Attracting and retaining top tech talent: Strategies for recruiting and nurturing exceptional engineers.

Jul 24, 2023 |
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Let’s say you are an HR of a growing tech company and have just been assigned to hire the best engineers you can find. You start by the book, let out circulars with the required skill set advertising a reasonable honorarium, claiming you have the best working environment in the market, listing all the benefits a recruit can enjoy over the years, and all that fancy stuff. But when the moment of truth comes, you find out that your competitors, perhaps, the very neighboring firm got the better candidates with very similar specs.

Again, let’s consider you did it! You hired the best talents in the job pool- the best of the best. The company is very happy and you got a worthy bonus. But they start leaving your company just in a few months and now your company starts to develop a bad reputation in the market and so do you among your colleagues. You scratch your head, bring out your checklist, and try to sort out what went wrong –but it still looks sublime!

Trust us when we say this but this is not a rare scene at all in the booming tech industry. In fact, a 2020 projection by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that there had been only 400,000 skilled computer science graduates against the 1.4 million computer science jobs in the US – a strong reason for the FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) giants to spread their campuses all across the US spending Billions1. So, hiring the right tech minds in this fierce tech-driven world is not a piece of cake.

Now, if you find yourself struggling in a similar position, ease yourself a bit, because we have your back. In this blog, we will take you through the effective mindsets and strategies on how you can not only attract the best engineers but also retain them for your enterprise.

The Mindsets

Mindset#1: Your company might not be that special!

In a highly competitive market like the tech industry, it is very difficult to constantly have the best deals while maintaining healthy institutional policies. Your company might be promoting a very lucrative salary but most of your prominent competitors are also promoting the same. Your office location might be prime but so is your neighboring competitor’s. Then how are you standing out to attract the best engineering minds?

A deep consideration reveals that facilities such as competitive salaries and good locations are no longer the “extra” benefits that they used to be but rather considered as the prerequisites in the eyes of modern job-seekers. So, first and foremost, consider the possibility that your offers in the market might just not be considered as benefits at all and your company might no longer be the special one.

Mindset#2: “Too many sharks, not enough fish”

A concept that many recruiters in reputed companies, especially from south Asia where population density is fierce, possess that the world is their oyster and engineering candidates are abundant. Despite there being truth to the notion, it is often ignored that there is a significant difference between regular engineering graduates and the very best ones.

Hiring the best engineers in a competitive tech market is like being a hungry shark among other, possibly hungrier sharks, with not enough fish to go around. And you’re not just looking for any ordinary fish; you quest for the best of the best- making it more competitive to begin with.

Mindset#3: Retention is harder than recruitment.

Recruiting the best engineers is only the first step. The bigger feat is retaining them for a reasonable period. Now, we are not going to bore you to oblivion explaining why maintaining an excellent work environment is one of the key catalysts to retaining employees as it is a general consensus. Rather, let us talk about why it can go south even if your company workplace is sublime.

Recruiting the best engineers or any young workforce now means recruiting either millennials or Gen Zs. As studied by the reputed Forbes magazine, job hopping is so common among millennials that it was dubbed “the new normal” for millennials back in 20122. The tendency is even more severe among the new Gen Z generation, as another Forbes report showed that 26% of this generation intends to leave their jobs within a year3. The most prominent reasons behind such tendencies, apart from bad workplace environments, are more opportunities and less tolerance for strict policies. Again, while the job-hopping tendency of employees is not so beneficial for the company environment, it is considered a healthy habit by 64% of professionals4, especially for higher salaries. Thus, despite maintaining healthy, flexible work environments is a must to retain new engineering recruits but it could always go south as job hopping is the generational trend.

The Strategies

Strategy#1: Think like a candidate first, secondly a recruiter.

It is not effective to decide what is attractive to the candidates to apply for or to retain from the perspective of a recruiter. For example, you may be paying more than your competitor but your workplace is in a remote location while the competitor’s is near the city. Now for a candidate who prefers not to sacrifice the urban benefits for some extra money, your offer might just not stick. Before devising any strategy to attract new candidates or retain old ones, cultivate a perspective in their narrative and try to find relevant ones which you can adopt without hampering the company.

Strategy#2: Build company reputation not only among your competitors but also among your employees.

There is no doubt that the best engineering candidates will go for the best names in the market. Thus it is pivotal to earn a decent name in the market. But, never ignore the fact that your employees are also the heralds of your company to potential candidates.

For any candidate, it is more believable to learn about the company from someone from the inside rather than some circular claiming themselves to be the very best. Therefore, cultivating a reputation of trust and loyalty towards one’s own employees is often more effective than superficial promotions.

Strategy#3: Prioritize campus recruitment.

To attract the best engineers, you have to attract the best engineering young minds. One effective approach to this would be conducting campus recruitment from reputable colleges or universities. Campus recruitments are always something to-be graduate students look forward to and their success stories resonate through their peers and juniors earning trust and reputation for the recruiting companies, attracting more and more brilliant engineering minds in the process. It is an effective strategy even if the company is new.

Strategy#4: Prioritize skills over grades.

It is now a tech-industry consensus that while good grades mostly mean the candidate is well-versed in engineering academics, it does not inherently suggest the candidate has good engineering skills. On the other hand, a candidate, despite having poor grades but a strong technical portfolio is more likely to handle an engineering job better and faster than a candidate with exceptional grades but poor skills. It is for such reasons that tech giants like Google are hiring skilled engineers with no professional engineering degrees.

Thus, it is high time to prioritize skills over grades or at least find a balance between these two while recruiting. Doing so will attract more skilled engineers to the company who would previously ignore it due to their predisposition towards poor-graded but skilled engineers.

Strategy#5: Must maintain a sublime workplace environment that offers growth, variety, and flexibility.

As previously mentioned, a good workplace environment is a must for recruiting and retaining candidates. But sadly, according to statistics, it is not just enough for new candidates with less tolerance, especially the best engineers who have a lot of options and are always looking for growth and variety. Thus, if retaining candidates is an objective, it is imperative to embed growth, variety, and flexibility in the workplace environment so that they do not intend to look for them somewhere else.

  • For growth opportunities, companies can invest in new technologies, and conduct regular tech-related workshops so the engineering candidates get to stay updated with the state-of-the-art. In this way, the company can also be benefitted from a more updated and up-skilled workforce that can work more efficiently.
  • A monotonous work environment may often feel like a prison to free minds such as engineers. It not only blocks their way of thinking but also their productivity. Thus the goal here is to maintain the workplace not only visually aesthetic but also encompassing recreational activities such as indoor games, and cultural events that allow employees to shade their stress off for a bit and collaborate with each other joyously- something to look for during the days of hardships.
  • Flexibility now is not only a benefit, but a demand by the new generation. While, not everything in the flexibility spectrum is good for the company, for retaining the new generations, it is imperative to respect the ones that do not go against the company such as remote working opportunities and flexible work schedules.

Hiring the best engineers for your tech company is like having an ace up your sleeve to survive in the unforgiving competition of the tech-driven market. But attracting and keeping such top talents is no easy feat and getting more difficult as we speak. Traditional hiring concepts are performing poorly in the new world while new standards are on the rise. Therefore, it is high time to develop effective hiring mindsets and deploy corresponding strategies to upgrade your hiring practices to watch your company flourish with the best tech talent at its core!

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