5 Ways Recruiting Engineers is Different

February 2, 2015

Many moons ago, long before I came to work for, I was employed by an internet startup company. We worked long hours for decent pay, generous stock options, and ran on adrenaline and ignorance alone. I was young, unmarried, childless, and apparently willing to shave off years of my life by working 75 hours a week. Those were the days.

The company was small, which meant we were all generally intimate with each other’s responsibilities, including the engineers. Clich√© as it is, they worked in their dark little cubbies, mostly kept to themselves, and had their nerdy inside jokes, all the while creating the platform upon which we were able to build some great technology that would one day catch the eye of a tech giant — not naming names, but it starts with an “M” and ends with an “icrosoft”.

These engineers were coding, testing, creating, and moving us into the future. It was Seattle in the late ’90s, and they roamed the streets, in the wild. Recruiters and HR managers were frothing at the mouth to hire the next big thing, which meant that anyone that even looked like an engineer was highly sought after and heavily courted.

And while the dazzle and froth fizzled out after the tech-boom bust, the need for talented and experienced engineers has only grown.

This is why seasoned HR managers and recruiters know that what I’m about to say is, and will be for the foreseeable future, gospel truth: recruiting engineers is hard, y’all.

1 – The Need Far Outweighs Available Talent

Technology is blazing ahead, and that means you need engineers that can tackle the challenges that will take us from where we are, to the technology that awaits.

The truth is that we’ve all been rather patient waiting for our very own Rosie, ala The Jetson’s, but we can’t be expected to wait forever, can we?

The problem is that while the future is teeming with exciting possibilities, we need the talent to take us there, especially when it comes to technology. If the question, “Have you tried to hire a Software Engineer lately?” makes you want to hide under your desk and curl into a ball, you know precisely that of which we speak.

2 – Mid-Level Engineers are like Unicorns

If you’ve spent any amount of time recruiting, you absolutely know this to be true. With the economy being what it was several years ago, companies were forced to put their hiring on ice, and engineers quickly abandoned ship at record numbers for industries outside of their field of study, thus creating a significant talent deficit.

Is it any wonder then that the near-mythical mid-level engineer eludes you?

3 – Old-School Tactics Don’t Work

It’s true; old-school hard-and-fast recruiting/ hiring practices could be what’s coming between you and the perfect hire. Traditional hiring practices where candidates jump through a series of hoops that are still in place because it’s the way it’s always been done might still work. The thought may also persist that if an applicant wants the position at XYZ Company enough, they’ll do what it takes to get hired. But can you really afford to take the risk?

Related:¬†Why Engineers Aren’t Applying to your Job

Sure, you may net a decent candidate, but wouldn’t you rather recruit an excellent candidate instead?

Let flexibility be what you have up your sleeve to beat out the competition. Work to know your candidate, the position and the responsibilities you need the candidate to fill, and ways in which you can accommodate a technically savvy workforce.

4 – Your Future Hire is Already Employed

It’s not a matter of advertising your position and then fighting back the candidates lining up to apply. Sure that works if you’re SpaceX or Tesla, but you’re probably not, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t candidates that would be thrilled to work for you… quite the contrary. You do, however, absolutely need to be cognizant of where you’ll find your next hire.

That next hire will probably be a passive candidate, especially if you’re recruiting for anything beyond a recent-grad/ entry-level position.

Now what? You need to catch them while they’re testing the waters and dipping their toes into the pool. Your secret weapon… the siren song, as it were, that lures them away from the shore and into the deep end… is constant visibility.

Your job(s) need to be out there, all of the time, visible and relevant.

5 – It’s Not All About the Benjamins

We’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating: work-life balance is, surprisingly, more important than money. Engineers expect fair compensation, which is no news, but today’s engineering workforce places significant value on quality of life — the work they do and the way they do it — is key.

In what ways have you found recruiting engineers to differ from your other recruiting efforts? Do you agree with our list? Let us know!

Photo Credit: Flickr/ Michael Cohen