How To Hire Engineers In A Competitive City

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Hiring engineers is difficult, particularly in cities where tech talent is in high demand. In these areas within the United States, there are often more job listings for software engineers than there are actual software engineers. This makes things difficult, particularly for smaller software shops, as they have to compete with the offers that larger tech companies are able to make. 

At my company, we have always approached hiring a little differently, and I think that is why we have a much easier time hiring talented senior engineers than other companies in our area. Additionally, our business often helps other companies throughout the United States build their technical teams, proving the success of this methodology.

Change the way you look at the recruiting process.

Traditionally, the hiring process at most companies looks a little something like this: identify a need for hiring, list job, interview candidates, make an offer. This process has been disrupted in software engineering, as there aren’t that many candidates applying for each role because there are more open roles than there are senior engineers. And even if they did, engineers have the luxury of comparing multiple offers.

The recruiting process is broken, and many companies are struggling with how to make do as software engineering roles become a vital part of business functions.

I’d recommend shifting your thinking around the hiring process, focusing more on each candidate and building a relationship with that candidate, rather than just looking to fit a candidate into the box of the role that is available. Driving relationship-focused recruiting takes a little more time and energy — particularly from technical staff as opposed to traditional recruiters — but, in my experience, the results make it worth it.

To shift your approach to more relationship-based recruiting, start with a more informal discussion to get to know the candidate and their background. This first touch should be with an engineer and not a recruiter. Communicate with the candidate throughout their interview process so that they know where they stand. If they don’t get the role, discuss why they weren’t the right fit (especially if they made it far into your process) and help connect them to a better fitting role (in your organization or at another company), if you are able. Ensure you are connected on LinkedIn and that they feel comfortable reaching out in the future.

Build relationships.

By changing the way you view the recruiting process as a whole, you can develop relationships with many more candidates. When a new role opens up, you can sit back and think about some of the conversations you have had with engineers in your network and think about who might be a good fit. With this approach, I frequently have engineers I have spoken to in the past — even engineers who have turned down offers of employment with our company — reach out to see if we have anything that might be a good fit for them. This process is much more self-sufficient, especially as we don’t have to rely on third-party recruitment firms (or recruiters at all).

This relationship-building can foster an environment where software engineers can come to you for career advice and mentorship. It is important to note that this is a time-intensive process. However, I’d argue that it is not as time-intensive as dealing with the consequences of being unable to hire engineers when you need them.

Lean on your team.

If you don’t have anyone in your network in mind for a specific role, lean on your team. Do you know who knows really great engineers? The talented engineers on your team. Chances are, they have friends and past colleagues who may be exactly who you are looking for. Incentivize your engineers with referral bonuses or other opportunities to get them advocating for your company.

Offer more than a paycheck.

When it comes time to make an offer of employment in your hiring process, be wary of trying to beat out all of the other offers that engineer has by simply offering more money. While you obviously need to make a competitive offer in terms of compensation, you also need to make a pitch for the other benefits of working for your company. Popular perks among candidates I speak to are remote work option (50%-100% remote), generous PTO, mentorship opportunities, educational opportunities and autonomy within their position to choose projects they are passionate about.

At my company, we place a lot of value in mentorships and career growth. We also want our engineers excited about the projects they are working on and allow them to take time to learn a new programming language or build something new. I like to illustrate a clear growth path for each engineer within our company, helping this individual truly envision a career here.

Make recruiting engineers ‘human’ again.

At the end of the day, my process for hiring isn’t that unique. I am simply going back to a time where the hiring process was less cold and automated and more human. We are leading the recruiting process by leveraging people who are actual engineers and can talk-the-talk to potential hires. I believe this is the key to hiring great engineering talent, building relationships and truly helping engineers excel throughout their careers.