How do managers of technical recruiting teams define a high potential hire? What are some core competencies talent acquisition leaders looking for in their candidates? Technical recruiting is a uniquely challenging task. Recruiters require a special set of skills, and no one recognizes these skills better than the hiring managers.
In this blog, DK Burnaby, Senior Talent Acquisition Leader on the Amazon Alexa team and President of Seattle Talent Acquisition Collaborative, shares his insights on the most important disciplines and skills he looks for when hiring for his team.
A question DK often asks is “Tell me about a difficult body of recruiting work where you had to build a long-term plan and strategy to deliver.” As a technical recruiter, it’s common to see no immediate win in many positions you recruit for. Successful placements are, oftentimes, a result of perseverance. What DK looks for is an ability to scope out the effort it will take to deliver on a longer-term goal and an understanding of the losses that it will take to get to the wins, and success in persevering through it.
Recruiters are expected to dig deep to find the strongest candidate who would fit the position. They need to develop long-term recruiting strategies for positions requiring specialized skills, experience or talents. According to DK, recruiting in-demand top-tier talent means that you’ll have to take a lot of losses – seemingly amazing candidates that don’t pass the bar, or perfect fits who have multiple compelling offers – along the way to each win. Most recruiters derive satisfaction from a steady flow of hires. But, when you’re working on some of the toughest roles in a highly competitive market, that stream can become a trickle. It takes discipline and perseverance to play the long game and get the biggest wins.
Considering the impact a technical recruiter’s work would have on the company, DK looks for candidates who show evidence of curiosity about technology and business. One of the winning traits of a strong candidate is his or her dedication to learning technologies, which will continue to advance in the fast-changing tech industry.
Strong candidates do not just do keyword matching when recruiting. They would take the initiative to investigate and dive deep into those particular skills they are recruiting for. Strong candidates would also show that they understand why these skills are used and how they fit into the product.
DK found that many recruiters can get as far as talking about the general positioning of technologies in the stack, but many don’t go any deeper or can’t articulate what something like CSS is or is used for. Hiring managers, like DK, are not looking for a technician’s explanation, but a layman’s understanding of the technology is important.
Modern recruiters need to stay up-to-date and be familiar with the technical skills needed by the engineering teams they partner with.
3. Knowing the Business
DK doesn’t only test candidates’ habits and attitude, he also assesses how much candidates make an effort to know the business they support and beyond. Someone who gets down into details – understanding the mechanics behind how the business operates, the dependencies in the process, or the development methodologies – is demonstrating signs of success.
Since BI (business intelligence) is being incorporated into many recruiting platforms nowadays, technical recruiters are becoming more data-driven than ever before. Candidates who are metric-driven have a better chance of being productive. The advantage is that they understand their numbers and can build sourcing plans and strategies based on their metrics.
Metric-driven recruiters know how to measure their own work and adjust their priorities to be more effective. They understand the implications of the conversion ratios through their pipeline and use them to triage problems and inefficiencies in the pipeline, such as lack of interviewer calibration.
5. Ability to Influence
Another important soft skill DK considers when hiring tech recruiters is their ability to influence the engineering team without assigned authority. A good way to gain influence is for the technical recruiter to constantly consult their engineering partners, work together collaboratively, and help them improve the hiring process and practices.
In a rapidly changing world of talent acquisition, the skills and requirements it demands from a modern tech recruiter have fundamentally shifted. Technical recruiters and sourcers must not only equip themselves with the knowledge in technology to stand out but also display perseverance and drive. In the process, it is also vital to maintain curiosity and constantly learn, so they can achieve success by helping their engineering partners succeed.