recruiter at Target.
Lytle believes this impedes a healthy work-life balance.
6: Don’t fake it
It won’t take long for new employees to realize you’ve mislead them about the culture or benefits of your company. While you can and should highlight the positives of your organization, being dishonest about who you are will only encourage higher turnover in employees.
“Great employment branding emerges from the heart of the company,” says John Sumser of HRExaminer. “The most attractive things you can offer are resources, challenge and freedom to make mistakes. Pretending that you do these things and not delivering on the promise causes morale and attrition problems.”
“Any employer (tech or non-tech) can’t make themselves more attractive. If it isn’t true, then putting lipstick on a pig will be found out and no one will trust you again,” says William Uranga, Senior Director, Talent Acquisition at TiVo.
7: Ask them what they want
“I see employers take a cookie cutter approach to how they retain and incentivize employees who are at the same time becoming more and more individualized and unique,” says Michael Peterson, Acting Director of Recruitment Strategy at Sharp HealthCare.
“Something like a bonus may not matter at all (or may even be insulting) to someone that wants more time with their family,” he observes. “Challenging work may be the ultimate driver for others and no other incentive can replace that, especially to someone that is trying to grow and develop skills.”
8: Lower the ‘entry-level’ expectations and offer training for those positions
“Gone is the day where training was expected after hire,” says Michael Wallstrom, Owner and Technician for Computer Repair Now.
Wallstrom notes the frustrating, growing expectation that “entry-level” positions be filled by candidates with many years worth of experience. He feels this is damaging to both new-to-the-field candidates and the employers – the former are unable to find positions and the latter are disappointed with the talent pool.
9: Be eager to hire candidates with 80 percent of the qualifications
“Use the 80/20 rule,” says Bob Waldo, Senior Recruiter at LiquidHub. “If a candidate has 80 percent of the skills the job requires, they are qualified. Hire them! They will learn the 20 percent and be 100 percent whole in a shorter period than it will take you to find the perfect fit.”
Waldo argues that such employees are also easier to retain. “You get a much more motivated employee than the guy who has ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt to prove it,’” he says.
10: Treat your employees right so they can be your word-of-mouth recruiting force
If you care for your staff, imbue trust—and help them—they’ll return the favor with incredible productivity, loyalty and recruitment, says Tom Cooper, Principal for BrightHill Group. “Great employment branding emerges from the heart of the company,” says John Sumser of HRExaminer. “When employees feel valued, they promote the brand,” agreed career coach Rita Ashley. “If employees aren’t referring their friends, there’s a whole lot wrong internally.”
Ashley noted one Seattle business that treated its staff so poorly that the reputation spread quickly among local talent. As a result, the company was forced to hire out of state.
11: Write a job description with realistic expectations
“Hiring managers have a tendency to write job descriptions about the most ideal candidate, asking for the world when in reality the job may not actually require that skill set,” says AutoTrader.com’s Ben Sian.
Doing that is absurd, argues L.J. Bothell of StudioBast, who has seen unrealistic job descriptions requesting candidates who do not exist. No prospective employee could possibly have several years’ experience with all the competing technology in their field, and expecting them to will prevent top talent from even applying.
12: Communicate during the hiring process
“I know that I am guilty of not being able to communicate as quickly and in as much detail as I wish,” admits Greg Buechler, Recruiter and Researcher at eGain Communications. “But zero is too little.” He recommends keeping candidates informed throughout the hiring process – where you are with other candidates, if anyone involved will be out of town, etc.
Communications is just as important between recruiters and hiring managers, as Tim Heard, President of eSearch Associates, observes. “Unfortunately, I have dealt with many hiring managers who after the fact have added, ‘Oh yeah, we really need this skill too,’ when explaining why a candidate wasn’t a good fit.”
13: Perks, perks, perks
This one is a bit of a given: top candidates are looking for top benefits. Perks can include additional vacation time, flex hours, all types of insurance, fully vested 401(k) plans, free food, pre-paid legal services, financial planning, concierge services, paid certifications, telecommuting, a pleasant work environment, health benefits that start on day one and, of course, a competitive salary.
14: Sell your company as a wise investment
In addition to perks, you’ll want to “sell your company and the opportunity as much or more than you expect your candidate to sell themselves,” says Bob Waldo of LiquidHub.
These are the people who are going to be making your company run, and they need to have buy-in. Share current revenues, anticipated revenue growth, current market share and how you plan to expand it, he advises.
15: Encourage employees to maintain past employer relationships so you can source from competition
Encourage collegiality between your employees and their previous coworkers. Why? Those are your future employees. Those working for you now can help you identify other top talent in the field, and if ongoing creative relationships exist, more’s the better.
“We actually have a great reputation among our competitors,” says Debby Afraimi of Collective. “We poached some people that still have friends at their former employer. That helps when I’m sourcing from the competition.”
Conclusion: Respect the role of the engineer
The bottom line is that, as a hiring manager, you need to respect the drive, problem-solving abilities, and dedication of the engineer. Show them that respect and understanding, and they’ll return it in spades.
Original interviews conducted by Dice.com