Recruitment Challenges in the IT Industry

Grzegorz Papaj, 9 December 2019

In the previous articles we wrote about how usually works developers recruitment and about most common problems faced by company in this process. It’s time to look at the sources of difficulties or ineffectiveness of programmers recruitment.

Recruitment Challenges

Common problems

Let’s start with reminding of what problems do the companies employing programmers most often experience:

  1. Expected CVs don’t flow
  2. Only inexperienced candidates apply
  3. Candidates with documented experience don’t have skills at appropriate level
  4. Candidates easily go through a recruitment process and later represent low level.

In the next part of the article, we will discuss at least some of the reasons that lead to such situations.

Recruiter is not a programmer

The main problem described in the article “How do the recruitment process work?” is division of duties between IT and HR department. IT department shift the problem with providing right people onto recruiters who of course can have technical training and vast experience in werbunk but it is often forgotten that they cannot provide substantive verification of candidate, especially when it comes to hiring a specialist with very specific technical competencies.

Of course, no one expects from HR to hold final employment interview with developer by oneself, and usually the IT department enters at this stage. The thing is that already during the initial CV selection, the technical shortcomings can be felt. An HR employee cannot always correctly assess which skills from the candidate requirements list are the most important. Such person may also not understand the specialist terminology or even not know the industry synonyms. For example, the situations are known, when the candidate’s CV was rejected at an early stage because the recruiter had in requirements the knowledge of Linux and candidate was Unix expert. Although Linux is not Unix, every specialist know that in vast majority of situations this terms are quite synonymous. This kind of unawareness can result in rejecting valuable candidate.

IT Industry

Experience is not skills

The big problem of every recruitment, especially at the early stages of selection is focusing on this candidate’s parameters which can be easily verified but not on this which should be. The great example mentioned in previous article can be treating equally the years of an experience and skills.

Maybe it comes from thinking “We have in team a coders with three years of experience who cannot handle the problem. We should look for a senior with five years of experience”. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. Does the candidate with ten years of experience in Java is better than with one year job seniority? Yes, it does often. Maybe even in the vast majority of cases. But is it always? Definitely not. Treating job seniority as an estimator of skills is convenient and allows to reject lots of poor candidates at the early stage. However, don’t we lose valuable employees?

Of course, until we have and excess of candidates, the job seniority parameter is okay. But when the number of entries isn’t impressive maybe it is worth to check isn’t there any gems among candidates who don’t fulfill formal requirements.

Job titles misguide

Since we are talking about job seniority, it is worth to look at nomenclature for just a second (junior, mid-level and senior developer when it come to developers). There is some quite substantial matter that each employee’s official job title is one of the negotiating elements. There are often such situations, when an employee agrees for lower rise in return for title promotion. And although it does not have to change anything in the current workplace, the employee knows that a "higher" title may be important for the next employer. Therefore, the job titles occupied by candidates from previous employers should be looked at with some caution.

What does the education tell about candidate?

Since we are talking about the industry myths, it is worth to say something about education. There are plenty of various legends about IT employees. It is often heard that studies are not necessary in this industry. Usually, such claims are supported by a list of names of millionaires from Silicon Valley who did not graduate. Similar arguments are also used by the organizers of the various programming courses, who claim that with them you can become a programmer in 3 months. And this is due to the fact that the course focuses on practical skills, without all theory.

On the other hand, there are few departments or IT universities which are known as prestigious and their graduates are prized employees on labor market. So how is it with this education? Is it a requirement or unnecessary ballast?

Well, there is no simple answer. The IT industry can really boast of a long tradition of all kinds of self-taught people who have achieved a lot in this field. However, it should be remembered that a large part of them had also a good education in another field (such as mathematics, physics, engineering majors). In the past programming used to have a slightly different dimension because it was mainly a scientists’ subject. And it was much harder than it is now.

Graduating from prestigious university doesn’t guarantee high skills, and many talented developer never finish studies (or do not even begin). However, we do not believe that a three-month course will make someone an expert. Statically speaking, an average coder from prestigious university will be much better than the average coder with only online course education. But there are exceptions in both cases.

What does it mean for recruitment? Well, it means that the final verification should be proceeded by a competence test.


Skills testing is difficult

Admittedly, many companies are aware of at least some part of the problems described above. That’s why they use many practice tests in all recruitment procedures. They usually work like Codility. Programmer logs in the system and solves several tasks online which are after verified by the checker. Usually, a company using this kind of tool can choose between a few programming languages and also provide its own tasks. The candidate has a very limited time for solving to reduce the risk that it will look for someone’s help or solution on the Internet.

Unfortunately, the practice shows that when it comes to popular testing platforms (and also to popular tasks) the solutions can be quickly found on the Internet. What is more, some companies uses ready-made sets of tasks, so the chance that the candidate will have the same test like one from previous recruitment procedure is increasing.

Another argument of this kind of solutions opponents is fact that in the grand scheme of things they test quite basic and simple programming or algorithmic skills, not to mention about the skill to handle a developed code, to use libraries or the knowledge of more complex concepts. Nevertheless, they are quite good initial selection. It should be noted that the practical tasks are some approximation of real skills because a candidate who constantly is looking for a job can soon become a test expert.

Valuable but no go-getting

In fine, we want to talk about a bit mythologized issue so please keep your common sense distance.

It is worth emphasizing that IT is special industry because often people who work in it are quite specific and have weak social skills. Sometimes such humans have also autism spectrum disorder. Of course we have to underline that this issue is surrounded by many myths and despite common opinion, the people with Asperger are vast minority among programmers. However it is a fact that not without reason many programmers describe themselves as geeks or nerds. Some of them are not quite able (or even do not want) to live and behave like the rest of society.

This kind of candidates can have some fair difficulties with getting through recruitment process. The first problem can be even a CV which can have a structure out of the box, be graphically unattractive or present information hardly understandable for layman. But even if they pass through initial selection, they often do badly in job interviews. They don’t have especially good soft skills and even during technical part of interview they can make not quite good impression because they directly comment on incompetence of the interviewer.

It is worth to remember about such “gems” because if despite all obstacles they go through recruitment and in the company will create a friendly environment for them, they have a chance to prove themselves not only as great developers but also as devoted employees.

So how do recruit well?

Of course, this question has no simple answer. Nevertheless, we will soon publish another article in which we will explain how we deal with the recruitment of valuable programmers.

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