Developers are in serious demand - and not just by tech companies.
According to a study conducted by Glassdoor, non-tech companies in the retail, banking and financial services, and manufacturing sectors have been aggressively ramping up their technical hiring requirements in 2017.
It’s no wonder that developers are so highly sought after. In fact, half of the developers who participated in Stack Overflow’s 2015 Developer Hiring Survey said they receive recruitment messages once per week.
Unfortunately, they are not exactly flattered by the attention. In the same survey, these developers added that they “wish that recruiters would send them [recruitment messages] less often.” Yikes.
On the other hand, job fairs and networking events are great opportunities for companies to find promising technical hires. Having made the decision to attend, developers who turn up at these events are more likely to be open to opportunities.
However, quantity does not equate with quality - especially in this case.
As Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Stack Overflow and Fog Creek Software, puts it: “Great software developers, indeed, the best people in every field, are quite simply never on the market [...] If you’re really lucky, they show up on the open job market once [in a long while].”
To sift out these gems, you’ll need to learn how to spot the developers who seem to have potential in terms of skill and culture fit and focus your efforts on them.
Here’s how to identify talented developers who might be a good fit for your company.
1. Have clearly done their homework
While developers who attend job fairs and networking events might be more likely to be open to opportunities, they might not actually be interested in your company.
A simple way to assess this is to ask them for their thoughts about your company, product or service, and industry.
Good candidates should be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of your industry, interest in your particular company, and convey how their skills or qualifications suit the position(s) you’re offering.
If they have no clue about what your company does or sells, then they’re probably not going to be a good fit. Your efforts are better spent on those who attend the event with the intent to find out what opportunities your company has to offer.
Even so, try to refrain from simply turning them away!
Engaging with anyone who turns up at events is a great way to spread the word about your company and brand.
2. Demonstrates expertise and passion
Naturally, it’s important that the developer in question is passionate about his/her craft.
But rather than ask this question outright, it might be more useful to ask them to share more about their life as a developer so far.
For instance: how they picked up coding, or what projects they’ve contributed to outside the scope of their 9-to-5 job.
Side projects are known to be a great way for developers to learn new technologies by doing. These are typically worked on during a developer’s spare time, with little guarantee that they would ever generate any sort of revenue.
By asking these questions, not only would you be able to get a sense of their technical ability, but you’d also be able to see how committed they are to getting ahead in their particular domain.
Which leads me to my next point.
3. Shows an attitude of continuous learning
Since technology is constantly evolving, it is particularly important to hire developers who are not just talented but also demonstrate an interest in constantly improving. In other words, what psychologist Carol Dweck terms as a “growth mindset.”
According to Carol, employees who have a growth mindset “tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset [...] because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning.”
Companies with employees who have fixed mindsets are instead characterized by “cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.” This happens because they believe their talents are “innate gifts.”
So how can you tell if the bright-eyed developer in front of you has a growth or fixed mindset?
Team development consultant Jeff Boss uses five interview questions to assess this - I’ve picked out the three most relevant ones here:
1. How have you become better (in the past year)?
You’re looking for how aware the developer is of his/her own skills development as well as growth opportunities so far.
2. How aware are you of other departments’ goals (in your last job)?
You’re looking to see whether the developer is aware of his/her company’s goals are as a whole, or if he/she cares about his/her domain only. In other words, you’re looking for a team player who thinks beyond the code.
3. When did you last receive coaching?
Knowledge gaps are easy to fill, especially in this age of information - think Skillshare, Udemy, or even Google. To really make the learning stick in the long run, however, coaching and mentoring are necessary. People with a growth mindset understand this principle and are always looking for a coach or mentor to keep them accountable and growing consistently.
4. Asks insightful questions
For all intents and purposes, the moment you shake the hand of a developer at your job fair booth, the interview is on.
And the hallmark of great potential hires is their ability to ask the interviewer insightful and thoughtful questions, which would show how interested they really are in the company and position.
BeeHyve talked to 100 recruiters, who agreed that the following eight questions would definitely make a candidate memorable to them. If they sound very similar to those you might ask potential teammates, then you’re getting the point:
•Describe your day-to-day
•Describe your favourite work project
•Have you worked at a different company before [...] how does it compare to your current company?
•Tell me more about what your team works on
•Tell me about the most difficult challenge you faced at work
•If you could pick three words to describe the vibe at your current company, what would they be?
•If I’m interested in [mobile development, artificial intelligence, machine learning etc], what are some cool initiatives the company is taking in these areas?
•How much independence/autonomy/ownership do I get as an employee?
5. Dresses like they want to get hired
I left this point for the last because I’m a firm believer that looks shouldn’t matter in hiring decisions.
This is especially the case for developers in the tech industry, who are used to wearing t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers to work on a daily basis.
I can personally vouch for this. Having worked in the tech industry for the last five years, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to wear a button-down shirt or blazer to work. Go figure.
However, recruiters like yourself who set up shop at job fairs are there with a clear intention of wanting to get the measure of potential hires on the spot. And regardless of industry, turning up at a hiring event in the standard “startup uniform” would likely scream of disinterest.
At the same time, don’t expect developers to be dressed up to the nines. Remember that you’re hiring for a technical position, which seldom requires face-time with clients and partners.
Trust your gut
At the end of the day, however, it all boils down to how you felt about the candidates you met across the day.
Don’t look down on intuition. Human minds are wired to see patterns, which come together to form the basis of our instincts. In fact, many leaders admit that they “leverage feelings and experience when handling crises,” according to Quartz.
So gather all the information you can throughout the day at the hiring event, and sit on it for a day or two. Go ahead and make a list, and then pick up the phone or fire off emails to those lucky candidates.
This is when the real work begins - but that’s a story for another day.
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About the Author: Daniel Tay is the co-founder & lead content strategist at With Content, a content production studio that helps B2B tech companies create credible, authoritative long-form content that potential customers will actually love.