How Extreme Recruiting Is Winning Over Tech Talent

Millennial and Gen. Z technical talent are flocking to Silicon Valley for jobs. To stay competitive in the fight for tech talent, many companies outside of the Valley are looking for ways to attract and retain more star coders. A study from Burning Glass found that programming jobs are growing 12 percent faster than the market average, meaning even more competition. And the competition doesn't end once a company has successfully recruited talent: a TEK systems study reported that 42 percent of IT leaders believe their company struggles to retain IT talent.

Deloitte is one company looking to revamp its employer brand to attract top tech talent. It has already made headlines for its decision to ditch traditional performance reviews for a growth-oriented process based on more frequent conversations and autonomy. Now, the organization is revamping its recruitment strategy, not only to attract a wider pool of candidates, but also to bring in candidates who will thrive in the environment it has created.

We spoke with Joshua Kho, a consultant with Deloitte Canada's technology consulting practice, about the company's new strategy. Kho says that while the previous recruiting process was great at targeting traditional consultants, the company was having a hard time recruiting technical talent because of the long, difficult, and at times painful hiring process. Previously, Deloitte reps would attend college fairs and recruit potential talent based on the grades and soft skills they could see on paper. Recruitees would then go through three screening processes.

Kho says that in the end, Deloitte was facing a lack of interest from tech talent. The question was, how could the company rethink the way it connected with and recruited potential hires? The solution Kho and his team came up with was to introduce what they call "extreme recruiting."

The idea behind extreme recruiting is that, instead of waiting for individuals to apply, Deloitte's recruiters now go straight to coding talent hotspots, like hackathons, code fests and product showcases.

As they started attending these events, Kho and his team joined the students in learning, mentoring, and observing. Prospective hires now enter an expedited process resulting in an on-the-spot offer, no multistep interview process, personality test, or assignment required.

But how do Kho and his team know the candidates they're hiring are the right fit simply by meeting and mingling with them at hackathons? There are three main reasons why extreme recruiting can actually yield better tech candidates than a normal interview process:

1. Fit the Process to the Person

Should we be recruiting sales reps, accountants, and coders the same way? Completely different skill sets require completely different ways of recruiting.

When asked, "Why hackathons?" Kho responds: "Why not hackathons? Why conform and follow the same methods that everyone else uses? We wanted technically literate talent. Why try to fit the person to the process when you can change the process to fit the person? Hackathons allow us to see how talent will perform under a compressed and difficult timeline. We view their actions, how they think, how they react, how they build, how they problem solve – all in the artificially created stress brought on by their limited timeline."

Attending hackathons and other tech talent hotspots puts Kho and his team in the center of the action. Simply reviewing skills on a resume or sitting down to a formal interview can't compare.

2. Recruit for Culture Fit, Not Just Technical Skills

Participation at a hackathon requires more than just technical skills. It also requires a high degree of interpersonal skills. In order to be successful, teams must be able to work collaboratively and communicate effectively. During these time-intensive events, there's no room for egos or pride.

Another great aspect of hackathons is that they are ultimately all about learning. To get far with your team, you have to be able to take feedback well and use it to learn and improve your designs. This includes feedback from nontechnical team members.

Also, hackathons are nor mandatory events. All the participants join out of pure passion for their field and a desire to solve complex problems.

All of this means that the kind of candidates Deloitte's extreme recruiting team meet are highly motivated and perfect fits for the kind of culture the company has created.

Kho explains, "I can sit in a hackathon and at the end of it know that the students who excelled here will excel in front of a client, excel in solving that client's problem, and have the confidence to know that their envisioned solutions will be delivered within the tight timelines set in client-facing work."

3. Generational Differences in Recruiting

Millennials and Gen. Z-ers are changing the way companies recruit talent. Today, we're starting to realize that it's not just about what candidates can offer a company, but also about what companies can offer potential employees. A Gallup survey found that 87 percent of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job. In fact, Gallup found that "opportunities to learn and grow" was one of the top three factors needed to retain millennials. These generations want to be challenged and given responsibility, but they also want the tools to face those challenges and shoulder that responsibility effectively.

"This generation ... is looking to have an impact, to have responsibility, to change the world," Kho says. "We know that we cannot all be the future Zuckerbergs of the world, but in our own little spheres, we want to enact impactful, calculated change. Companies need to speed up the hiring process, get new talent in, and get them working – but make the process fun, challenging, and exciting! Don't hand me your vanilla list of preplanned questions. Talk to me to find out who I am! I may be interviewing for Deloitte, but at the same time, I'm judging you to see if this is the right fit for me. If I accept your offer, entertain me, give me responsibility, and let me grow."

In today's increasingly competitive talent market, smart companies are changing their talent acquisition strategies to suit the times. But winning over tech talent means more than just recruiting the right candidates. To retain new hires, companies also have to create continuous feedback environments in which young talent can grow, develop new skills, and collaborate with their teammates.

Much like the way extreme recruiting cuts out the long, traditional screening process and goes straight to the source for talent, many companies are now cutting out the long, tedious performance review process and replacing it with mobile solutions that put employees in control of their own development. In this way, real-time feedback cultures create environments similar to those of hackathons. A combination of extreme recruiting practices and a feedback-based learning environment are key to attracting and retaining knowledge-hungry tech talent.

"If companies can nail this down – speed, agility, and excitement in hiring, along with impact, responsibility, and growth in employment – I believe that they have a chance at hiring and retaining their talent," Kho says.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Impraise blog.

Steffen Maier is the cofounder of Impraise, a web-based and mobile solution for actionable, timely feedback at work.