Many companies are desperately looking for IT specialists and launch the craziest marketing campaigns. Paradoxically, they often forget to take the perspective of their target group. What are these companies doing wrong in IT recruiting?

Recently at a start-up event, a young developer, who incidentally had a permanent position with a company, complained to me: "Oh, those stupid recruiters, they keep bugging you with their requests on Xing, you can't get rid of them! A labor market survey by the IT industry association BITKOM shows that in Germany alone, approximately 55,000 IT positions remain unfilled each year. In Austria, 61,000 people work as salaried employees in the IT sector, according to the Association of Management Consultants and Information Technology of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce (as of 2016). Several thousand IT positions are unfilled in this country. Depending on the source, estimates vary between 3,000 and 5,000.

So it's no wonder that quite a few headhunters are trying to approach potential candidates via social networks - and persuade them to change jobs. Active sourcing, as this method is called, is popular, but not uncontroversial among experts, precisely because of its relevance to data protection law. But there are other reasons why recruiters are now a red rag to many developers: The way they are approached.

IT employees annoyed by personnel managers

This doesn't mean large posters with code formulas that lead to an application page - a campaign that the Düsseldorf-based company Trivago recently ran, which at best caused a sneer among the target group. Rather, it's about the way the entire communication with potential applicants is handled.

There are studies on this: For a study, the Centre of Human Resources Information Systems (CHRIS) at the University of Bamberg, together with the career platform Monster, surveyed the top 1,000 companies and the 300 largest companies from the IT sector in Germany. The results were compared with the results of the usage behavior and the assessments of more than 2,800 candidates.

The survey shows how applicants are approached: IT professionals in particular are downright annoyed by recruiters or headhunters because they receive too many uninteresting inquiries with inappropriate, standardized approaches or even fear that their current employer will notice. As a result IT Recruitingtwo out of ten applicants avoid the channel in the future, 16 percent delete corresponding messages unread, and men in particular talk badly about spammers. So this is not good self-marketing for companies looking for employees.

Every year, the developer platform Stack Overflow surveys around 100,000 developers from 183 countries and regions about their education, future plans, preferred technologies, and expectations of their job and employer. Salary is a high priority for most respondents, but flexible working hours, work-life balance and development opportunities also play an important role for developers when choosing their employer.


Type of address is decisive in IT recruiting

Here, too, the approach is crucial, as Stefan Schwarzgruber, responsible for business development in the DACH market at Stack Overflow, explains: "Basically, developers and recruiters are different types of people; according to the survey, twelve percent of developers even find recruiters annoying." He adds that anyone who wants to attract developers should therefore take a close look at previous projects in advance and refer to them in their cover letter. "The candidate should notice that you place value on his work and person. A flippant marketing approach such as 'coding guru wanted' is of little use. It's better to be specific about the job description, compensation and experience of the desired candidate," recommends Schwarzgruber.

But it's possible that the pressure to find IT specialists is not yet high enough for many companies: I'm only thinking of the heated discussion surrounding IT entrepreneur Illja Maditsch, a virologist with a doctorate in computer science and founder of the scientist network Research-Gate. He had appeared at a meeting and photo session of the Digital Council with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in shorts and Superman kapper. If Mr. Maditsch had appeared like this for a job interview, some recruiters would probably have rejected him immediately, despite the alleged shortage of skilled workers.

Training and development opportunities are also a constant topic of discussion among employers. This is because employers often want to invest as little as possible in the further development of their IT employees, for fear that the competition will then poach them. At the same time, however, personal initiative is not appreciated enough: More than 90 percent of the developers surveyed in the Stack Overflow survey state that they have taught themselves new programming languages, frameworks or tools outside of their formal training. That makes sense, too, because technology doesn't find its way into any curriculum as quickly as it evolves today. But German employers in particular find it difficult to recognize alternative educational paths such as online courses and programming experience as equivalent to a degree. However, doing so would significantly increase their candidate pool. As long as companies continue to act with such blind spots in recruiting, the shortage of skilled workers does not seem to be big enough.


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