What Tech Candidates Dislike About the Hiring Experience — and How to Fix It

Time to Read: 7.3 minutes

Updated: December 20, 2022

It’s no great mystery that tech professionals are in demand. This is often an affirming and welcome situation to be in, but not always. Often inundated with impersonal emails from recruiters who miss the mark in describing skillsets, candidates tire of tedious and unrefined hiring processes.

Applications that take too long to complete, arduous take-home assignments and slow response times from hiring professionals are just a few of the irksome aspects of the recruitment process.

Hiring managers with this knowledge have the ability to rid their own processes of the tedium and find new ways to connect with valuable candidates.

Jason Shen, at The Mission, writes how in early 2017 he and a team of tech professionals conducted a study into the hiring practices of the industry. They surveyed 50 tech employers (hiring managers and recruiters) and 161 tech workers (engineers, designers, product managers and data scientists).

As many as 68 percent of candidates reported having to complete take-home assignments as part of the hiring process. This can often be time-consuming —  especially as Shen notes that nearly half the candidates spent more than 10 hours preparing and interviewing for each company, and a third spent more than 25 hours. Many candidates say the time constraints mean they won’t complete the task properly or sometimes at all.

Other candidates welcomed these tasks because they provided a way to demonstrate skills. The caveat in those responses, however, was that the scope of the assignment must be applicable to the job role.

Part of what is required here is communicating why these tests are being given and what exactly is required from them. Indeed, hiring managers should build this kind of direct communication into every aspect of the hiring process.

Tech Candidates Demand Details and Clarity

Clear communication from hiring managers is what tech candidates consistently say they want. This is especially true regarding the expectations of a role and the culture of a company.

Crafting a comprehensive job role is something we have written about before, and Toni Bowers at TechRepublic agrees that it is vital to improving the hiring experience. She also offers the following advice to companies and hiring managers:

  • Distinguish between applicants and candidates. The former are prepared to send a resume and cover letter to test their suitability while the latter have made it through to the preliminary stages and are more amenable to a lengthy hiring process.
  • Make sure the interviewer is suitably qualified to speak to candidates.
  • Stop looking for the golden needle in the haystack and be prepared to train a really good candidate instead.
  • Candidates’ ages should not matter.

When it comes to tech professionals in the current job market, the majority are passive candidates. They are not in a hurry to land a new job, which potentially makes them weary of the hiring process.

Siofra Pratt at Social Talent writes that 81 percent of developers are already employed full-time — and there are still huge numbers of part-timers, freelancers and contractors. With so many passive candidates, busy with their daily work tasks, it is understandable that they regard too much communication from recruiters as unwanted. Pratt reports that tech pros get on average more than 20 InMails and emails every week.

Personalized Emails Are Best

To avoid just being another deleted mail in the trash can, hiring managers should personalize their messages. This means finding out about candidates’ interests and expertise, current employer, career history and connections.

It also requires hiring managers research their own company to ensure they are able to communicate with candidates properly.

Sending a customized email, certainly in the initial phases of reaching out to candidates, is the best form of communication.

According to Stack Overflow, 44 percent of developers “hate” to be contacted about job opportunities over the phone, and 52 percent feel the same way about Facebook. As many as 22 percent of developers don’t even have a LinkedIn profile.

Just like many tech candidates, Falon Fatemi, writing at Forbes, is not a fan of using LinkedIn for direct communication. She calls it “spammy and impersonal” and advises setting up a specific inbox to send and receive recruitment-related correspondence.

It’s Not Where You Say It, But How You Say It

However, tied to the means of communication is the manner in which it is done. As Fatemi notes, top candidates tend to have multiple job opportunities ready, so would-be employers must have an effective pitch.

She also argues that tech candidates want to work for thought-leading companies. To attract this kind of talent, companies need to lead the discussions on industry topics. Regularly publishing on LinkedIn, Medium, TechCrunch, Venturebeat, Hacker News and Reddit will help a company’s authoritative voice be heard.

Alice Williams at the Undercover Recruiter also notes how important it is for companies to create a strong, knowledgeable, likeable and consistent online presence. Hiring managers have resources to research potential candidates, but it works the other way, too: Potential hires having ample evidence with which to judge a company.

Create a Favorable Candidate Experience On and Off Site

The overarching theme in all of this detail is that tech candidates want a favorable hiring experience.

Many hiring managers already understand this. Data scientist Ji-A Min cites a 2017 recruitment study from LinkedIn in which 38 percent of recruitment professionals said they would contribute more to optimizing candidates’ experiences if money were not an issue.

Not only does providing a positive experience encourage candidates to work at an organization, but it spreads into indirect marketing for the employer brand. To make the experience as enjoyable as possible, Min suggests taking note of the following:

  • Strive for clear application instructions.
  • Get rid of long application processes.
  • Send confirmation emails notifying receipt of applications.
  • Notify candidates when the position is filled.

Hiring managers should use the time when candidates are on site wisely. Barb Bidan, vice president of global talent acquisition at Indeed, says this is a perfect time to sell the company and check for cultural fit. Get the candidate talking with current team members. What’s the communication like? How do people interact?

Bidan says this is also a chance for employers to show their passion for the role and the company.

“When you believe in what you’re selling, candidates feed off your energy and will either reflect your excitement back to you — or no,” she writes.

Creating a great experience is what Google has learned to do. Writing at Wired, former senior VP of people operations at Google Laszlo Bock argues that hiring managers need to make candidates “fall in love” with them.

Interviews can be awkward, Bock writes, as it requires having “an intimate conversation with someone you just met, and the candidate is in a very vulnerable position.” To ensure the experience is a good one, invest time and effort into the process.

Drop the meaningless and seemingly creative questions — such as how many golf balls fit inside a 747 — and work against your own biases to identify a robust metric with which to assess all candidates.

Melissa Thompson at Inc. says it’s OK to be blunt here. Drop the formalities with tech people. Step into their shoes and assuage any doubts. Show the company’s relaxed side and what it stands for.

This is what Scott Schwab, co-founder of Bottega School of Technology, is talking about when he advises getting salary discussions out the way and selling company culture instead. Take the candidate out to lunch with a few team members to see how everyone gets on together.

It’s a Question of Reaching New Candidates

With tech jobs needing to be filled, employers are looking to a greater number of remote positions. Andrew Medal at Inc. writes that interviewing for remote tech roles or workers in faraway locations requires improving virtual interviewing skills.

Tech workers want to be impressed by a company’s tech prowess. Free tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts are often sufficient, but many organizations are seeking paid solutions for a better applicant experience.

While the candidate experience is key, hiring managers will do well to consider seeking out tech agents rather than tech candidates. Agents tend to be employed by passive tech candidates seeking career progression. Agents usually work with a small number of candidates, allowing them to develop strong relationships and knowledge of their clients’ particular skill sets.

Recruiters and hiring managers, Elliott advises, should develop meaningful relationships with a handful of tech agents to find the best future fit of candidates.

Whether or not hiring managers and recruiters choose to heed Elliott’s advice, they can certainly improve the hiring process for tech candidates. Personalizing communication, streamlining applications processes, and being upfront about the role and the company will ensure an enhanced candidate experience.

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Shanil Kaderali

Shanil Kaderali is a strategic talent acquisition leader with global experience. He's managed and led recruitment functions at companies like Cisco Systems, Symantec, WellPoint, as well as having worked for several Baker's Dozen RPO winners.

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