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Exploring the biggest recruitment challenges in technical hiring

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It’s a complicated time to be hiring software engineers. Even with today’s uncertain economic climate, companies are recruiting aggressively for specialized and senior-level technical roles. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of software engineering jobs to increase by 25% between 2021 and 2031—that works out to the creation of 411,400 new software engineering jobs.

Unfortunately, technical hiring is harder than it should be and presents a variety of challenges to recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates alike. Resource-strapped recruiting teams struggle to source qualified talent for high-priority tech roles, engineers are stretched thin by spending too much time interviewing unqualified candidates, and candidates become frustrated with what’s often a slow and cumbersome recruiting process—and that’s just the start. 

To address these challenges, CodeSignal has developed an industry-leading technical interview and assessment platform that has helped hundreds of enterprise companies optimize their tech recruiting processes to make the right hires, faster. In this article, we will delve into various aspects of these recruitment challenges, offering insights and strategies for solving each, and answering frequently asked questions about tech recruitment.

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The biggest hiring challenges in technical recruitment and how to overcome them

Companies today grapple with a myriad of challenges when recruiting software engineering and other technical talent. This article explains the challenges of identifying the right candidates and speeding up the hiring timeline, as well as harnessing data-driven insights for more informed decisions. We’ll also address critical topics like mitigating bias in tech recruitment, ensuring a stellar candidate experience, crafting effective coding interview challenges, optimizing engineering resources in the recruitment process, and conducting better remote technical interviews. 

1. Identifying the right candidates

In the world of tech recruitment, finding qualified candidates who possess the right job-relevant skills can be challenging. Utilizing a technical skills assessment, such as coding tests, can help recruiters objectively measure an applicant’s skills and knowledge. However, while technical skills are a significant indicator of a candidate’s suitability for a role, they’re not the sole determiner. Communication and problem-solving abilities should be paired with technical skills evaluation to reveal how a candidate might navigate challenges, collaborate with teams, and translate their technical skills into actionable results. 

Behavioral interviews can be a valuable tool in understanding a candidate’s interpersonal skills and professional ethos. They shed light on how an individual might fit within a company’s and a team’s culture, ensuring alignment with the organization’s values and mission. Hiring teams can also assess candidates’ interpersonal and collaboration skills during technical and onsite interviews, where candidates and interviewers work together on coding challenges. 

2. Reducing time to hire

Accelerating the recruitment process without compromising on the quality of hires is a key objective for many organizations. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by leveraging an applicant tracking system (ATS). Not only does an ATS help in efficiently managing the influx of applications, but it also aids in candidate sourcing and ensuring a positive candidate experience, by keeping applicants informed throughout their journey. Furthermore, an ATS can help with job description optimization, which plays a pivotal role in attracting the right talent quickly. 

Streamlining the interview process is another crucial step in reducing time-to-hire. By incorporating pre-screening assessments and coding assessments, recruiters can quickly identify candidates who genuinely possess the required skills, thus eliminating the need for unnecessary interview rounds. Plus, the advent of recruitment automation tools has made it possible to perform repetitive tasks—like scheduling interviews or sending follow-up emails—much more quickly than ever before. 

3. Using data to make informed tech hiring decisions

In the digital age, the tech recruitment landscape has been revolutionized by the integration of advanced tools and platforms, enabling businesses to harness the power of data for more strategic hiring. AI recruitment tools, for instance, can process vast amounts of candidate data in real-time, allowing for more accurate and AI-driven candidate matching. This ensures that companies are paired with applicants whose skills and experiences align closely with the requirements of the role. Coding assessment platforms, meanwhile, offer an objective way to evaluate a candidate’s technical proficiency through rigorous, data-backed assessments.

Virtual technical evaluations, facilitated by remote interviewing tools, have made it possible to assess candidates across the globe. These platforms often come equipped with performance metrics, providing recruiters and hiring managers with insights into a candidate’s capabilities, response times, and problem-solving methods. Such granular data-driven insights ensure that hiring decisions are based not on gut feelings but on quantifiable evidence of a candidate’s skill.

4. Reducing bias in technical recruitment

Ensuring fairness and equity in technical recruitment requires intentional strategies and a commitment to continual improvement. One fundamental approach is the implementation of structured interviews, which create a consistent framework for evaluating all candidates and thereby minimize subjectivity. Complementing this with diverse interview panels ensures that various perspectives and backgrounds are represented, further reducing individual biases. Skill-based assessments focus on the candidate’s actual capabilities, allowing hiring teams to objectively gauge aptitude rather than being swayed by unrelated factors. Additionally, crafting inclusive job descriptions encourages a broader range of applicants and communicates the organization’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives.

Bias, often unconsciously, can infiltrate various stages of the recruitment process. To combat this, many organizations are investing in unconscious bias training for their recruitment teams, ensuring they recognize and counteract their own biases. On the technology front, the exploration of algorithmic bias mitigation ensures that AI recruitment tools promote fairness and do not perpetuate societal biases. By intertwining these strategies and upholding the principles of DEI at every stage, companies can foster a recruitment process that is both equitable and effective.

5. Ensuring a good candidate experience

A positive candidate experience is a key part of securing a “yes” from top candidates for your technical roles. Central to this experience is communication transparency. Candidates value clear, open channels of communication that keep them informed about their application status, what to expect next, and any potential delays. By maintaining timely response rates, companies show respect for a candidate’s time and effort, fostering goodwill even if the candidate isn’t selected for the position. Plus, using a technical interview tool that provides realistic job previews helps candidates better understand the role they are applying for—and helps interviewers see how a candidate would actually perform on the job.

Beyond just communication, the tools and methods used for evaluation significantly influence the candidate’s perception. User-friendly assessment platforms that are intuitive to navigate ensure that candidates can showcase their skills without unnecessary technical hindrances. Interviewer training is also important; a well-trained interviewer not only assesses skills efficiently but also conveys the company’s culture and values, turning the interview into a two-way dialogue with the candidate. 

6. Creating effective code interview challenges

When recruiting software engineers, a core component of evaluating technical skills is the use of coding interview challenges. These challenges are carefully designed to measure job-relevant technical skills, ensuring that they align with the technical demands of the role. However, as the realm of software engineering continually evolves with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies, it’s essential that teams update these challenges to stay relevant. To realistically simulate software development work, coding challenges can also incorporate AI-powered coding assistants in the technical assessment platform. Companies who use CodeSignal, for instance, have access to Cosmo, an AI-powered coding assistant that allows hiring teams to see how candidates leverage AI tools to write and debug code. 

Crafting a coding interview challenge that is both effective and engaging requires a deep understanding of the role, which can be achieved through job analysis. As engineer hiring becomes increasingly competitive, organizations must ensure that their challenges are reflective of real-world scenarios. This not only assesses a candidate’s problem-solving and coding abilities but also provides a glimpse into how they would approach and navigate complex tasks in a live environment. A well-structured coding challenge bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, ensuring that companies recruit software engineers who are truly equipped for the demands of your engineering team.

7. Reducing engineering time spent on recruiting

Recruiting tasks, while important, can often divert valuable engineering time away from product development and innovation. To counteract this, many companies are turning to automated screening tools and technical evaluation platforms. These tools, equipped with pre-built technical assessments and AI-powered candidate ranking, streamline the early stages of candidate evaluation. By automating the initial sifting process, they ensure that only the most promising candidates reach the interview stage, thereby reducing the number of interviews that engineers need to conduct. Additionally, code interview platforms offer scalable interview processes, which can efficiently assess multiple candidates simultaneously without compromising the quality of the evaluation.

Another transformative approach is the adoption of technical assessments built and maintained by a vendor, such as CodeSignal’s Certified Evaluations. By leveraging third-party expertise, companies can obtain objective evaluations without burdening their in-house engineering teams with building or maintaining technical assessments in-house. Skill-based testing, combined with predictive candidate scoring, provides insights into a candidate’s potential and ensures a fit for the role. Through these strategic measures, businesses can optimize their recruitment process, ensuring top-tier hires while minimizing the engineering time traditionally expended on recruitment tasks.

8. Conducting effective remote technical interviews

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of remote work that has had a profound impact on the tech industry, including hiring for tech roles. Almost overnight, face-to-face interviews were replaced with remote technical interviews—which are now here to stay. Live coding interviews, conducted on technical hiring platforms, are an integral part of this new recruitment paradigm. These platforms not only allow interviewers to assess candidates in real-time but also provide an authentic work simulation, closely mirroring the challenges and tasks a candidate would encounter in their prospective role.

One of the main goals of a live coding interview is to assess a candidate’s coding skills and problem-solving abilities in real-time. To achieve this, interviewers should not just focus on whether their code passes test cases, but also on the journey the candidate takes to arrive at their solution. How do they approach the problem? Do they break it down step by step, or do they rush into coding without a clear strategy? Evaluating their problem-solving methods offers valuable insights into how they might tackle challenges on the job. Additionally, the quality of the code they produce—its readability, efficiency, and structure—provides great insights into their level of expertise.

Scarce IT skills impacting the recruitment process

On top of all these challenges, there is also a shortage of candidates who have expertise in the most in-demand technical and IT skills, which can make it difficult to hire qualified talent for some roles. Employer branding has emerged as a key differentiator in this competitive market. Companies that effectively communicate their values, culture, and vision are more likely to attract and retain the top-tier talent they seek. An appealing brand proposition, which highlights unique offerings and a progressive work environment, can be the edge that entices skilled professionals to choose one employer over another.

To further bolster their recruitment efforts, many organizations are leveraging employee referral programs. By tapping into the existing networks of their workforce, companies can access a pool of potential candidates that might already align with the company’s culture and values. Furthermore, given the scarcity talent for some specialized roles, there’s a growing emphasis on employee learning and development opportunities. By offering continuous learning and upskilling avenues, organizations both improve the productivity of their current workforce and signal to prospective employees their commitment to professional growth. In an era of scarce IT skills, these strategic moves can significantly influence a company’s ability to attract and nurture the talent required to drive innovation and growth.

FAQs

What are the most common issues faced when recruiting IT professionals?

When recruiting IT professionals, the most common issues include a shortages of some types of tech talent, which creates competition among companies for top-tier candidates. Additionally, accurately assessing a candidate’s technical skills and ensuring a team fit can be challenging due to the specialized nature of many technical and IT roles. Lastly, keeping up with the rapidly evolving technological landscape means recruiters must constantly update their knowledge to understand and evaluate the skills required for emerging roles.

How can a company overcome challenges in technical talent acquisition?

To solve common challenges in technical recruiting, a company should implement cohesive and optimized recruitment processes, which includes using validated technical assessments, realistic technical interviews, and consistent evaluation criteria across interviewers. They can also invest in employer branding to showcase their company culture and attract top-tier candidates. Additionally, companies can offer continuous learning and development opportunities to both attract prospective employees and retain current talent, minimizing skill gaps on their technical teams.

Why is technical hiring more challenging compared to non-technical roles?

Compared to hiring for non-technical roles, technical hiring is more challenging because it requires assessing specialized skills and expertise that are often rapidly evolving in the dynamic tech landscape. This requires significant involvement from engineering hiring managers to define job requirements and assess candidates’ technical skills. Additionally, a global tech talent shortage intensifies competition among companies, making it harder to secure a “yes” from your top candidates. Lastly, it can be challenging to ensure that candidates possess both the requisite technical skills and also align with a team’s culture and values, adding an additional layer of complexity to the hiring process.

How can recruiters ensure a streamlined process for IT recruitment?

Recruiters can create a streamlined process for IT recruitment by leveraging advanced tools like ATS’s and technical evaluation platforms to create a consistent, fair, and effective process for evaluating candidates. Implementing top-of-funnel technical screening assessments and structured interview process ensures consistent and objective evaluations. Additionally, ongoing feedback loops with hiring managers and candidates can help identify and correct any bottlenecks or inefficiencies in real-time.

Final thoughts

In the ever-evolving world of technical hiring, companies face many challenges—from identifying the right candidates and ensuring a timely hiring process, to making data-informed decisions and reducing biases when evaluating candidates. The shift to remote work, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, has further underscored the importance of conducting effective remote interviews and asynchronous technical assessments. All of this is amplified by a significant shortage of tech talent with the most in-demand skills, which requires technical hiring teams to have robust recruitment strategies in place that use employer branding, skill-based assessments, and continuous learning and development opportunities for employees. 

Here at CodeSignal, we’ve done extensive, original research into the challenges faced by engineering leaders today—from recruitment, to leadership, to upskilling current team members, to the impact of AI tools and more. Our recent report, Top Challenges & Priorities for Engineering Teams in 2023, summarizes our findings from our survey of over 100 engineering leaders at top US companies. Check it out to see how engineering leaders are addressing these challenges and setting priorities for their technical teams.

If you’re ready to learn more about how to overcome your own organization’s technical recruiting challenges and make the right hires, faster, schedule a call to talk with an expert at CodeSignal.