Recruiting IT professionals regularly presents employers with major challenges. Between the job ad and the job interview, there are numerous pitfalls that can scare away potential new employees. Ilka Szentkiralyi from indivHR knows why employers miss out on highly qualified candidates and how they find developers who fit their bill.

Recruiting of IT professionals


Good to know for both sides: Buzzwords in the resume. Which phrases are just hot air?


Szentkiralyi: Nowadays, people use a lot of buzzwords to get found in the first place. Some of them are important and topical, others are just hot air. For example, if you use phrases like ninja or rock star to describe yourself, you may be more of a stager and a big talker. Also marketing words like revolutionary or disruptive are more hot air than they describe real skill. It gets interesting with the trend topics and programming languages: Developers who claim to have mastered all the programming languages currently in demand are probably blenders. You shouldn't be able to do everything a little bit, but what you can do, do it right.

Fewer keywords, on the other hand, are worth their weight in gold, because keywords alone do not indicate a candidate's suitability. Rather, companies must make sure that the candidate's image is consistent and that he or she shows what he or she can do. It is true that in the first step it is usually only possible to see whether the candidate has the experience they are looking for - but on the whole, the image of an accomplished developer should emerge.

Particularly in the IT sector, autodidacts without a formal university education are not uncommon: Do employers sufficiently consider this when looking for new employees?

Szentkiralyi: The focus on university degrees still exists. But this is not the only area where companies miss out on highly qualified candidates. Also when it comes to professional experience, for example. Developers don't like it when people tell them how long they have mastered a technology. So "extensive PHP knowledge" is better than "at least seven years of experience." Also, developers are often deep-pocketed. For example, if you're looking for a senior developer, you should define in more detail what is meant by that, and not just filter out those who haven't held a senior position before. It's important to keep in mind that work experience does not equal programming experience.

Sharpen job profiles as needed

The gap between desire and reality in terms of knowledge and skills of the applicants: How flexible do I have to be as an employer with my wish list?

Szentkiralyi: Of course, this varies from job profile to job profile and even by region or company. The fact is, as soon as you notice that you are having difficulty finding a specialist, you should discuss all possible scenarios with the recruiters in the specialist department. Only there can it be assessed on a case-by-case basis how much leeway the candidate profile leaves. Are there related profiles on the basis of which someone can learn the technologies sought on the job? Can the candidate pool be expanded to include an international audience? Can the job be advertised as a remote working position? What else can be offered to a developer to make the position interesting? Flexible working hours? Part-time?

Searching instead of waiting: Active Sourcing

How can employers score points with IT talent in active sourcing? What are the dos and don'ts of direct approach?

Szentkiralyi: These days, companies need to apply to great developers, not the other way around. The most important thing is that employers are honest and transparent about requirements, benefits and processes of daily work. As mentioned at the beginning, you should use terms like Ninja or Rockstar better not use them in a serious environment - as well as buzzwords, as they often only embellish. The most important thing, however, is the general conditions for jobs: How high is the salary, how many vacation days, flexible working hours, where is the office located, etc.? Information helps the candidate to evaluate whether the job is interesting at all.

"Avoid false promises and marketing language."

The best thing to do is to take a closer look at your candidate, evaluate the projects he or she has completed so far, and also see what his or her areas of interest are. On the other hand, you should absolutely avoid false promises and marketing language: An authentic image with small flaws is definitely more convincing than a falsely advertised ideal world. Sooner or later this will turn out anyway and the developer will be gone at the next opportunity. Copy-paste modules are also a no-go: every job is different and has a different focus and a different team behind it. For cover letters, it's better to refer to a developer's personal career.

"Traditional educational pathways are of limited value."

Recruiting developers: What do HR departments and recruiters still urgently need to learn here?

Szentkiralyi: Recruiters urgently need to learn that the old rules of recruiting no longer apply. Especially in the IT industry, there are more jobs than workers. That's why classic application processes only work to a limited extent, and to be convincing, you have to know the needs and wishes of the developers, but also of the industry. Not every developer who only knows the programming language you are looking for is a direct fit. Also, whether he will still meet the requirements in the future is not certain. You have to evaluate more according to potential, less according to ability.

Traditional educational paths are also only of limited value: A programmer with a classic university on his CV may be less suited to forward-looking technologies such as robotics or machine learning than a career changer who has taken these courses online and taught himself the whole thing. Many self-taught people build up a wealth of experience with unusual methods and experiment with new approaches. Every recruiter should keep that in mind.

At the same time, you should not lose focus of what you are hiring developers for. It is not important that they write an outstanding cover letter or that they have completed certain stages in their professional career. It's the results of their work that count, and these points can't be identified with a standard resume process, but only through individual examination. This takes time - but it's not about filling empty jobs quickly, but hiring the right people. In Stack Overflow's 2019 global developer survey, it came out that most developers hate having to apply with a resume and cover letter and all the associated documents.

How does personality find a place in CVs and resume databases where profiles follow the same pattern?

Szentkiralyi: The application process is broken up in IT recruiting and, as mentioned, follows different rules. When presenting oneself in career networks, one should take care not only to fill in the mandatory fields, but also to ask for recommendations from former colleagues or business partners, to indicate hobbies and interests that illustrate interest in the whole subject matter, the industry and perhaps a life away from the input line at the computer. Especially short, individual texts and explanations are good. Why did you take which step and what mistakes did you perhaps make, what did you learn from them?

Free text fields are of course a great opportunity, as the developer can freely write here what makes him special and why. And you shouldn't be afraid of interesting breaks in your resume - they indicate assertiveness and your own ideas. In addition, developers get more profile and personality if they are active in tech communities and excel at posting and responding well. All of this should create a consistent and competent image.

How do you recognize blenders? Is it enough to look at an application and CV, or do you need a personal interview?

Szentkiralyi: It is virtually impossible to recognize a phony on paper and right away. Real experts can only be distinguished in a personal conversation and during a coding test (e.g. the White board test) of impostors. We leave out all the conventional tools in these little tests, so the candidate really has to show that they understand the subject matter and logic behind the big picture and have a passion for programming.

Without a code library and copy and paste, it is no longer enough to simply adapt or improve lines of code; the developer must write the next sequences independently thanks to his knowledge. It's not about the difficulty of the task - rather, the recruiter has to make sure that the candidate can explain what he or she is doing. Here, by the way, you can ask a bit more questions and get to the bottom of the developer's skills. This way, you can get an idea of the developer's real skills.

Another way to get a glimpse of developers' skills before the interview is through their extended online presence. On platforms like Github, or via a Stack Overflow Developer Story, you have the opportunity to see work samples or examples of how developers work. Here you can also get a very current insight into what a developer is currently working on via a question that has been asked or answered. A good basis for discussion for recruiters and IT staff.

Our offer for you in IT recruiting

If you want to reach the best IT professionals, contact us. indivHR helps to become even more successful in IT recruiting and to avoid common mistakes.

As IT recruiting specialists with many years of experience, we know exactly how to design the candidate journey so that you are always ahead of your competitors. So that you get the best employees.