January 25, 2021
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8 minute read

6 questions to ask a tech recruitment partner for hard-to-fill roles

Growth & Scaling

Sometimes posting on a job board just won’t cut it. 

This is especially true when you’re looking to recruit data scientists, software engineers, or any tech-related roles. If you’ve ever had to chase down an app developer, you’d understand the struggle. 

These specialized skill sets are highly coveted, and you can bet every other company is after them. A survey by Indeed revealed that eight of the top 15 roles in their annual ‘Best Jobs’ of 2020 survey belonged in the tech space. What makes these roles so difficult to source isn’t just the competition but the talent gaps. 

Even though a surge of new tech opportunities has emerged in the Prairies, the number of individuals who meet those skill sets is scarce.

That’s why you may need an external recruiter to help you build your team. It can be well worth the potential gains when you find a stellar team that backs your vision and is just as excited about it as you are. Plus, it saves you time to focus on what you’re good at.

The right talent management and recruitment partner understands your business and can navigate through the weeds of potential candidates to equip you with the right people long-term. They’ll also address other challenges you may not have even thought of, including your future hiring roadmap once you scale.

Here are the top questions to consider before hiring a tech recruitment partner.

1. What is their experience?

While staffing agencies can locate strong candidates across various industries, they don’t offer the same level of specialization you may need to build out a technology company. 

When searching for an external recruitment partner, the first thing on your agenda is to see if they have a proven track record for hiring tech roles and even one step further – if they have experience working alongside tech startups.

This distinction is important: a great tech recruiter won’t just match resumes with job descriptions and call it a day. Nor do they scrap unsuccessful candidates and go right back to the drawing board.

Instead, they work closely alongside the startup to understand how the company works, its culture, and what kind of individuals will succeed – almost as if they worked there themselves.

The right tech recruitment partner often spends more time with the founders to get an accurate reading of not only the qualities they’re looking for on paper but in person, too.

Even when recommendations are unsuccessful, they’ll stay connected with candidates when the right opportunity comes up. After all, they have gotten to know their personalities, aspirations, and behaviours. Once those relationships are cultivated, they’re a part of their strong referral network, which they can leverage at any time and do so often.

The key is to find a recruiter who can build your team without it feeling like a transaction and, instead, more like a partnership.

2. Do they understand the nuances between tech roles in the job description?

What’s the difference between JavaScript and Linux? A DevOps and a cloud engineer? While you may not know the answers, your tech recruiter sure ought to. Not in the same way that these roles need to carry their skills out, but certainly from a high-level perspective.

As you’re building out your company’s tech side, it’s important to find a partner who understands the function of the roles you’re hoping to fill and how they play a part in your product’s development. This includes who it impacts (the target market), which teams they’re associated with, and how it aligns with your company’s vision.

Knowing the nuances between certain skills and tech stacks says a lot about their expertise, accuracy, and whether or not they care. Staffing agencies that offer recruitment services for a full range of industries go through thousands of applications a day. Unfortunately, not all are screened with the highest quality or acute understanding of technical roles. 

Hiring for data-related roles also requires more candidates per hire than any other position. For every 189 candidates that make their way through the pipeline, only one is successfully hired.

Partners who understand the nuances between tech roles and their metrics are better suited to forecast and hit their recruiting goals on time. This includes finding someone who has hired a range of tech founders or C-suite executives as well as entry-level and supporting roles on both a small and large-scale basis.

3. What is their process for developing a recruitment strategy?

After understanding your company’s needs, the right recruitment partner will strategize and design your hiring workflow. 

This means that they’ll implement a scalable talent management program that will anticipate all the opportunities within your organization, including how to hire the right people at the right time.

Rather than just focusing on short-term needs, an effective recruitment strategy considers where your business could head in the long-run. The roles you ask to fill today may not necessarily be the ones you need presently. And the same is true for those you may have reserved for the future. 

An essential function of every tech recruiter is to challenge you to see the bigger picture and to clarify what qualifications a candidate needs to be successful versus what’s nice to have. Once they gain strong alignment with you around job descriptions, they’ll begin talent pool mapping.

While online databases and job boards are the most accessible way to search for candidates, tech recruiters will balance traditional methods with modern approaches. 

Job postings should come with a launch strategy and consider critical questions like:

  • How do we maximize the use of paid and organic social media?
  • Which platforms speak best to the skillset you’re looking for?
  • How do we penetrate different talent pools that have overlapping similarities?
  • How do we get referrals?

When a strong marketing strategy accompanies job ads, you’re elevating your company’s brand and becoming better known to your desired talent circles. Searches should also include niche communities, actively pursuing passive candidates, and leveraging word of mouth referrals from talent within the team.

Many recruiters make the mistake of fixating too closely on a particular technical skillset, which minimizes their talent pool. To overcome skills gaps, recruiters should focus their efforts on the trainability of potential candidates. The best thing you can do is cross-train your existing employees to cover the bases, so you have more time to find a backfill.

4. What does the pricing structure look like?

How much money you put towards building your team ultimately comes down to the kind of collaboration or relationship you want with your recruitment partner. 

Do you want a dedicated partner who functions as an extension of your team? Or would you prefer to take your chances with candidates you source yourself? In either case, have transparent conversations about your expectations, and the right recruiter will be upfront about the commitment. 

Here are the three most common pricing models that recruitment partners use:

  1. Contingency – pay for results 
  2. Flat – pay for time
  3. Retainer – pay for milestones 

A contingency fee is calculated as a percentage of the placed candidate’s annual salary and is typically considered low risk. Contingency recruiters will juggle multiple clients at once, so they’re able to get results faster and with less effort. These fees run anywhere between 15 and 25 percent of the candidate’s total first-year salary. 

Recommended when:

  • You’re in a position to search for candidates yourself, but want to have backup help
  • When you’re in a time crunch and want to get as many candidates as possible
  • When you’ve used up the majority of your recruitment budget

A flat fee follows an hourly or daily rate and offers more flexibility in that you’re not roped into getting a full recruitment service if you don’t need it. You dictate the project scope. These recruiters lean more towards building stronger relationships with their clients.

Recommended when:

  • You need more hands-on support to figure out the details of a role or carrying out a specific task, such as pre-screening
  • You need to fill multiple roles that are very similar 
  • You plan to work with the recruiter for the long-term

Lastly, a retainer fee is paid upfront before the service is needed to ensure recruiters are available when you require them. This pricing model best represents an equal partnership in that they’re hired as an extension of your team. The focus is on quality and finding the best match for the positions you’re seeking.

Recommended when:

  • Scaling or when you need a full recruitment cycle
  • You want a more personal and quality-driven approach
  • You don’t have in-house resources to recruit

5. How long will the recruitment process take?

We know that digital transformation increases the competition for talent, but by how much? 

In 2020, it took employers an average of 69 days to fill a tech role – and this is despite the surge of active job seekers in the tech field. That’s 70 percent longer than the average of 41 days it takes to fill a non-tech role.

Ensuring that you work with a recruitment partner who has an efficient process is necessary by all accounts. Taking too long to fill a role not only bumps up the cost per hire, but also risks losing the interest of high-quality candidates.

A highly-effective recruitment partner can improve the timeline for hiring when they:

  • Build out a talent pipeline before they hire
  • Optimize data to organize and screen candidates
  • Establish a structured and consistent hiring process
  • Invest in a useful Application Tracking System (ATS)
  • Source candidates through various databases, advertising, social media sourcing, internally and via referrals
  • Improve your careers page and employer brand

6. Do they support immigration and international recruitment?

Not all tech talent is readily available, so it’s essential to expand your search from outside your region to find the right people. A recruitment partner with experience in immigrating candidates is a valuable resource that comes in handy, especially when you begin to scale your company.

They should identify which countries are hotbeds for specific skills, maintain relationships with various governments, embassies, and international offices, and understand the complexities of the documentation and visa processes.

Relocating highly-skilled candidates as quickly as possible is just one part of the matter. The right recruitment partner will also participate in local and global programs that create lasting benefits for the Canadian labour market. 

For instance, Global Talent Stream allows tech companies to recruit the highest specialized talent they need from other countries in exchange for the employer’s commitment to contribute stable economic growth. This can include upscaling community engagement and producing internal or external workshops that increase the awareness of Canada’s employment opportunities.

When recruitment partners participate in programs such as these, they significantly cut down the wait times for employment processing.

Harvest’s talent management and recruitment expertise

Growing your team is an exciting next step for your future. But hiring multiple roles isn’t easy, especially when you’re searching for talent in a competitive market such as tech, especially in the Prairies.

That’s where the expertise of a tech recruitment partner like Harvest can make all the difference. We work closely with companies as if they’re our own to understand what startup teams need from us while also pushing them to think outside the box for their long-term success.

Our robust and vetted referral network results from continuous partnerships between founders and companies that we collaborate with and top candidates all across the world. We specialize in founder and talent search, workforce planning, talent management, and more to assemble high-performing teams across the Prairies.

Whether you’re on the lookout for your co-founder, first hire, or hundredth, we can help you maximize your people and culture as you steer towards an ever-growing digital economy.

Book a consultation with us to learn more about Harvest’s recruitment and talent management services.

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