Agility is a buzzword at the moment, but is this new approach to HR and people management really enough to keep businesses afloat in a rapidly changing world? Key trends in technology recruitment could offer some clues.
Technology companies are often the first to experiment with improving work practices, acting as a ‘proof of concept’ before being picked up more widely. For example, new ways of working such as the use of agile teams, weekly sprints and collaboration analytics all originated in the tech sector and have spread rapidly to HR and other industries in recent years.
As a result, the sector often acts as a bellwether for changes to come: what happens in tech today will affect the wider economy tomorrow. Therefore, challenges in tech recruitment today have much to tell us about the direction of travel for recruitment and HR as a whole.
Education pathways are changing
One of the biggest challenges facing recruiters and HR managers in technology today is a rapidly shifting educational landscape. Entry paths into a career as a developer used to be simple: study an undergraduate degree in computer science, mathematics, physics or similar STEM subject, get some projects under your belt, and then get hired into a junior development position. However, there are many factors at play that are making this simple path a thing of the past.
Fewer developers are taking a traditional education route to their careers, and fewer developers see formal university degrees as important to their daily work. At the same time, online courses, such as those provided by companies like Udacity and Coursera, are becoming increasingly popular. According to Stack Overflow’s annual survey of 64,000 developers, 49 per cent of those with less than four years’ experience reported participating in an online course.
On top of all this, the hard skills needed for technology jobs are currently evolving so swiftly that it’s more important than ever to get the recruitment process right. We must hire candidates not just for what they can do today, but also for what they will be able to learn tomorrow. These trends all make it difficult for hiring managers to use educational background to assess their candidates.
Transforming the assessment process
As a result of this shift, hiring managers are increasingly turning to other platforms to assess an applicant’s suitability for the role. Community sites such as GitHub, Quora and our own can provide a good indication of a candidate’s experience level. These services rely on people sharing their work and ideas publicly, and working with others collaboratively to find solutions to shared problems. An applicant’s reputation on these platforms can be a great indicator of how they will work in an office environment.
The interview process in tech firms is also changing. Today, interviews are much more hands-on, with multiple ‘interviews’ consisting of standardised tests that candidates are asked to perform, either in the office or as a take-home assignment. These tests have the benefit of helping to screen applicants based on their skill rather than other factors that might induce bias on the part of the interviewer.
As in tech, so in other sectors
In non-technology industries these types of alternative assessments are less common, but they are becoming more prevalent. A candidate with a strong LinkedIn presence, Behance profile or Medium post history is on the whole more likely to have an active interest in their topic area than one who has no online presence at all. Likewise, an applicant that excels on a practical test is probably worth more of your time than one who simply interviews well.
Longer probation periods, an Amazon-style 360 peer review system or a performance analytics platform – there are many options available, from the conservative to the innovative.
There’s no one solution that works for every sector and job title; the point here isn’t that the tech sector’s hiring processes work for everyone. What’s important is that we learn from the tech industry’s spirit of innovation. The hiring process doesn’t have to remain static, and there’s often little reason that interviews are in a certain format, other than that’s how it’s always been done. With the changing desires and backgrounds of people entering the job market, this level of innovation is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
Sean Bave is general manager and vice president of talent at Stack Overflow