Is Hiring for Cultural Fit the Secret to Winning the War on Tech Talent?

4 March 2021

When it comes to recruiting tech talent, candidates currently have a huge upper hand. Unlike the rest of the recruitment landscape, there are more candidates than available positions. There are presently seven tech jobs for every suitable applicant. It’s a candidate-driven market. For scaling tech businesses, the competition for tech talent is huge. They have to compete with other scaling businesses, startups, and established names both in the digital sector and from the outside, with companies from all industries realising tech’s importance.

Many tech roles require specialist skills and knowledge, which causes another issue in recruiting these individuals. In demand, skills evolve and change all the time. Still, right now, we’re in an era which means proficient knowledge of various coding languages, data science, cybersecurity and machine learning capabilities are highly sought after. These are the skills that experts predict will help businesses progress in a new era of work. Therefore, everyone is looking for them, from startups to scaleups, big names in tech to big players looking to digitise.

The other problem employers are facing is that these roles are relatively new. The technology itself hasn’t been around for too long, making it hard to find people with both the skills and experience in such fields. Take machine learning and AI, for example; most people who are experts in this are recent graduates and haven’t had as much opportunity to gain work experience. This makes it exceedingly challenging to hire for senior roles like management. Therefore, it’s a growing possibility that employers could find a candidate who is a great fit but doesn’t have the level of knowledge or experience needed to deliver on business goals.

So, is it time for scaling tech businesses to refocus their recruitment? In such a competitive talent market, perhaps it’s time for employers to look beyond skills and experience. After all, skills can be taught and refined. Experience can be earned, but hiring someone right for your business when talent is tight could be more beneficial for retention and employee engagement.

Is hiring for cultural fit the best approach to tech recruitment?

When we talk about hiring tech talent for cultural fit, there needs to be some degree of skill involved. You can’t hire someone you get on with to be a JavaScript developer with no experience. However, if you’re looking for senior tech talent in a scaling business, it may be time to consider that skill and experience levels aren’t everything. Skills can always be taught, just like experience can be gained, but finding talent passionate about your mission and connecting emotionally could ensure higher talent retention rates and attract top talent to your scaling organisation. If you’re willing to be more flexible with the “perfect” candidate criteria, more talent will be available to you. Let’s be honest hiring a developer with three years’ experience who is passionate about your business will always be more successful than hiring someone with five years’ experience who doesn’t particularly care.

Therefore, it’s time to think of cultural fit and the type of attitude you should be looking out for.

Find people that share your values 

Hiring for cultural fit means that you can find people who believe in or share your businesses values. Shared values encourage employee loyalty and can help build up a strong, unified company culture. By sharing your values with the wider employer brand communications, you’re likely to stand out to tech candidates despite the high amounts of competition. Right now, technical candidates hold power, as there are fewer candidates than jobs. Therefore, companies need to work harder to stand out; appealing to emotional drivers and moral factors could be a great way to do so.

Plus, tech candidates who believe in your mission are more likely to stay with you in the long term, lowering your recruitment costs in the future. 77% of employees who know what their company stands for and what makes it different from competitors claim they plan to be with the company for at least one year 

Look for people who are determined to prove themselves

Experience isn’t everything; sometimes, candidates lack the managerial expertise but have the drive and determination to prove they’re capable of more. If you’re looking for senior tech talent, while the market is so competitive, it may be a good idea to hire someone who has the basic skills but is determined to prove themselves and advance in their career. Sadly, senior talent is hard to come by for many tech skills, which is even more true in such a competitive market. Experienced players in areas like DevOps, Data Science or even AI and Machine Learning are rare because the technologies are so new; because of this, any you do find are probably on high salaries or working for more prominent, more established names with no desire to leave. Management experience or more senior responsibilities can be taught and can be improved upon over time. Taking a chance on dedicated individuals who are more junior will simplify the recruitment process and save you money. It will also enhance your employer brand, improve employee loyalty and give you a chance to train individuals to your standards.

Hire talent who are willing to learn

As with experience, sometimes you cannot find tech talent with all of the required skills you need to scale, but this doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to learn. Instead of waiting for an “ideal candidate” hiring multiple people or compromising, look for people with the right attitude and who express a desire to learn. The right people for scaling businesses are usually willing to upskill and improve upon their talents. For example, a developer may not have the greatest understanding of HTML 5 but may be keen to learn more aspects of this language to help your organisation. As long as you’re willing to put in more effort into learning and development, it means you can hire people with a can-do attitude and develop their skillsets over time.

Build a culture that can compete

Whether you’re running a tech business or restaurant, the principle is still the same, it’s the people within your business that make it what it is. Therefore, you should build a culture that allows people to thrive and is appealing. Company culture isn’t about your sofas, break out areas of gimmicks, it’s about the office’s vibe and the attitude of the people within it. Just as one negative person can create a hostile environment, positive people make for a great workplace. Talk to employees about what would make them happiest, build a culture where people feel supported and encouraged but also promote this culture as much as possible. Adding a personal and friendly approach to work is an advantage that startups and scaleups can have over more prominent players, who are obliged to have a more corporate culture. Plus, by personalising the employee experience as much as possible, you may add the smallest details that will help you stand out; don’t take any aspects of your culture for granted. It’s the smallest things that can help you to differentiate from the crowd.

Of course, when hiring for tech talent, their ability to succeed in the role is essential, and in most instances, this requires a wealth of skills. However, when competition for tech talent is so tight, employers must acknowledge that this is not the most crucial aspect. Instead of having robust criteria that candidates are expected to meet, you should think more about the individual; if their attitude and determination are right, they may be a better hire in the long run. Remember, you can teach skills and gain experience, but a candidate’s cultural fit and attitude cannot be changed over time.

Talent Works enables tech organisations to scale through powerful talent attraction solutions. Using a wealth of tech sector-specific expertise, insight and innovation, our unique mix of employer branding, digital talent attraction and agile recruitment solutions. To find out more about how we can help you to surround yourself with the talent needed to scale in an increasingly competitive market, get in touch with our team to start a conversation.

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