We asked Europe’s tech recruiters why it’s so hard to find top talent — this is what we found out

“Almost nobody applies organically, so I have to spend all of my time reaching out to candidates on LinkedIn… and the few of them that answer all have unrealistic expectations”, a friend trying to recruit engineers for a tech start-up in Bucharest told us at WorkValues.

They worked with interesting technologies, had a good presence on social media, well-written job ads on LinkedIn and local job platforms, but to no avail — people just weren’t finding them.

We started wondering why, but the more we tried to find explanations for how they could get more/better candidates, the more curious we got about how things are going for other tech recruiters in Europe.

We talked to recruiters from both established tech companies as well as start-ups from Berlin, Dublin and Bucharest — here’s what we found:

1. Everybody is using LinkedIn these days, but the best candidates hardly come from there

It’s already 2018 and there are 500 million people on LinkedIn. Pretty much everybody you know is on LinkedIn already.

Given that, you’d think that it’s easy to source great candidates from LinkedIn’s Jobs platform — most of the recruiters we talked to said otherwise, only those from powerful brands had some success in getting organic applications via job ads.

The problem is that you’re competing against virtually every other tech company in your region (and sometimes beyond…) for attracting talent, so many of them likely don’t even discover you in the first place, even if they’d be a great fit for the positions you’re hiring for.

Imagine you’re a candidate and have to find your own job ad in Berlin. Good luck.

Your best bet is to search for potential candidates that fit your profile, and reach out to them en-masse on LinkedIn, hoping that at least some of them are actually looking for a job.

It’s a tedious and slow process — there are just so many misses that it’s hard to stay motivated.

2. Referrals are the top source for great talent

Virtually everyone we talked to, from big tech companies to early-stage start-ups, said that most of their top candidates came in via referrals from their colleagues.

They found referrals to work at their best particularly when trying to find talent with special skills that are quite hard to find on the market.

Why do referrals work so well for most recruiters? Referrals bring hard-to-get-to people within reach, which cannot be said of traditional recruiting methods like job boards.

Most people live in a bubble of like-minded individuals — if I’m working with a specific technology, I likely know at least a couple of people who also share my passion. Those are exactly the people I’d contact if I like my job and want some quality colleagues.

Referrals are hard to come by though, even if many companies incentivize it, so even though they might be where the best candidates come from, you can’t always count on them.

3. Most candidates are simply not motivated to have a job which advertises as being challenging

  • Highly qualified sales-people.
  • Top engineering talent.
  • Results-driven data analyst, with a passion for tackling hard problems.
  • Challenging, fast-paced work.
  • International work environment.

All of these tag-lines may sound interesting to most of us, but some people simply don’t want to apply to such positions.

Why would some good candidates want to avoid jobs which advertise like this?

It could be that they had a bad experience with so-called challenging workbefore, which, in their case, meant that their work was a drudge.

It could be that their international work environment meant having meetings early in the morning and late at night, besides having to tackle cultural differences.

Or it could be that they simply don’t feel up to the job and are afraid of failing or being rejected (some people are put off by elitism, and rightly so), so they don’t even apply or respond in the first place.

Those people are most definitely not risk takers, but even so, they might be great employees you could be losing out on.

It could also be that your job ad is simply too bland — people generally avoid reading blobs of text if the headline doesn’t arouse their interest.

In any case, be extremely wary of how you structure your job ad, and what words you choose to describe your position — that is, if you don’t only want to hire uber-confident A-types.

4. Some companies in tech aren’t really perceived as tech companies

This was by far the most surprising find of our survey — I for sure wouldn’t have guessed that this issue crops up with quite a couple of companies.

It seems that some tech companies don’t really sound appealing to potential hires… even though they might have heard of them already and have a powerful brand.

Are Uber and Taxify taxi /ride-hailing companies, or IT companies with extremely-driven engineers and sales-people?

They’re definitely both, but to some people they might not sound like tech companies where you’d get to work on interesting problems, which is most definitely wrong.

You should definitely take great care on how you’re marketing your brand and your jobs — is it clear to people that you are a tech company where they can work on interesting challenges, or simply a company wanting to hire some software engineers?

5. Unrealistic expectations — on both sides

By 2020, nearly half (46 percent) of all U.S. workers will be Millennials (Lynch, 2008).

Let’s face it — us millennials are picky and hard to please.

We’re not content with any sort of job, we want that job to mean something, we want to identify with it and the status that it brings. We want to enjoy what we do at work just as much as we enjoy what we do in our spare time.

That’s likely why millennials are switching jobs a lot more often than previous generations — we’re simply unsatisfied with the work we’re doing.

Most European millennials take a good benefits package almost for granted when it comes to tech companies, especially with regards to salary and holidays. Paid lunch, private health insurance, company parties are all increasingly popular and attractive for prospective job-seekers.

On the other hand, companies have unrealistic expectations of their own, such as expecting people straight out of university to already have meaningful experience… and that puts off many potential applicants.

(side-note: one of the funniest job ads that I’ve seen was for a Software Development Manager with at least 10 years of experience with Magento… back when Magento was only 7 years old.)

It’s most definitely going to be challenging for recruiters out there to make most jobs attractive to millennial and Gen-Z talent, but we’re sure they’re going to manage if they start listening to what the job seekers are saying.

Are you recruiting? What’s your experience with the above challenges?

Co-Founder at WorkValues

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