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IT Recruiting: 3 Ways to Get Inside Tech Candidates’ Heads

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Attracting top talent with IT recruiting these days can be a feat of pure magic. Take artificial intelligence (AI) pros, for example. AI skills are in high demand, yet Dice reports that roughly only 10,000 people (out of about 1.2 billion in the global workforce) are classified as “top AI talent.”

“If you want the best because you have an ambitious AI strategy, that’s a very narrow slice of the pie,” Dice researchers observe as part of their “What Tech Talent Wants” report.

Whether you’re in the market for AI talent, other software developers, database specialists, IT security, or other in-demand tech talent, it pays to know what they want in an employer. The following insights from Dice’s research can help:

  • More than 80% of tech pros value the following employer attributes above all others: competitive salary (84%), challenging work (83%), benefits (82%), positive organizational culture (81%), and open/transparent communication (80%).
  • Among women in tech, benefits jump to the top of the priority list, and manageable working hours enter the top five.
  • Millennial tech professionals value the chance to move up in an organization—significantly more so than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts.
  • Millennials are also the only generation to cite “financial performance” as one of the top 10 most valued attributes in an ideal employer. 

While the actual wish list for tech pros can vary depending on age, gender, and other factors, Dice found additional commonalities worth addressing in your own culture and hiring process.

Invest in a Good Tech Recruiter

A significant issue exposed by Dice’s research is that tech pros suffer from tech recruiter fatigue. With top talent in such high demand, they’re bombarded by recruiters reaching out 24/7. One in three IT recruiting calls/emails are irrelevant, and half of the tech talent Dice surveyed said they’ve simply learned to ignore them.

Here’s a breakdown of why tech pros don’t respond to many recruiters:

  • The job doesn’t match their interests (50%)
  • The location isn’t a fit (47%)
  • They’re too busy/it’s bad timing (38%)
  • The tech recruiter’s message was generic/not personalized (35%)
  • They’re not looking to make a change (33%)

But there’s a silver lining: Top IT talent expects to find their next big opportunity through a recruiter, so they don’t tune them out altogether. It just takes a tech recruiter who understands what’s relevant to the IT pro and who is responsive and respectful.

A shocking 13% of recruiters “are doing a great job” in this area–that’s only one in 50. So employers who work with reputable IT recruiting firms have a major advantage in this area because so few get it right. 

It mostly comes down to authentic communication. Aren’t we all growing immune to spammy messages? Tech pros hate them, too. At the top of their list of annoyances is social engagement by recruiters. Those surveyed by Dice want recruiters to know that social engagement tops the list of ways NOT to contact them: Facebook private message came first (64%) followed by Twitter (63%).

Dice found that emails and texting are great ways to stay in touch, but it takes a savvy tech recruiter to make that first connection without seeming irrelevant or nosey. Job candidates are also seeking less “propaganda” in the communication they get. Before sending brochure-like documents, links, and company videos, consider ways to be more relevant. Your top recruits want to understand what it’s genuinely like to work for your organization. Find ways to incorporate their potential peers and the actual team members they’ll work with into the communications and the hiring process.

Don’t Dance Around Compensation

Then there’s compensation. The Dice 2019 Tech Salary Survey offers additional insights into what tech talent wants. It frames the question differently from the first report we cited, asking top tech talent not what they want, but why they switched or anticipate switching jobs.

Once again, higher compensation is at the top of the list.

Nearly 70% said higher salary was the top reason they considered or are considering switching jobs right now.  Throughout the years, Dice has found salary satisfaction to be on a steady decline. In 2012, well over half (57%) of tech pros were satisfied with their salaries. By 2018, that number had declined to 48%.

Want to know a secret? All-star candidates already know what they’re worth. There’s no dancing around compensation because they’re often approached and know what others are willing to compensate them. It’s essential to understand when and how to be transparent during the IT recruiting process to keep top talent interested. Glassdoor agrees, reporting that about 40% of job seekers feel company transparency on pay and benefits matters most when assessing a job’s long-term potential. For more salary tips, check out this blog post.

Take a Chance

Finally, don’t forget how important employer attributes like providing a challenging work environment, non-monetary benefits, and a positive organizational culture are. Dice found that tech pros are concerned about keeping their skills up-to-date and being overlooked for promotions, and when they suffer burnout, they blame a lack of interesting work and recognition.

Think about these areas and consider: Are you passing up great tech talent because they don’t already have the skills and certifications you want them to have? Being challenged at work and being supported in professional development are major contributing factors in employee satisfaction. Instead of recruiting only those who can easily do the job already, perhaps you should consider widening your IT recruiting net and consider tech talent who have the potential to grow in their roles.

Finding the talent to take a chance on, again, requires the right tech recruiter with experience in knowing how to spot a great culture fit. But that’s the chance top tech talent wants you to take on them.

For more tips on what top tech talent wants, take a look at this blog post and feel free to contact an HT Group recruiter for one-on-one advice.


The HT Group fills roles in Temporary Staffing, Executive Search, Technical Recruiting, and Retained Search.

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