How should you recruit today's tech talent?

Stack Overflow’s Mary Croskery on why money isn't enough to recruit and retain digital skills

UK companies are crying out for skilled staff, especially when it comes to technology. Research from the Open University, released in July, found that half of employers had faced a talent pool so dire that they had had no choice but to hire somebody who was underqualified, while a survey by Barclays, published last month, revealed that almost half of UK adults didn’t have the digital skills asked for in even the most run-of-the-mill job advertisements. With that in mind, Mary Croskery, senior people operations partner at online community for developers Stack Overflow, explains what HR needs to know to recruit – and keep hold of – the best tech talent.

What difficulties are companies facing when recruiting young developers?

With the demand for developers far exceeding the supply, organisations are under more pressure than ever to attract and retain top tech talent. Companies need to be as creative as possible when it comes to their employee value proposition if they want to remain competitive.

While salary is important, it’s rarely the number one priority for engineers. Consider what else you can offer to young (or indeed experienced) developers at your company, be it great benefits, flexible working or fun perks. According to our 2017 survey of 64,000 developers, 67 per cent of developers said they valued a good holiday allowance above all other types of benefits.

What are some of the common misconceptions about young tech talent?

Put simply, it’s not just about the money. The team, culture and development opportunities are also extremely important, particularly to millennial developers. That doesn’t mean that money isn’t important to millennials, and you should expect them to be well-informed about the market rate salary for the position they’re applying for.

Young developers are often accused of ‘always looking for that next big thing’. However, with the right working environment, organisations can retain talent for many years.

How do the needs of those in tech entering the workforce today differ to those who entered the workforce five or 10 years ago?

The biggest difference is the pace of technological change. Five or 10 years ago, it was easier for developers to leave university and expect the skills they learned there to be broadly applicable to the workplace. Today, universities are finding it more and more challenging to keep up with the new technologies and languages in use in the private sector, meaning that even developers who studied computer science at university have some catching up to do before they’re fully job ready.

What can HR do to spot the best tech talent?

Some of the best programmers have gained experience and knowledge in a less than traditional way. While a computer science degree is a fair gauge of someone’s programming skills, an increasing number of top developers are self-taught or have attended a bootcamp. Companies that insist on a computer science degree are unnecessarily narrowing their talent pool and undoubtedly missing out on some great applicants.

If you’re relying on career fairs or university recruiting events to attract young programmers, consider casting a wider net through online advertising or social media campaigns to attract a more varied and diverse applicant pool.