How to Adapt to IT Recruiting Trends in 2016

“In this market, where engineering supply is severely out of whack with demand, where good people are rarely actively looking for jobs, and where contingency recruiters get at least $25,000 per hire, the biggest problem isn’t filtering through a bunch of engaged job seekers. The problem is engaging them in the first place.” – Aline Lerner

Aline published this 10 months ago, yet the words have never been truer.

People working in the IT sector are in higher and higher demand. People recruiting them are in shorter and shorter supply. If you’re not one of the big guys, don’t do this:

Expect capable developers to send in CV with keywords such as “HTML.” Filter the system by searching for keywords such as “HTML” to put their names on top of some list. Ask them to go back and forth for six interviews with six different persons. Expect them to wait for another few weeks before the decision is made.

This “standard” recruiting process doesn’t apply anymore.

To get that top talent, you have to go out of your way, off the beaten path.

Guess what, some brave folks already did. More and more are following their tactics. Let’s go through them.

(you can click on each trend below to tweet it)

Sourcing stage

1 — Referral becomes your highest chance of getting high-quality candid...

Referral becomes your highest chance of getting high-quality candidates.

What to do: Offer a clear referral recruiting bonus, from $2,000 and above is market rate for good developers. Sit down with all your employees one by one. Leave the potential candidates’ availability behind, and only focus on your hiring standards. Have around three of those up your sleeve, for example: be smart, get things done, collaborate well. Go through all your employees’ networks with the standards in mind and a spreadsheet. Save time for everybody, just input the referrer’s name and link to the potential candidate’s profile. The name and contact info you can figure out later on your own. Keep the employees in the loop when you reach out, because they can help pitch in too. Together, you prove to the potential candidates that you are not just another CV-monger.

2 — The first contact is to establish mutual interests. Job advertising...

The first contact is to establish mutual interests. Job advertising comes second.

What to do: Comment on their work. Most developers share it on their GitHub’s accounts. Pinpoint the things the potential candidates do well and tell them that. You appreciate their expertise, so, you want to have their service. Your email will rise above the mediocre cold ones. Good developers like that. Good developers reply to that.

3 — The entire application process should be completed on mobile.

Why? Let’s say you are selling an ideal place – the ideal place – to an IT expert, but you force them to apply via a bureaucratic, outdated system with buttons and forms clearly designed for desktops in the 90s. Talk about the irony.

What to do: Make all communication and application accessible and doable on mobile.

Screening Stage

4 — Big brands don’t always fit your hiring need.

You’d feel impressed if the candidates used to work for Google, Facebook, and the likes. But hold yourself for a moment there. Look more into what the candidates have actually done. Ask yourself again and again: Is that really a match to what I need?

What to do: Get the candidates on the phone and ask them about their latest project. What is it? Why did they choose to do it? What is its impact on the company? Only very passionate people know every nook and cranny of their project. Proceed with them right away. If by any chance you have doubts about the candidate’s honesty, get references from those who have worked directly with them.

Interviewing Stage

5 — Hire the person, not the role.

Looking at the speed of IT development, the role you craft so carefully now could very well be in the trash bin in the next 2 years. You don’t need subject matter expert. You need someone who is an expert at learning and picking up new subject matters over and over again.

What to do: Ask if the person has been trying a variety of tools and programming languages in the past. What did they make out of that? Which one are they most proud of? And why?

For more judging criteria of general good coding practice, you can use the Joel Test byJoel Spolsky (co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Exchange).

  1. Do you use source control?
  2. Can you make a build in one step?
  3. Do you make daily builds?
  4. Do you have a bug database?
  5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
  6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
  7. Do you have a spec?
  8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
  10. Do you have testers?
  11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?
  12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

Make sure you read his elaboration on each question. Then you’ll have a pretty good idea about the candidate’s ability to keep things in control through ups and downs.

6 — Build your own trial test to get your own fit candidates.

There are more and more platforms offering tests and ranking developers, so why bother? If you use ready-made tests, the candidates learn nothing from your context, and you learn nothing from what the candidates can offer to solve your own problems. Offering an opportunity for both sides to get to know each other is well worth the hassle.

What to do: Extract a part of the current workload that needs to be done. Write a brief with background information, the resources the candidates can use, and the deliverables for each stage of the trial process (for examples: evaluation, concept, prototype, code). If the trial test needs more than an hour of work, play fair and square: offer to pay the candidates. A standard rate from Automattic is $25 per hour.

7 — What you sell is interesting challenges and recognition, in the for...

Foosball and free lunch are nice, but they just aren’t the things good developers go after.

What to do: Communicate the company’s vision and culture through and through. But don’t paint an unreal picture or set up unreal expectations. Provide concrete examples of current or past employees that you walk the talk.

Offering Stage

8 — The need for speed is crucial when it comes to offering jobs.

Yes, good developers are in high demand, as you’ve been aware of all along. It would be hopelessly naive if you think they would just sit and wait for your decision. Every day waiting is an open invitation for them to choose other companies.

What to do:

“If you have conviction about a candidate at the end of interview day, you spend the next day closing.” – John Ciancutti


Every point listed above is so counter-intuitive compared to the old way. They require you to put in more effort, more attention, more time.

But if you don’t, you will have to spend even more effort, even more attention, even more time to fix a bad hire.

Even if you can only apply one point to your recruiting process for now, start anyway. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it’ll make.

Have you discovered other interesting trends in recruiting IT talent? Tell us in the comment below, tweet, or email us!

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This article originally appeared on Recruitee Blog (newsletter:

Hagi Trinh is an avid recruitment writer at Recruitee. The team is working on the greatest hiring platform of all time. You can sign up at to try it out and follow us on Twitter @recruiteeHR.

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