How to compete for the best tech talent

You need to recruit digital experts but you've been told there's a huge shortage of techies with the requisite skills. So what are you to do?

by Alexander Garrett
Last Updated: 16 Feb 2017
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Future Business

Think marketing. The likes of Apple, Google and Facebook are among the most desirable companies to work for in the sector, based on their cool image. ‘Make sure you’ve got the right kind of employer brand out there, so people understand what you do and what it’s like to work for you,’ says Nathan Callaghan, a director at digital recruitment agency Futureheads.

Cast your net wide. Recruitment agencies can help, but make use of your own networks and social media. Go to thought-leadership events, hackathons and meet-ups, or hold your own. ‘Market yourself continually, make sure you work every channel, and let people know that you’re hiring,’ says Callaghan.

Walk the tech talk. Demonstrate that technology is at the heart of your business. ‘Our research among CIOs and CTOs showed that 81% believe technology innovation had a positive impact on their ability to hire strong IT talent,’ says Neil Owen, director of recruiters Robert Half Technology. ‘Candidates want to work incompanies who are investing in what’s new such as cloud-based services, or open-source technologies, as opposed to legacy systems.’

Create the right roles. ‘Front-end development, open-source technology, cybersecurity, and digital projects where there’s a disruptive business model, are all roles that are sought after,’ says Owen. If it’s a project that’s breaking new ground, and can be seen through from inception to completion, so much the better.

Show things are under control. Techies don’t like working in chaos – scary development pipelines, horrendous deadlines – and will smile on your business if you can promise to organise work efficiently and take off the pressure. Clear internal communications and job mobility will count for more than shiny plasma screens.


Read more: Six figure salaries and hounding recruiters: The war for London's tech talent


Offer equity – and a chance to make a difference. ‘What attracts candidates to smaller companies nowadays is being part of the journey,’says Owen. ‘Being in a smaller business and on the way to realising its vision is highly motivating.’

Enable upskilling. When you design your benefits package, rather than a flash pool table, why not offer development or innovation days, where people can pursue their own learning, or work on their own projects?

Make your culture appeal. A dress-down, unbuttoned environment is a given for the IT crowd. But they’re looking for more than that. ‘They want to be able to express themselves without fear of retribution, there’s a lot of focus around being prepared to fail as opposed to a blame culture where people are terrified in case something goes wrong,’ says Callaghan.

Get the balance right. Tech types are the architects of the ability to work from home, so naturally they see it as an expectation for themselves, more than other groups do. Offer a bit of flexibility and the chance to drop the kids off at school and you’re on a winning track.

Do say:

‘Technology is at the centre of our strategy and your contribution will make a real difference to achieving our vision.’

Don’t say:

‘We have dial-up internet at the moment, but don’t worry we’ll be upgrading in the next year.’

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