Episode #4 - Recruitment: how to get hired as a developer, how to work with a recruiter, and how to attract the best talent
The ups and downs, ins and outs of recruitment in the tech industry and how to get hired as a developer
In this Episode
On the show they’re going to cover a range of ‘getting hired’ topics including: how to get hired as a developer; how to help recruiters to help you; why you should use a recruiter; how can employers engage with and attract the best software engineers; and the age old question of ‘do you need a software development degree?‘. All this and more in episode four.
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We mention a few different resources in the show and you can find them here:
- Find Arjun on LinkedIn
- Find Simran on LinkedIn
- Arjun’s direct line > 07791 141 227
- Simran’s direct line > 07958 223 054
- Discover more about Understanding Recruitment
- Arjun’s monthly mental health newsletter
- Rob’s article on what you should know as a front end developer
- Another article about getting hired as a developer in the tech industry
So joining us today on the show we’ve got Arj and Simran, both two experienced tech recruiters Arj, you’ve been doing it for almost a decade, Simran a little bit earlier in your recruitment career, I think from from looking at LinkedIn. Tell me how did you both get into recruiting? What was what was the draw to the to the to the dark side of tech?
Mine is pretty much the standard recruitment thing. I came out of university. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I actually did computer science for a year and dropped out and did archaeology instead, which was a very different choice of courses. When I was looking for jobs online. I kept like just looking for office jobs and recruitment kept coming up. I looked into it, and I was like, yeah, actually, I think that would be something that I’d be very good at. Because I’ve always been a confident, outgoing individual that like speaking to people, so I thought, yeah, you know what, I’ll give that a go. I started in engineering recruitment, first and foremost, and that was with the same company for near enough, eight years, started placing mechanical design engineers, and then built a team out, up to about 20 people underneath me. And then eight months ago decided to change and go into tech.
Yeah, I’ve been I’ve been doing tech for about, yeah, eight months now. And really, really enjoy it really love it company I work for at Understanding is, is awesome. Yeah, I just I just like the new challenge, really.
I mean, it’s quite pendulum swing from kind of a computer science degree to archaeology to recruitment, but I love it. But it’s got to give you a bit of an insight surely to, you know, to the kind of developers you’re looking to place into roles, having that kind of technical background and certainly the formal learning of the CS degree.
Yeah, exactly. And a lot of my friends are developers, as well. And I think that’s what’s helped me when I first started within tech because I do dotnet recruitment. As you know, I didn’t really know what C sharp dotnet ASP dotnet was in too much detail, but then asking my friends who are front end developers full stack developers, they’ve basically given me the insight into what everything entails. So I was thankfully able to pick it up quite quickly in that sense.
Brilliant. What about you, Simran?
I like and it’s it’s a weird landscape recruitment because it is effective like sales but double sales because you’ve got to sell got to sell the job downwards to the person applying for it but then sell the person applying it upwards to the kind of client. So you’ve got this kind of dual sales approach, but it’s stuff that you’re selling stuff people actually want. So that sales background’s bound to sort of help you.
So you’re both at, you know, different places in the in the kind of tech recruitment landscape. How have you seen it change? I mean, it’s there have been a noticeable shift towards certain technologies and requirements, things like that?
I like to hear that Vue’s getting a bit more traction. I mean, it’s not like it’s not not a popular framework. But I saw something on LinkedIn the other day, and another recruiter was asking about a company he’s working with like, should they go with react or vue and then loads of developers would chip in and go, Oh, this one is the best. And this is the best when really, the best one is the one you want to use. But someone did have an argument of, you know, in terms of support and kind of popularity, React kind of wins. And so generally people gravitate towards that, but it’s nice to see there’s more demand growing for vue because I don’t use it personally. But it is a great, it is a great framework. Yeah.
I know a lot of people like to give recruiters, you do get a bit of battering and you do work very hard for your money, but you do like get a bit of bashing on social media. But I think that’s because it comes down to people kind of choosing, you know, the wrong one and the wrong types. Now, are there any kind of red flags developers should look out for when engaging with recruiters?
I mean, it’s like every industry really, isn’t it? I think if you type into Google ‘recruiters are…’ it comes up with a whole world of stuff, just basically bashing us as a as an industry and as individuals, but red flags. There’s some companies that will put out fake fake jobs, which like we don’t agree with, there’s some people that would just mailshot their entire database and say, I’ve got this new job again, like we don’t really work that way because we take a tailored approach to the candidates. So we want to know what the individuals want. It depends on the first message you get. If you’re looking at the message and it’s clearly like an automated message, I wouldn’t advise going with that recruiter and do your research into the industry. If you if you google them look on looking at Google reviews, look on the Glassdoor reviews and then you can get an idea of who they are, as a person, look at their LinkedIn, look at them, have candidates recommended them, or clients recommended them as well. And that will help the candidates and clients also sort of whittle out the cowboy recruiters or however, however the industry wants to describe it really.
I’ve had a few of those. And they’re very kind of loose top level. But if they’ve not looked at you at all, and it’s just out someone ring me and be like I’ve got this front end role, you’ll be great for it it’s all PHP. And I was like, well, PHP is not really kind of front end you do make, mingle it into your into your HTML a bit but I was like it’s not really kind of front end. And they were just I can see from your CV, but I don’t know what CV you’re looking at I’ve never done any any PHP in my life apart from a little bit of WordPress. No, I would not sort of hang that on my banner is like, yeah, PHP for the win.
On the flip side of that, you must have dealt with some candidate horror stories. Can you share a few of those?
Well I mean, shit, that’s a great mindset, but at the same time, you must, I mean, we all have that imposter syndrome a little bit I think, god certainly the good ones do but I mean, there’s, there’s been good and just thinking you’re not and then it’s like just actually being an imposter…like, I wonder, I wonder how long he was thinking he just getting the got the job like how long he’d stay in the job for. Oh yeah, I’m working on that, but then fudging it or outsourcing it? That’s that’s mega.
I’ve always had that approach. And I think it’s it’s important to say, you know, it’s put me in good stead that honesty, because I mean, I’m a senior dev I know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. But there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know anything about, you know, and technologies I’ve not been exposed to. And I think the kind of blag my way through, it just makes you look worse. Rather than just sort of saying, I don’t know, but I’ve got a willingness and eagerness to learn.
It’s gonna build trust, all round isn’t it?
And I suppose apart from, obviously, we’ve talked about flat out lying and just getting other people to do tech tests for you, apart from that (and those don’t do that kids, that’s not cool), apart from those you know, most importantly how can job hunters, how can the candidates help help you to help them like what are the what are the things they can do to stand out or improve their hirability or to make kind of their on life’s easier in getting employed?
I think being active on GitHub definitely helps. A lot of our clients, they will look for the candidates’ profiles and see how active they are, and see what type of work they’re doing. So keep, like keep your GitHub active, keep your LinkedIn active this and in detail. There’s so many developers that will just put ‘software developer’ as their job title, which is all well and good, but we don’t know what tech stack they’re using. And then we have to message them to find that out which we could be just messaging irrelevant candidates. I could be messaging a PHP developer, for all I know, because they haven’t put it on that and just be open and willing to speak to a recruiter over the phone. There’s a lot of developers just like, yes, send me the specs, send me the spec, which is fine. But if we, if we don’t know what you like, what the developer is actually looking for, not just in terms of the tech stack, but location, type of companies, do want to work for a startup, start doing work for a multinational. Like, we’re not going to be able to gauge that from just ‘oh send me the spec and or give feedback’. It’s just, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. So I get, I get why some developers are like that, because there are so many recruiters out there that will just not know what they’re talking about, that will just spam the market, find a good recruiter, have that initial first conversation, tell them what you’re looking for. And then it should go swimmingly from there. And then we can then match the roles to the individual. And just yeah, just be active on on social media and talk about tech as well. I think, I think that would definitely help.
If they don’t have a GitHub repo, or any kind of GitHub profile, so to speak. Is it worth them building something in their spare time? So I mean, I appreciate I’m doing a lot more of it now, because I worked somewhere where we did a lot more open source and I try and do a lot of like this podcast and writing and things like technical writing and articles so I’ve kind of built up over time, but I’ve done a lot of jobs in the past where it’s all very proprietary closed code where there wasn’t really any public show. And in terms of GitHub and things like that, so is it worth them, maybe starting a couple of side projects just to showcase something that’s a bit more public?
Absolutely Rob. Definitely, that’s one of the key things I’d say. And, you know, as someone that would be representing you for a role or going forward, it’s, it’s our job to obviously highlight all your key assets and skills and you make our lives easier. If you have got, you know, those side projects going on. In fact, quite a few the clients that we work with, they love that if we can attach that to you know, we’re sending over CV and we say, look, here’s some projects that this this chap, or lady’s done, they love the fact that you know, they can actually see physical work and definitely make you stand out when it comes to an application.
That’s really great, you know, advice for just generally I think for tech and getting hired as a developer, I get a lot of questions from kind of aspiring developers or people who are making a switch in career to kind of development and I think their struggle is with landing junior roles or kind of entry level roles. So do you have any advice for aspiring developers that might , or maybe recent graduates or those looking to land ther first junior role? I do get asked about a lot I think it needs, I feel like it needs a slightly subtle shift from like, say me as a normal development going for a role.
I think the I think the junior individuals, yes, it is tough to get into the market. And to land that first job. You just have to you have to stick with it. Think about what type of positions you want, and apply for them. Like there’s some developers that I know that will literally apply to every single position just to try and get their foot through the door. Once you land a position it will open. It will open up other options too, but find a good recruiter. Try and speak to people who have been at your university. If you’ve gone to University our at your college or at your coding school and ask them if they know anyone within their network who’s hiring could give them a chance as well and try and do some of the free coding tests just to keep your skills sharp. And you can then utilise that as some examples when you are applying for positions like, yes, I’ve got no experience, but I’ve done this coding exercise. So here’s some code or I’ve produced this bit of code in my own time. And it that will set you set yourself apart from the standard person who’s just there wants it wants a job, you’ve got to really differentiate yourself in this in this market.
That’s, that’s a great bit of advice as well, because again, being slightly more junior or inexperienced, or if you’ve just not had a dev job at all you the chances of you having like a decent portfolio is probably going to be even less than like a standard developer. So, and probably harder for you to get one because you’ve not got the experience in code to build something, of code, to show the people that you can code. So I suppose that’s that’s a really great bit of advice, go out there and do some some tech tests. I recommend people going and doing the some of the certifications on Free Code Camp. It doesn’t necessarily hold any, any authoritative weight, you know, anywhere really but it does, it does show that application to a structured approach to learning and you’ve got some kind of certification at the end of it then at least shows the willing and the topics that you’ve covered.
On the other side of the coin aware from the kind of developers on the employer side, what’s sorts of processes can employers adopt to improve their hiring?
Yeah, the efficiency thing I think speaking as a as a from the candidate side is definitely you know, you don’t have to have the end to end process done in a week but I’d certainly say you know, make it as short as possible with as fewer steps I’d rather go in and do like an interview in a test in like, in a one hitter and then maybe you know, have a phone conversation outside of that previous or whatever rather than kind of weeks and weeks dragging on. .If you’re looking for if you’re just casually looking that’s one thing, but certainly if you need a job I was made redundant last early last year, and the pressures on to kind of find another one or what you don’t want three, four week, if not more dragging out when you’re like, well, I like this, but I’ve got other opportunities. And yeah, I think efficiency of the, and brevity of the hiring process is probably quite good.
I think again from from my end, making the interview process just a bit more just a bit like nice is quite helpful because it’s a stressful period. I’ve had a few horror stories, I won’t name names, because that’s not that kinda show. But I went for an interview up in York. I was like a one shot interview, I had a quick phone call with someone and then I went in, and they give me a grilling and it was like a kind of dotnet front end hybrid type thing. And everything went well. I was very honest. Thought it went well, the room was really small, but really hot, nearly passed out. But apart from that was okay. And then they got to the point where I think they liked me but got really suspicious and I’m not quite sure why. I don’t give off like a suspicious vibe. They wanted some massive proof of like stuff I’d done and I think that’s coming back to the portfolio. I struggle to show them any examples because like, well, I can’t share with you code from previous employers: one I don’t have access to it and two, there’s there’s a real ethical legal issue there. If I show you proprietary code and I’m sure you won’t pinch it certainly if I only show you a couple of files, but still, that’s not great. And they got really suspicious ended up kind of walking away and it never really found out why then they got really weird with the recruiters and that was, that was horrendous. And then another one I went to over in Huddersfield that that was just within seconds. I knew I didn’t want the job because I was left outside with no way of getting into the building. No one came to greet me the buzzer was broken. I couldn’t ring the office for some reason I called Oh, this is that head office number, not the actual office that you stood in front of. And then when I did get in, no one was like, Oh, hi, who are you what you here for? I just milling about inside their office like, hello, is this the right place? And then eventually some some chap came through and sort of took me into another room and then gave me a kind of grilling from out of the 80’s book of business hiring. You know, it’s just, there’s almost like that scene in the boiler room, always be closing it was like, this is really… can I leave? This is awful.
And what about engaging with a recruiter as an employer? What should what should they be doing?
doing research to the, to the recruitment agency, like what like all these things our role is is a fee based role. There’s some clients that will try and drive the fee down and like, you’re just not going to get a decent level of service with it. But that aside, it’s realising that we are here to place individuals to the business and help drive the business forward. The organisations that we work with, we truly partner with them and we act as an extension of their business. So we’re not just there to send CVs and make placements like we’ll give them we write salary guides for each each one of our markets will give them insights into their business will give them insights into the market as a whole. So it’s, it’s having that understanding that we are here to really partner with you. So go through the job spec with us set up technical conversations, because like all these things, job specs, they’ll have six to eight bullet points, and they’ll all be all this is essential. But when you actually speak to the hiring manager on a technical level of like, yeah, we’ve written this, but actually no, if they if they haven’t got that, I don’t mind and you don’t get that without having the the technical conversation. So it’s been open and willing to do that. And just working with either one agency or two agencies or three agencies don’t flood the market and go out to five or ten because you just won’t get the decent quality of condidate. And it just, it makes the candidate experience not as good because if they’re having ten recruiters call the same candidate about the same position and they’re right, they just do they want something specific or do they just want anyone that’s in the market that’s open to him.
Yeah, I think I like to see certainly from a, if any employers are listening to this, and they want to know what candidates like I personally quite like an emphasis on culture. because like you said, if you’ve got decent level developers who may be, you know, if you need something that’s super technically in depth and skilled at a specific thing, sometimes you do, then that’s fine. But if you just want a good developer who can like learn things and be a part of the company and really make some change, I think you should hire for culture and emphasise that in the job spec that you put out, because I’ve got a valuable piece of twitter twitter nuggets months ago, and it stuck with me, but it’s that you can teach people anything, but you can’t undick a person and I just I just loved it because I was like, Yeah, I’ve worked with people who they knew that stuff, but they were atrocious to work with because they were gatekeeping and just really gruff and like, you know, a very ‘um actually’ types. Where I think I’d rather work with someone who’s maybe less experienced but interested in learning and tackling the kind of problem and working on those challenges. Rather than just being insufferable.
You mentioned as well, before we did the podcast about the episode one I did where I’d mentioned about do you need a degree to get into development and things like that. And again, it’s quite a cyclical topic. It comes up again and again. You said you had some advice, and it’s what your advice and thoughts?
A lot of our clients do ask for degrees, some of them like, yeah, we need people from top 10 unis. It all depends on the individual. I’m not saying that you have to go to university to get a job in development because I placed individuals before who have done apprenticeships, I placed individuals who’ve just started out as a trainee, but really do your research and think is this actually right for me because there’s no point getting into all this debt. If, at the end of the day, you don’t want to do development. But if you are going to go to uni 100% computer science degree but we also place individuals from an engineering background or a maths or a physics, you know, the, the all the STEM subjects really will help you. Or find a, find a coding, find a coding course or an apprenticeship to get get you into it. It’s yeah, it’s still at this moment in time degrees are seen as you’ve got that higher level of learning whether that’s that’s the case or not, is still to be undecided. I’ve personally met some, some great developers that haven’t got a degree that do wonders. So yes, it’s, it’s entirely up to you as an individual. But I’d still suggest if you could go go for the degree option.
Interesting. It’s nice, it’s nice to get different perspectives, especially from that, you know, you’re deep in the bowels of the hiring side of it. It’s nice to get that, that demand, if you like, from the from the employer side of you know, are people really asking for it. I suppose it depends as well, if you’re going for a particular company, I’m throwing Facebook out there because it’s one of those biggest aspirational type companies that people want to work for. And I suppose if bigger companies are that put a lot of demand on having top tier candidates with specific types of qualifications be it a type of degree then yeah, it probably is something people should look at.
I ask this of everyone who comes on the show. Do you have anything, anything to plug? Anything you’d like to you know, apart from obviously Understanding Recruitment all the links in the show notes, but if you’ve got anything else you’d like? Any any links any names you can drop?
Yeah, obviously plug us as a business. I mean, I, I post a weekly mindset post on LinkedIn every Wednesday. I’m a big advocate for for mental health and, and mindset and mindfulness. And as well so it’ll be it’ll be great to hear developer’s comments and thoughts on that really? That’d be something that I’d be keen to hear.
Yeah, I might you never never know, I might hit you back up for a kind of for a sequel episode on mental health. It’s something I, you know, I struggle with, struggled with, I struggle with now. And I think it’s very important to to kind of look after your mental health, and I think it’s, it’s becoming more of a challenge in today’s landscape, just in general, nevermind development. So it might be something I’ll get back on to talk about. But that’s really good. I’ll definitely check that out. I’ll put a link to it.
Thank you very much, Arjun and Siman for coming on and talking to us about recruitment. Hopefully, it will definitely help some people out. I think a lot of people do struggle with it, or they’re a bit blase about it, or they just hate recruiting, I think you absolutely shouldn’t, you know, at the very worst, they are a necessary evil, but I think they’re great, because personally, if you get the good ones, like you guys are, and they will help you get into places that you might otherwise not, you know, there’s nothing worse, and nothing more soul destroying as a developer than sending CVs off and just getting nothing back at all. And I think recruiters can get to know you and talk you up and big up your skill sets and get you into places. And so thank you both very much for coming.
Arj 10:51 Thank you. Thanks.
Simran 10:53 Thanks, Rob. Cheers