The tech talent shortage is a hurdle that has become increasingly difficult for many to overcome. Although there is less of a pool to draw from, that doesn’t mean securing the right candidate for the role is any less important. If anything, it’s more of a priority than ever.

Whether you’re struggling with outdated hiring practices or trying to solve the mystery of your company’s hiring drought, there’s more than one strategy for success. In this post, we’ll look at the hiring process from initial scope to potential compensation to better equip hiring managers with methods and approaches that translate into quality hires.

Key Takeaways

  • As you develop your hiring strategy, focus on answering two critical questions: What responsibilities will this role encompass? And what incentives are we providing to attract the right candidate?
  • Connect with colleagues, stakeholders, and various departments throughout the process to better understand the requirements for the role.
  • Know your value proposition and corporate culture. Take the time to know how to communicate it effectively.
  • Put some thought into your interview questions. Strive for questions that elicit in-depth responses, revealing how a candidate could excel in the role.
  • Be innovative in addressing market disparities. Direct compensation isn’t always the primary motivator for potential employees.

Defining The Scope of The Role

Effective preparation for a new hire begins with a clear definition of the role’s scope. After all, the key to successful hiring lies in understanding precisely what you need from a new employee. However, a common mistake in this step is building the scope around one question: “What do we need this person to do?” 

  • While the answer to this question can help with foundational knowledge, it also puts serious constraints on the hiring process. 
  • In the end, you’ll end up with a good answer, but likely not a good hire.
  • This is also the comfort thought process of the past when there was a talent surplus, which, suffice to say, no longer exists.

Instead, your scope should be defined both by the previous question and an important secondary one: What are we offering someone who decides to take on this role? By considering both aspects, you ensure a balanced view of the role from the outset. Focusing on just one of these questions can lead to a partial match, with the rest left to chance.

As a hiring manager, you need to establish a realistic view of the search process, recognizing the parallels between what you need and what you can offer. This dual approach lays the groundwork for effectively promoting the value of the role during the interview process.

Leveraging Your Colleagues

While you’re in the thick of answering those two crucial questions, many hiring managers get caught up in the idea that they are solely responsible for the answers. This is the one part of the process that benefits significantly from multiple stakeholders with competing interests participating. 

Internal and external research can be used as a secret weapon here.

  • Internally: Utilize internal resources like exit interviews or discussions with the person who most recently held the position. These conversations can offer valuable insights into the ideal candidate profile and what success looks like in the role.
  • Externally: Stay informed about the latest developments in educational and training programs, as well as relevant certifications. This knowledge can help ensure the role remains aligned with current industry standards. 

Avoid Isolation

Often, a hiring manager does not have the most accurate understanding of what the division of labour in certain workflows truly looks like. There is tangible value in bringing in your team during the scope definition process to get them to weigh in on some of the tasks that you may not even be aware of. 

Consider the perspective adjacent leaders or stakeholders who may not directly report to or manage a new hire can bring to this process. These individuals will help you understand the challenges of those relationships and incorporate the needs of the larger organization into your hire.

Where to Start: A To-do List

As with every step in the hiring process, the hiring manager is still the driver, and you do need to answer that pesky “What do we need this person to do?” question. 

  1. Create a List of Requirements: List as many tasks or duties you believe are necessary for the role. At this stage, aim for breadth over depth; the main functions of the role are what matter most. Avoid getting stuck in analysis paralysis by not overthinking this initial list.
  2. Detail Key Deliverables: Add one to five critical deliverables that you need met within the first three or six months. These will be the tasks that indicate success in the role. Through this exercise, the role’s pain points usually become obvious. It also helps you better organize your needs and prioritize between what is critical and what is nice to have.
  • Attaching clear and quantifiable goals to the core requirements can simplify the process of refining your list, emphasizing the role’s critical elements, and realistically aligning your expectations with what a new hire can achieve.
  • In some cases, your list of tasks might be extensive and filled with critical challenges, preventing you from developing realistic deliverables that would indicate success. This may mean hiring multiple employees or adjusting your expectations for immediate outcomes. 
  1. Review with Immediate Team Members: Share your list and key deliverables with the team the new hire will join. This review session is an opportunity for open discussion on the fairness and feasibility of the proposed deliverables. 
  2. Review with Other Team Members: After the new hire’s immediate team has reviewed it, present the list to other divisions, teams, stakeholders, or leaders alongside whom this new hire may work. Ask them their thoughts and for any revisions they may have.

Being open to competing perspectives can help strengthen confidence in your initial decision-making. Alternatively, it can improve the results of recalibration. Both scenarios are equally worthwhile in the early stages of a hire. 

However, keep in mind that while buy-in and approval from the team are important, trust your instincts when it comes to scope definition. You aren’t required to change or revise anything that doesn’t align with your vision or understanding of the role’s requirements.

Building a Value Proposition

Now that you have a stronger grasp on what you need this person to do, the second question is, what are you prepared to offer the person who accepts this role? There are a lot of different answers here, and one of the rookie approaches is to focus solely on direct compensation. While this tends to be a top-weighted variable that candidates consider, it’s not the only one.

Work-Life Balance

With its own Cambridge Dictionary definition, work-life balance has been having a moment for the last several years. To be successful in modern recruitment, it’s crucial to note that candidate and employee perspectives have changed over the last two decades. It’s no longer the dream to work longer hours for a high salary; the new target is balancing a competitive compensation package and a realistic workload. 

Opportunities for Advancement

Many companies have not invested or focused on internal talent programs for the last several years. While there are exceptions, most employees who have stayed with the same employer for a long period have not seen their salaries increase at the same rate, are not achieving the same level of promotion, and their skills are less varied. 

The focus on readily available external talent has pushed great employees out the door. If you want to attract and retain great talent, there needs to be an internal career path that rewards employee tenure and provides similar advancements to what they may find if they job-hopped.

Training and Career Development

A report conducted by The World Economic Forum predicted that most workers will need to be reskilled by 2025. This information paints a dramatic picture, but it does highlight a growing concern amongst executives across industries. How we are doing business today is constantly changing, and the types of skills, particularly technical skills required to meet the challenges, are changing quicker than we as leaders can account for. 

Staying on the right side of progression is important, and employees understand that their livelihood depends on it. As a result, employees are more focused than ever on working for organizations that will provide them with training and learning opportunities, alongside continuing to invest in adopting newer processes, tools, and platforms.

Four Pillars of Corporate Culture

Work culture has become a huge factor for candidates when deciding on a new role, so it’s critical that you both understand your work culture and can communicate it to others.

The hardest thing about defining culture is that even within the same organization, there will be natural operational differences. Each hiring manager will need to think critically about how to communicate the broader corporate culture as well as the smaller team culture that exists within that department. Here’s why that’s important:

  • The feeling a candidate has when they leave the interview is far more impactful than a signing bonus when it comes to acceptance rates. That feeling is really a response to the working culture and interview style.
  • The worse a candidate perceives the working environment to be, the more compensation they will expect to receive to work within it. 

To communicate culture effectively, you must first know the four pillars that make up that culture: values, relationships, systems, and sustainability. Let’s look at these more in-depth: 

Values

The company’s core values are generally influenced by the mission, vision, and approach of the organization. Core values are usually aimed toward embracing a virtuous approach to your goals and can include terms like integrity, accountability, or innovation.

Relationships 

This pillar focuses on the interpersonal dynamics within the company. It goes beyond friendliness to the fundamental concept of whether employees are seen and heard and the mechanisms in place for conflict resolution.

Systems

The efficiency of the systems employees use directly affects corporate culture. Broken systems and inefficient processes drain motivation, potentially leading to burnout and quiet quitting. On the other hand, continuous innovation is cited as a positive culture catalyst. Effective systems for communication, documentation, and employee engagement help communicate a culture that is focused on enabling employees to be and perform at their best. 

Sustainability 

Several studies have cited various statistics, and roughly 50% of employees have said they would not consider working for a company that was not focused on environmentally sustainable business practices. A corporate culture discussion around environmental sustainability can be critical to building a solid employment brand. 

Sustainable Culture

More than ever, employees want to work within a sustainable culture in terms of the style of work they are doing. There is this concept of “crunch time,” where employees are expected to work overtime without appropriate compensation. The challenge is that it has become so commonplace that some organizations rely on this model for months at a time. Rather than a necessary evil, employees have started to ask if this is sustainable in the long term.

Sustainability in this context is about asking the question: “Are the workloads fair and realistic for the foreseeable future?” This ties back to work-life balance as part of your value proposition. Ultimately, part of answering the question: “What can we offer the right person?” has to cover whether or not your company has an environment where they can thrive.

Interview Questions

The next step is to choose several questions that will help you assess each candidate’s match with your needs. As a general guideline, try to ensure you follow these practices when putting together your prompts:

  • Opt for Open-Ended Questions: These can motivate the candidate to really think about their answer, sparking a potentially deeper conversation.
  • Steer Clear of Clichéd Questions:  These are generally well-rehearsed and provide canned and basic answers.
  • Refrain from Using Historical Questions: The answers to these questions tend to be skewed based on previous workplace culture and might not provide an accurate picture of the candidate’s impact. In fact, a recent study suggested that historical questions predict success only 12% better than a coin flip. 
    • Instead, focus on the ability to solve current problems or ask how a candidate would adapt to a role-specific scenario.
  • Use Follow-Up Questions: Don’t underestimate the importance of asking a candidate to tell you more or how they would address something that probes into the next question.

Candidate Personas

For a refined approach to identifying your ideal candidate, consider developing a ‘persona’—a semi-fictional representation of your target candidate. This method supports more realistic hiring targets by forcing the team to translate requirements into identifiable candidate attributes. For example, you might want to consider what a candidate’s next career step might be and how that relates to their current motivations or frustrations for seeking a new job.

Once your candidate persona is established, let it guide every aspect of the hiring process, from writing job descriptions to conducting interviews. It serves as a crucial point of reference for the hiring team throughout the interview process, ensuring a focused and consistent approach to evaluating candidates.

Address Market Disparities 

Recruitment best practices have evolved past superficial targets like a certain degree or school. In many cases, that evolution was motivated by hiring managers acknowledging the disparity between what they wanted and what they could realistically get. The last step in preparing for your interviews is to take stock of the disparity between what you have targeted and what likely will be available.

Budgeting

Have an open discussion about the budget for the role versus the target you have set. If your aspirations lean towards a seasoned professional but your budget aligns more with mid-level candidates within your local market, this mismatch will constrain your recruitment efforts. Speak with your recruitment partners to understand market salary standards for your desired profile and adjust your expectations to bridge the gap to a reasonable level. Exploring more cost-effective remote markets or candidates from less renowned schools or programs might also be beneficial.

Training Programs

If you can secure a junior candidate with potential, consider investing in training programs or an upskilling pathway. When you compare the continued payroll costs of an experienced employee versus a one-time training cost, it seems obvious to hire a motivated junior and provide training to close the gaps in their knowledge. Pair them with a mentor within your organization for support and, in the process, help a senior independent contributor further their personal goal of mentorship. It’s a win-win for all involved.

Candidate Experience

A study by CareerBuilder reveals compelling statistics about candidate behaviours and preferences during the hiring process. A notable 77% of candidates are willing to accept a salary offer that is 5% lower than their expected figure if the employer leaves a great impression through the hiring process.

  • 83% would do the same if the company had a reputation as a great employer. 
  • 69% of candidates would also accept a lower salary if the company had a lot of positive press recently.
  • 73% of respondents said that great online reviews about the brand would also influence their decision to potentially take a lower salary.

Targeted Skills

You could also be flexible about the skills you are targeting. If one of the top required skills is rare or requires significantly more expertise, consider looking at candidates with adjacent skills or lighter hands-on experience with that requirement. Or review candidates who may have that skill but have been in a different, less competitive industry.

Lifestyle Increases

This approach is a way to recognize the value of work-life balance through indirect compensation. If you can’t compete with market salaries, then don’t. Instead:

  • Offer flexible work hours that allow employees autonomy as long as they meet their deadlines.
  • Offer more vacation or more personal time on a weekly basis. 
  • Offer a chance to participate in one project in another area or business unit of the organization. 

A lifestyle increase is about hearing a candidate’s priorities and offering them a chance to be holistically successful. This shows that you plan to help them find a way for this role to holistically add value to their lives and, in part, achieve the lifestyle they want to have. 

Final Thoughts

Hiring in a talent shortage is a process in and of itself. As you explore some of the above strategies or develop an approach of your own, keep in mind that there’s no need to go through the process alone. Bridging that gap with your team can provide a renewed perspective that deepens your understanding of the fundamental needs for the role but also the fundamentals of the company that make it a place where someone wants to work.

At Talentlab, we identify candidates that suit your requirements and work with you on a process to review them. No matter the role, we can help secure the right hire thanks to our years of experience coupled with your unique expertise. To learn more about hiring strategies or the work we do, connect with us.

Sarah Doughty

Sarah is a seasoned recruitment advisor, with a background in hard-to-find technical talent searches. Over the course of her career she has worked with hundreds of clients building high-tech employment brands, leading recruitment teams, marketing candidates, executing passive search strategies, and developing expansive passive candidate pools in key markets across North America. Sarah excels in tough situations that require creativity and tenacity to overcome challenges.