Emilia Kabak-Wołk, HR Manager at Margo in Poland shares her day-to-day challenges to recruit rare profiles such as IT specialists, during an interview conducted by the Polish newspaper Rekruter.
What does the Polish market look like in regard to the number of IT specialists?
There are certainly far too few of them in relation to the demand. Various sources reveal that the deficit of these specialists is currently around 50,000. This is definitely not only a problem for the Polish market alone, but generally felt across Europe. For example, in France, where we have our headquarters, there is a lack of about 60,000 specialists and in Europe the deficit has not only reached nearly 800,000 but is still growing. In Poland, a lot is being said about the deficit, due to the fact that more and more companies are deciding to make investments in our country and, as a consequence, the demand for such specialists is ever increasing. In the end, Polish programmers are among the most valued in the world.
What is the best way of reaching this type of specialists? We know that this is not the easiest of tasks.
There are many approaches and new ones appear all the time. Organisations compete in developing creative approaches on this topic as well as undertaking further unconventional initiatives. What’s more, help in sourcing IT specialists is currently a very lucrative business, which is why we are seeing a significant development of companies on the market that base their operating model on supporting others in recruiting this type of personnel. For this reason, it is definitely worth looking for an inspiration in order to try new methods and test out new tools.
Saying the IT specialists are passive candidates who do not actively look for work has become something of a cliché. Such statements can be read in every other article concerning the recruitment of this type of employee. However, I do not completely agree with this. It is true that there many passive Candidates on the market and it is certainly worth reaching out to them actively, for example through such portals as LinkedIn, GoldenLine or even Facebook. However, it turns out that if IT specialists are not satisfied with their current place of employment, they start to open up to new opportunities and start reviewing certain content, often just out of curiosity – but there is a chance they will get interested. This means that such an individual reads job adverts, for instance. True, this person will not look everywhere with the same eagerness. This is precisely why it should be thought through where to put these adverts. It is certainly worth submitting on websites dedicated to the IT industry. When speaking of companies whose business is based on the recruitment of IT specialists, I had in mind even relatively new advertising websites which adapt their content to these professionals. Adverts posted on these sites, therefore, look different from traditional ones, as they contain the most important content from the IT personnel perspective and are therefore promoted in places which IT specialists are more likely to look at. Their effectiveness is therefore much higher than that of traditional websites.
Companies that create their business based on the recruitment of candidates also organise events such as virtual job fairs, where you can find a database of resumes of people who, at that moment, are open to new job proposals. Such companies also develop special search engines which integrate/consolidate information on Candidates from various portals such as GitHub, Twitter or Stackoverflow. Thanks to such search engines, we have a lot of information about a given person in one place, which makes it easier for us to select those candidates whom we find most interesting.
When I talk about the fact that companies are trying to outdo each other in using creative approaches to recruit candidates, I am referring to such actions as, for example, hackathons or gamification, which are not directly meant for recruitment but are supposed to serve as a way of reaching interesting specialists, among other things. This is quite an interesting alternative, although it requires a lot of commitment and ingenuity on the part of the organisers.
Specialists can also be reached by attending industry events: job fairs, conferences or meet-ups, which attract people form the target groups that are of interest to us.
Many companies, in order to build their IT staff, also take on so-called juniors who are easier to recruit to the team but require a lot in terms of their development. This does however pay off for companies. For example, they create various types of academies which “catch” the individuals with the highest potential and subsequently train them for a period of time, allowing them to gain practical knowledge. The best graduates who emerge from these academies are then employed. The company for which I currently work also has such an Academy set up in France. Students undergo training in the field of C # technology over a period of several months and then they are offered a job.
It is also worth mentioning that the effectiveness with which a company manages to attract IT specialists depends not only on the professional activities of its Recruiters but depends equally on what the company represents – what its image is and what it has to offer. Therefore, let’s concentrate on activities related to Employer Branding. How a company is perceived may decide whether candidates will want to apply as well as how willingly they will recommend the company to the others. After all, recommendations are one of the most effective ways of sourcing candidates. Marketing is also very important – it shapes how much the company is recognised in the target group and what it is associated with. This may very well increase the number of Candidates who apply to the company independently as well as increase the chance of them returning calls after the first contact has been made.
A separate subject, in addition to the sourcing of candidates, is the approach to the recruitment process. It’s not enough to find the right candidate; this individual must be dealt with skilfully. One needs to start by properly formulating the message intended for the specialist. Then build a relationship and help to get through the entire recruitment process.
Recommendations are one of the most effective ways of sourcing candidates.
How does one then proceed with the candidate? Let’s begin with the proper formulation of the message.
If the message is addressed to a wide group, e.g. in the form of an advertisement, then it needs to grab attention. For this purpose, one can use infographics or photos to illustrate the company and its prevailing atmosphere. If, however, the message is directed at a specific person, it is worth personalising it. In order to do this, one should examine the candidate’s previous experience, skills, but also his interests as well as any other information which may be referred to in the message to be constructed. Moreover, the presented offer must be specific and contain the most important information relevant to the specialist. In the case of IT personnel, this may be information concerning the tech stack the candidate will have at his/her disposal or information on employment conditions. Nowadays, especially among IT specialists, being specific is very important, so let’s avoid marketing and empty, verbose phrases. They will not only be read unwillingly, but also they may even discourage the person altogether.
Building a relationship with the candidate right from the beginning is also extremely important. Devote a bit of time. If the individual is not interested in the offer presented, we should ask what really interests them and see if we have other offers that might be adequate. If someone does not want to change their job at that moment, we should ask what could convince him/her to make such a move and when it would be good to contact them again. And do contact them again. Next time our contact will be received differently from the first time, especially if we took the time and trouble to be remembered in a positive way.
Building the relationship must also continue during the recruitment process. Let’s treat the candidate as an individual and not just like another person. Let’s not question a person according to the default scenario, let’s instead really get to know this individual, go into details, talk about what this person likes and needs at work as well as find out what their interests are after hours. Let’s also be by the candidate’s side throughout the entire recruitment period. We should always be in touch with the candidate and ask about their impressions regarding various stages of recruitment, let them know about the status of the process, monitor their level of motivation and, above all, let them give some feedback. If for whatever reason the Candidate was not hired at that time, we should nevertheless maintain contact. There might be a possibility to hire them at another time.
How do employers approach the ever-growing higher income expectations of candidates?
Very often, they simply increase the remunerations, which further complicates the already difficult situation in the market. Such actions, however, are short-term as I personally cannot imagine that the payroll market will continue to grow indefinitely. Finally, other methods will have to be focused on in order to attract qualified employees. Fortunately, many companies are already going in this direction. They attract candidates with innovative projects, development opportunities or the work atmosphere. I noticed that there are many people on the market that give up a better paid job in favour of a more interesting or friendlier workplace. When you reach a certain financial level, higher earnings are not that important and other things start to matter.
A way to get over specialists’ financial expectations that exceed the company’s capabilities is to invest in the so-called juniors. As a general rule, they still have relatively low requirements, but will often have a great potential and enthusiasm for work. Thanks to the fact that they learn quickly and willingly and, despite the fact that they require a lot of time and attention on our part, their work finally begins to bring us benefits and investment returns – providing us with a qualified specialist for a reasonable remuneration. However, here the question of keeping such an employee in the company becomes very important. Young people want to learn as quickly as possible and broaden their horizons, which may encourage them to change jobs frequently. Therefore, building loyalty towards the company also presents itself as a challenge, although that’s a topic for a whole new conversation.
In addition to good earnings, what do the candidates pay the most attention to in job offers?
For IT specialists, next to earnings, the tasks to be performed and the attractiveness of the project are also very important. Things which they ask about most often are, for instance: the tech stack (as they obviously prefer to work with the latest technologies), the impact they will have on the solutions they develop, the project development stage, whether it is a newly built solution or whether the system has been running for many years. What they are also interested in is the structure and the size of the team, the organisation of work (whether it is possible to work remotely as well as flexible working hours), attitude to creating new functionalities for so-called maintenance, the type of equipment on which they will work, the methodology of the project work (currently at the top are agile methodologies), the location of the workplace, development opportunities including training or the possibility to modify duties or change the project as well as the opportunity to work with high-class specialists, from whom they can learn. The company’s image and the prevailing atmosphere are also important. There are also questions with regards to benefits, although I have the impression that these are starting to have a secondary meaning to the points mentioned above.
The importance of FinTech is increasing. How to go about searching for specialists in this field?
FinTech is a group of companies that are developing very rapidly and are beginning to implement more and more interesting project ventures. Therefore, many candidates are keen to work on projects for companies in this field, seeing them as having a great potential. However, working in such organisations is often quite different than, e.g., in banks. These companies are smaller and not so well structured. This means that the scope of responsibilities for individual functions is not rigidly defined, therefore work requires some versatility and it is necessary to take on tasks from various areas even when performing a certain function. Lack of a rigid structure also means that the attitude within the company is more flexible, you can have an influence over many things, people are open to ideas, and decisions are made faster. A specific nature of FinTech companies has to be taken into account when recruiting candidates. Not every person will be able to find themselves in this type of environment. It requires specific skills and attitudes, and they need to be looked at carefully when making a decision on employment.
Read the whole article in Polish, page 19: Keys to recruit IT specialists.