Crucial tips and tricks from an experienced IT recruiter.
We live in a world where IT is everywhere, there’s no escape from it. Even the industries that were independent just a few years ago from the IT influence are now heavily impacted by it. And with that, comes a demand for qualified IT specialists, and that generates a completely unique market for IT recruitment. To navigate through the job market is challenging even in normal circumstances, but from what we know about the IT industry, it now brings completely new challenges. We know that the IT job market is highly technical, and people working in the industry have, often undeservedly had, a reputation of being challenging to talk to.
In DEV PACK, we’ve been successfully navigating through the waters of IT recruitment for the past few years, and we have some of the best IT recruiters within our ranks. One of them, Jiri Kucera decided to share some of the best-kept secrets for the candidates who want to move into the IT sector or those who are actively seeking new jobs in general.
We spoke about how DEV PACK is helping its candidates to find the position that is the right fit, basic tips for capturing the interest of the recruiters. We talked about the ways we support our candidates through the interview process and right through to landing the job offer. We also touched base on the current situation in Ukraine that is sadly impacting all of us, and also the IT world, as Ukraine was ranked in the top #10 of the Digital start-ups market before the current war. Now, let’s dive deep into the article and start with part 1.
Q: How many years have you been working as a recruiter?
Far too many (laugh), but realistically, recruitment is the main area of my expertise since 2009 and IT recruitment since 2015.
Q: Why IT recruitment?
I’ve been always a geek, and the IT industry was an interest for as long as I can remember. close to me since the beginning. So, it’s a combination of business and pleasure.
A good recruiter always knows about the industry they’re recruiting for.
Q: Does this mean that all IT recruiters have to be geeks like you?
Not necessarily, but they should definitely know the basics about the industry they are working in. That doesn’t apply only to the IT industry, that applies to all industries. A Quality Engineer in Automotive needs to have a very different skillset from a Quality Engineer in Banking, and I, as a recruiter specializing in this or that area, should be familiar with the industry enough to be able to identify the key skills in the candidate and be able to evaluate them too. I learned the basics of coding, and I watch the trends in programming languages. I can test (a little bit) candidates on their basic coding skills and can talk to them about the specifics of certain roles. It is critical for me to be able to do this so that I can find suitable candidates for my clients.
Q: What makes the IT industry different?
From the recruiters’ perspective, the candidates are very scarce. The Czech labor market is very overheated, the unemployment rate is around 3%. Also, IT is a market demanding particular knowledge and some years of experience from the candidates – which also means that the number of suitable prospects is limited. Qualified specialists are usually settled within their companies, and are not actively looking to leave. And also, because IT is such a lucrative industry, there are many IT recruiters seeking suitable candidates, making it a highly competitive market. Good candidates are snapped up quickly because they have multiple offers. Unfortunately, many recruiters’ offers are irrelevant, wasting everybody’s time, and making candidates hard to approach. Maybe, this is also the reason, why they earned such a bad reputation when it comes to their communication skills, but frankly, I’m not blaming them.
Q: This means that a part of your job is also a targeted head-hunting, is that so?
Yes, head-hunting is a part of my job. We’re constantly trying to use available sources of seeking the right candidates through Linkedin, and other sources to find suitable prospects. Because we’re often working with clients that have very specific technical requirements, we know that we have to get in touch with the candidate before they receive other approaches.
Q: What do you think makes you different from other recruiters? In other words – why should the candidate work with you instead of other recruiters?
In general, it’s difficult for any recruiter to stand out in the crowd of other recruiters for the candidate, and I am humble enough to understand that I cannot judge whether I am better than others, that I leave that to other people. However, my rule is to be true to myself and to the candidate, and rather than persuade them to take lucrative offers from which I’d earn a commission, I’m always listening to their needs, and trying to understand their expectations. I always want to form a partnership with the candidate, as well as with the company that approaches me with their requests. I see myself being a sort of a mediator rather than anything else. Of course, I’m trying to take care of my candidates – help them to prepare for the interviews, assist them whenever possible, so all of that, helps me to create a deeper relationship with my clients.
The interview is nothing else than a selling process.
Q: How exactly are you helping your candidates with the preparations for the interviews?
My assistance to the candidate has multiple layers – and it involves help with the technical part of the interview, but also help with their soft skills. When it comes to helping in the area of technical skills, I always adapt the depth of my assistance to be relative to the candidate’s seniority, specifics of the role, etc. When we work with very senior candidates, we rarely need to brief them on the technical side of the interview, and I would never dare to because although I’m a geek myself, I am aware of my limitations. Nevertheless, a golden rule is that I always research the company I’m hiring a candidate for, I’m trying to understand what projects they have. I also want to know about the specifics of their interviewing process, how many rounds they usually have, and what is contained within each round. Sometimes, a candidate is under the impression he’s going for an informal chat and gets a pretty challenging technical interview instead, and I want to avoid that. Another part, of course, is to support and expand their soft skills, because the interview is nothing else than a selling process, and not all candidates are extroverts enough to be able to sell themselves. In IT more than anywhere else, we’re coming across technically very skilled candidates who are just lacking communication skills, and this is where I can assist. I go with them through the process of the interview, ask them the questions I know every other recruiter would ask – given the particular job description, and brief them on “tricky” questions they might face. That’s again, based on the job description, or rather on what I read between the lines in the JD.
We in DEV PACK are a mediator between the candidate and the company. I want both of them to find a good match. I personally never pursuade someone to take the offer only because of the vision of an attractive commission.
Q: What do you do when a candidate is technically skilled, but really lacks those soft skills, and is not able to capture the interest during the interviews?
That was actually quite a common situation in the past, and I learned that it is often the case that the more experienced candidate we have, the more humility they tend to show. Firstly, because they know how much still need to learn. Secondly, they often think that the results of their work should speak for themselves. For people who get absolutely frozen during the interviews – either because they are not used to presenting in front of an audience, or for any other reasons, we offer the help of our psychotherapist who can dive deeper, and help them to overcome their fears. In the end, they have to learn how to present in front of the audience, as this is nowadays, a requirement for a majority of the roles. We help with the rehearsal, we teach them the basics of the presentation skills and work on their weaknesses before they are in front of the actual interviewer. In extreme cases, we’re even able to tackle the issue through a series of breathing exercises, and other methods to help them to calm down.
Q: Let’s touch on the current situation in Ukraine too. Ukraine was previously in the world’s top ten digital start-ups, and a lot of IT resources were coming from there. Many companies outsourced their operations to Ukraine because of the low costs, and the high-quality of IT services. The current conflict has serious implications for them too.
This is something that is changing every day. IT is not a gender-equal industry, and for many years, it has been male-dominated. Men, as we know, had to stay in Ukraine in the current situation. Of course, the current refugee crisis triggered a huge wave of solidarity, and we see many companies trying to create positions for those in need, but here, we have to answer some basic questions – what will happen when this is over in a few weeks/months (which we truly hope for)? Will the companies be able to continue their collaboration with the candidates in a fully-remote mode? Or does it mean that they will lose someone they just started working with? Another aspect of the current situation is Russian escapers, those who ran away from the current Russian regime. Just for illustration, some unofficial studies say that approximately 70 thousand (!!) IT specialists have fled Russia since the beginning of this war (read more here). And although these are primarily people who disagree with the regime, the companies are wary of employing them, because they can be a potential security risk. In the current situation, we all are losing – and not only on the battlefield but from the human point of view. We all truly hope this will be soon over.
Part 1/2 of the interview with Jiri Kucera. To be continued…
This is where we have to (sadly) end today. As our interview with Jiri brought much useful information, we decided to split the interview into two parts, and we will post the second part of the interview shortly. There, we will dive deeper into the job-hunting process, and speak in more detail about the mistakes the candidates should avoid, what they should be looking for, and how to recognize a good company even before the interview. Don’t miss it, and subscribe to our Newsletter.