There’s only one problem with Pete London—he doesn’t exist.
That’s the predicament 382 IT recruiters found themselves in back in 2009, when Meebo.com co-founder Elaine Wherry set up a “recruiter honeypot” using a fake online persona. In the hopes of hiring a great recruiter to fill engineering vacancies at her company, she wanted to test how recruiters would interact with a fictitious engineer.
The problem was, every single response disappointed her. From boilerplate emails to white lies and conflicts of interest, Wherry was so dissatisfied that she ended up not hiring any of the 382 recruiters. Instead, she simply hired more engineers as hiring managers and asked them to start recruiting “on the side”.
As an IT recruiter, this is of course the exact type of outcome you want to avoid. Luckily, it is more than possible to achieve a lot of success as a tech recruiter, once you’ve mastered the right techniques.
To that end, we’ve invited seasoned, successful recruiters to give you their best recruitment skills to getting ahead in the profession. But first, let’s start with the basics…
What Is An IT Recruiter?
If you’ve just started your recruiting career, you may be wondering what an IT recruiter is, and if this field is worth pursuing.
An IT recruiter, or technical recruiter, is a recruiter who specializes in information technology (IT) and other tech-related fields. Many recruiters are independent professionals or work for recruitment agencies. Others work “in-house” at a single company.
Like other recruiters, an IT recruiter’s responsibilities include finding and screening candidates, arranging interviews, and acting as a liaison between companies and prospective employees. Ultimately, recruiters are responsible for finding a good fit for an open position.
What Are the Skills Needed to Be an IT Recruiter?
While most recruiters aren’t experts in the nitty-gritty of tech, they should have at least a basic knowledge of current technologies. Besides technical knowledge, it’s also very important for IT recruiters to have well-developed soft skills. Recruiters spend much of their day dealing with people, so being personable, empathetic, and open-minded is essential. Here are some of the skills that are the most important for IT recruiters:
1. A Willingness to Learn
In a rapidly-evolving field like IT, stagnation isn’t an option. According to Michael Clegg, Managing Partner at Q Works Group, “the ability to learn is critical [as an IT recruiter] due to the fast changing technologies.” You’ll need to keep up to speed with the latest developments in the field, or risk being left behind by competitors.
2. Persistence and Determination
Chris Beazley, Director of IT recruitment firm Edison Hill, reminds recruitment rookies that “it's never a done deal until someone is sitting in that seat, so persistence and commitment are essential.” As a recruiter, you’ll need to follow up politely but persistently, and you should be able to quickly pivot if things aren’t working out the way you planned. These skills are especially important in the highly-competitive tech world, where over three-quarters of professional developers are already employed full-time (according to Stack Overflow’s 2018 developer survey).
Nadya Kanarieva, Global IT and Telecoms Headhunter at Phoenix Career, cites patience as an important quality for IT recruiters. “You need to invest the time in really familiarizing yourself with the technological areas you will be recruiting in: the popular IT solutions and skills in the sector, the major players, the market dynamics, the terminology used by industry insiders… [and] the latest industry developments.”
4. Organizational Skills
As with all recruiters, it’s important for IT recruiters to have an organized process. This includes targeting the best candidates, creating a specific and enticing job description, looking for talent in the right places, and ensuring that screening and interviews are effective.
Data offers a number of interesting insights to help you optimize your recruitment process. By making some small tweaks, you may be able to improve your results. For one, research from PeopleFluent shows that the best time to send candidates a coding test is on a Tuesday—you’ll get the fastest response time. This might be because coding tests are labor-intensive, and many developers prefer to finish them before the weekend.
Another tip is to look beyond LinkedIn to find hidden talent. With an estimated 95 percent of recruiters using LinkedIn to find candidates, recruiters who think outside the box will have a real advantage. By checking GitHub, partnering with local universities, or using talent networks, recruiters can reach candidates who are less likely to already be saturated with offers.
5. Communication and Relationship-Building Skills
One of the main takeaways from Elaine Wherry’s Pete London experiment was the failure of many recruiters to develop genuine relationships with candidates. Most of the messages Pete London received were generic or looked similar to one another. The ones that stood out were tailored to Pete’s interests and skill set, highlighting the offer’s benefits to him and his career by using the second person (“you”).
For good recruiters, building relationships with clients is also important. Claire Williams, Technical Recruiting Manager at The Phoenix Group, suggests using great listening skills and putting aside the time to understand each client’s needs and culture. “Each client has a unique environment. A good IT recruiter ‘gets it’ early on that it is way more than a tech skill set that companies are looking for—they want candidates that share their passion and vision.”
Mistakes to Avoid
1. Giving up too easily
As a recruiter working in a highly-competitive field, you’re likely to face a lot of rejections. Rather than give up, you’ll want to stay persistent, and go back to the drawing board if you’re facing a particularly difficult situation. Review your job description and candidate profile: perhaps you’re looking for the wrong kind of candidate. Many experienced IT recruiters warn against looking for “unicorn” candidates or those with an ultra-specific tech skill set. Instead, focus on finding candidates who have a strong foundation and are teachable.
2. Dragging out the hiring process
Companies should remember that they’re responsible for attracting candidates, not just the other way around. A drawn-out hiring process can frustrate candidates, so that they ultimately end up accepting other offers or losing interest. While a recruiter may not have control over every aspect of the hiring process, they can help streamline things by effectively communicating with other stakeholders.
Working In-House vs. Independent Recruiter
There are many different ways that IT recruiters can evolve in their career. Working in-house or as an independent recruiter both offer particular advantages and disadvantages.
Working in-house as a recruiter
Some larger companies will hire full-time in-house recruiters to manage their staffing needs. In-house recruiters tend to be generalists, hiring for many positions, so they’ll need to be familiar with different roles and technologies. They will also need an in-depth understanding of their company’s needs and culture.
Pros: Being an in-house recruiter offers the chance to be part of a team, and the opportunity to become very familiar with the needs of a single company. Generally, in-house recruiters work closely with the human resources department, and will be responsible for guiding candidates through the entire recruitment process. These positions typically come with a fixed salary, so they are suitable for people searching for stable and consistent work.
Cons: As an in-house recruiter, you may be responsible for more routine and administrative tasks, and will have fewer opportunities for rapid growth. While your job responsibilities may be less stressful, there also won’t be opportunities to learn from different clients, and you won’t have the opportunity to earn a commission.
Working at an agency or as an independent recruiter
Pros: The world of agencies and independent recruitment is fast-paced, offers greater independence, and allows for a deeper level of specialization. As an independent recruiter, you’ll have full control over your own life and income. If you choose to work at an agency, you’ll learn quickly and gain experience with a variety of projects. An independent recruiter often provides a better candidate experience, because they are working hand-in-hand with an expert recruitment professional who can help them evaluate multiple job offers.
Cons: Independent recruitment and agency work have a reputation as being more stressful and less stable than in-house recruitment. Since these jobs are often commission-based, earnings may vary over time. Moreover, agency recruiters take a more externalized role in the interview process—while they may offer advice to the hiring manager, they are not directly involved in the final decision.
New recruiters may not want to jump into independent work right away. Michael Clegg of Q Works Group recommends joining a company before attempting to strike out on your own. “There are so many nuances to this business dealing with people. I cannot imagine starting on my own and being successful... I started 21 years ago and still reach out to people I worked with in the past for their thoughts and ideas.”
Conclusion: Improve Your Recruitment Skills For IT Recruiting Success
Although being an IT recruiter can be challenging, there’s also no shortage of opportunities in the field. In the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 12 percent job growth for computer and IT occupations between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. By taking the time to improve your recruiting skills and build your career, you can position yourself as an expert in this in-demand profession.