Recruiting IT specialists regularly presents employers with major challenges. Between the job advert and the job interview, there are numerous pitfalls that can put potential new employees off. Ilka Szentkiralyi from indivHR knows why employers miss out on highly qualified candidates and how they can find developers who suit them.

Recruiting IT specialists

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

Szentkiralyi: Nowadays, many buzzwords are used in order to be found at all. Some of them are important and topical, others are just hot air. For example, if you use phrases such as ninja or rock star to describe yourself, you may be more likely to be someone who puts on a show and makes big statements. Marketing words such as revolutionary or disruptive are more hot air than a description of real expertise. The trend topics and programming languages are where things get interesting: Developers who claim to be proficient in all the programming languages currently in demand are probably blenders. You shouldn't be able to do a little bit of everything, but what you can do, you should do properly.

Fewer keywords, on the other hand, are worth their weight in gold, as key terms alone do not indicate a candidate's suitability. Instead, companies need to make sure that the candidate's image is consistent and that they show what they can do. Although it is usually only possible to recognise in the first step whether the candidate has the experience you are looking for, the overall picture should be that of an experienced developer.

Especially in the IT sector, it is not uncommon for autodidacts to have no formal university education: do employers take this into account sufficiently when looking for new employees?

Szentkiralyi: The focus on university degrees remains unchanged. But this is not the only area where companies are missing out on highly qualified candidates. This is also the case when it comes to professional experience, for example. Developers do not like being told how long they have mastered a technology. For example, "extensive PHP knowledge" is better than "at least seven years' experience". Developers are also often underachievers. If you are looking for a senior developer, for example, you should define what is meant by this in more detail and not just filter out those who have not previously held a senior position. It is important to remember that work experience is not the same as programming experience.

Sharpen job profiles if necessary

The gap between desire and reality in terms of applicants' knowledge and skills: As an employer, how flexible do I need to be 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 realise that you are having difficulties finding a specialist, you should discuss all possible scenarios with the HR managers in the specialist department. This is the only way to assess on a case-by-case basis how much room for manoeuvre the candidate profile leaves. Are there related profiles on the basis of which someone can learn the required technologies on the job? Can the pool of applicants be extended to an international audience? Can the job be advertised as a remote position? What else can you offer 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: Nowadays, companies have to apply to great developers and not the other way round. Above all, it is important that employers are honest and transparent about the requirements, benefits and processes of day-to-day work. As mentioned at the beginning, terms such as Ninja or Rockstar It is better not to use buzzwords in a serious environment, as they are often just embellishments. The most important thing, however, is the general conditions for jobs: What is the salary, how many holiday days, flexible working hours, where is the office located, etc. This information helps the candidate to assess whether the position is interesting at all.

"Avoid false promises and marketing language."

The best thing to do is to take a closer look at your candidate and assess their previous projects and areas of interest. On the other hand, you should absolutely avoid false promises and marketing language: an authentic image with minor flaws is definitely more convincing than a falsely advertised perfect world. Sooner or later this will become apparent 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 is better to refer to the personal career of a developer.

"Conventional educational pathways are only of limited value."

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

Szentkiralyi: Recruiters urgently need to learn that the old rules of recruiting no longer apply. In the IT sector in particular, there are more jobs than workers. This is why traditional application processes only work to a limited extent and in order to be convincing, you need 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 will be a direct fit. It is also not certain whether they will fulfil the requirements in the future. You have to judge more by potential and less by ability.

Conventional educational paths are also only of limited value: a programmer with a traditional university degree on their CV may be less suitable for pioneering technologies such as robotics or machine learning than a career changer who has attended these courses online and taught themselves the whole thing. Many autodidacts build up a wealth of experience with unusual methods and experiment with new approaches. Every recruiter should bear this in mind.

At the same time, you should not lose sight of what you are hiring developers for. It is not important that they write an outstanding cover letter or have completed certain stages in their professional career. What counts are the results of their work and these points cannot be recognised with a standard CV process, but only through individual examination. This takes time - but it's not about filling empty jobs quickly, it's about hiring the right people. The global developer survey conducted by Stack Overflow in 2019 found that most developers dislike having to apply with a CV, cover letter and all associated documents.

How does personality find its place in CVs and CV databases where profiles are structured according to the same pattern?

Szentkiralyi: The application process is broken up in IT recruiting and, as I said, follows different rules. If you present yourself in career networks, you should make sure that you not only fill in the mandatory fields, but also ask for recommendations from former colleagues or business partners, indicate hobbies and interests that illustrate an interest in the overall subject matter, the industry and perhaps a life away from the input line on the computer. Short, personalised texts and explanations are particularly 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 what makes them special and why they are special. And you shouldn't shy away from interesting breaks in your CV - they indicate assertiveness and your own ideas. Developers also get more profile and personality if they are active in tech communities and stand out with good contributions and responses. All of this should paint a consistent and competent picture.

How do you recognise blenders? Is it enough to look at the application and CV or do you need a personal interview?

Szentkiralyi: It is virtually impossible to recognise a blender straight away and on paper. Real experts can only be recognised in a personal conversation and during a coding test (e.g. the White Board Test) from impostors. We leave out all the conventional tools in these small tests, so the candidate really has to show that they understand the material and logic behind the big picture and have a passion for programming.

Without a code library and copy & paste, it is no longer enough to simply adapt or improve lines of code; the developer must write the next sequences independently thanks to their knowledge. It's not about the difficulty of the task - rather, the recruiter has to make sure that the candidate can explain what they are doing. Here, by the way, you can drill down a little more and feel out the developer's skills. This will give you an idea of the developer's real skills.

Another way to get an insight into the skills of developers before the interview is their extended online presence. On platforms such as Github, or via a Stack Overflow Developer Story, you have the opportunity to see work samples or examples of how developers work. By asking or answering a question, you can also get an up-to-date insight into what a developer is currently working on. A good basis for dialogue for recruiters and IT staff.

Our offer for you in IT recruiting

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

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