For any organisation that relies on software developers and other IT specialists, which in today’s world is almost every organisation, it is imperative to get IT recruitment right. It’s so difficult to find these key employees that when you do commit to one, you want them to stick around and to improve or at least maintain the team dynamic. One bad egg could easily lose you three good ones. We hire software developers, DevOps specialists and other IT specialists in short supply all the time. This is the methodology we use to minimise our IT recruitment misses.
A well-tuned interview methodology is key to effective IT recruitment. The often painfully short supply of experienced software developers means too many organisations compromise their usually strict recruitment methodologies and principals when recruiting coders.
The reality is the supply to demand imbalance means it is even more important to get your IT recruitment methodology right. And that, counter to the emphasis many IT recruiters place on technical competencies, means that soft skills assessment methodology is actually the side of the process that has most influence on successful outcomes.
Replacing poor hires is not only time consuming and expensive in direct relation to replacing one coder. Bringing bad eggs into your team can quickly have a negative impact on the job satisfaction of other members and increase staff turnover – a ratio any company that regularly recruits coders knows has to be fiercely fought down.
K&C has been recruiting software developers for over 20 years now. And over more than two decades, we’ve never encountered any period of meaningful duration when demand for coders has not outstripped supply. But pressure situations lead to the evolution of more efficient techniques and processes. 20+ years of IT recruitment pressure has refined and distilled our methodology. We assess technical competencies, language skills and soft skills. It’s the latter that is most challenging to get right and why our soft skills recruitment methodology is what we’ll focus most on here.
Importance of a unified standard for HR interview interviews of IT specialists focusing on non-technical qualities and soft skills.
Examples of interview questions, and how to analyse answers, when assessing qualities including:
IT recruitment is difficult. As a broad sector, IT might just be the hardest there is to recruit for. The reason is simple – demand significantly outstrips supply. 6 years ago, in 2014, Andrus Ansip, then the incoming EU commission for the digital single market, warned that by this year, 2020, Europe would be facing a deficit of 900,000 coders.
Fortunately, the extent of the challenge was proven to be overestimated. Unfortunately, the gap is still yawning chasm. Empirica, the German research and consultancy firm, estimates the current demand to supply gap for software developers in the EU at 500,000. Half a million more skilled coders are needed than exist on the market.
The issue is a global one. In the USA, there is an even bigger shortage. It is estimated that by next year, the largest economy in the world will be faced with a shortage of 1.4 million software developers and only 400,000 coding graduates entering the jobs market. The issue is also not going to improve. 21% growth in employment of software developers is expected by 2028 – well ahead of averages for other professions.
That extreme in supply to demand imbalance is why IT recruitment is difficult. Software developers and other IT experts such as consultants and infrastructure engineers almost always have a choice between multiple job offers. But as already mentioned, it is imperative that IT recruiters balance the need for the organisation to sell itself to candidates and make hires with an iron-caste unwillingness to compromise on who is hired.
Giving in to that temptation is only storing up future problems. Rushing or making compromises during the recruitment process increases the risk of hiring coders that lack the skills or experience to perform effectively on the projects they are needed for. Or hiring ‘bad eggs’ in the context of soft skills or their personality fit with the organisation’s culture.
As an IT outsourcer with nearshored talent hubs in Kiev, Krakow and Sofia, K&C is never not recruiting engineers and other specialists. In our experience, it is relatively easier to assess for technical competencies than it is for soft skills and cultural fit.
Let’s see how our methodology screens for both technical competencies and soft skills.
It is still crucially important that we have a well-defined methodology for assessing technical knowledge and experience. There are few quicker ways to erode a client’s trust than to put a stream of candidates for their project in front of them that then fail the client-side technical interview.
Assessing how well a candidate codes in React or Angular, or if they can install and configure an Istio service mesh, is a process with a relatively objective outcome. There are great third-party assessment tools and platforms out there to help IT recruiters evaluate candidates for coding skills, framework knowledge, IDE, databases, version control tools, systems design and problem solving and communication skills. These are also increasingly built for remote technical competency assessments.
K&C’s technical competencies assessment methodology focuses on deconstructing a candidate’s real strengths and weaknesses beyond their CV and getting an accurate picture of their objective skills.
When hiring for technical roles, the technical competencies of candidates categorically must fall within the specified range required by the client. As an IT services outsourcer, we also have to consider the bigger picture demand for the technical competencies a candidate has.
Will they be easily transferable to a new project after the conclusion of the one they are being hired for? A permanent inhouse hire should also be thought of in the same way. If the candidate’s technical competencies will not have obvious application within the organisation beyond the conclusion of the project being hired for, maybe it’s strategically wiser to use a contractor or team extension provided by an outsourcer?
Once it has been established a candidate’s technical competencies are within the requirement defined for the hire, arguably the more important part of the recruitment process begins – assessing soft skills, fit with the organisational culture and potential for future development (technical & soft skills + leadership/management potential).
We’re strongly of the opinion a rigorous methodology (and its implementation) for assessing a candidate’s motivations and ambitions, personal qualities and soft skills and identifying risks is just as important as assessing technical competency.
Anyone with even the slightest experience in IT recruitment will be aware of the danger for high staff turnover. It’s an inherent issue within the context of the supply to demand imbalance for software developers and other skilled IT professionals. It tends to be relatively easy for developers to transition to a new position and, realistically, they will be regularly approached by other IT recruiters.
While the market reality cannot be avoided entirely, good recruitment can and does go a long way to minimising staff turnover, improving team stability meaningfully. And on the assumption the relevant technical competencies are an entry level requirement that has been objectively and effectively verified, good IT recruitment means great screening for the three squares of the above quadrant outside of ‘Can’.
Those are the variables that will define the organisation’s:
Even if an organisation is using an IT outsourcer for team extensions or a dedicated project team, it is important to know the outsourcing partner’s methodology for assessing non-technical competency and suitability. It’s especially important if professionals will be working alongside, or in communication with, inhouse employees. Which is almost always the case to some extent.
And even if contact will be limited, how likely is it that a team of IT specialists put together with no consideration of soft skills and non-technical qualities will work effectively together and in communication with your organisation’s inhouse employees?
There’s a high risk it won’t work out well. Placing too much emphasis on technical skills and not enough on soft skills and non-technical qualities, almost always results in poor technical outcomes. The software development equivalent of a sports team of individual talents, too few of which are interested in making personal compromises in the interest of the outcome for the team as a whole.
An accurate assessment for non-technical candidate qualities comes down to the methodology, and its implementation, of the HR side to the recruitment process.
There are a number of different types and approaches to HR interviews in IT recruitment. They are:
The methodology we have refined at K&C is a mix of the above and consists of:
For consistency in outcome, it is vital that the following three conditions are met:
The HR interview is designed to assess:
There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ answers about motivation. Different people are motivation by different things. But within that context we need to understand if the company can offer the candidate something that is important to them or not.
If any serious doubts about a candidate, references from previous employers a must.
The quality of the references is highly dependent on the specific questions asked and who the reference is being provided by.
If there is one lesson that will stand an IT recruiter in better stead than any other, it is that the harder it is to recruit for a particular role in an organisation, whether it is an IT specialist role or any other, the stricter assessment criteria should be. The natural reaction is to relax criteria when the supply of quality candidates is tight. But even if it can be hard to resist making compromises when the pressure is on to fill a position, doing so rarely works out well.
IT recruitment is difficult. We all know why. The supply to demand ratio for software development and other specialist technical competencies in the IT sector means it’s a seller’s labour market. That means taking extra care who you buy that labour from if you want relationships to be sustainable, healthy and a win-win for the employer, employee, their direct team mates and the wider organisation.