Casey Wilson, a recruiter at BuildASign.com, an Austin-based custom printing provider of signage and home decor items, put it most succinctly when asked about finding tech talent today.
"It's a candidate's market and the competition is fierce," said Wilson.
Indeed, tech talent is in demand, and as companies turn to technology to expand their market share, competition in the tech labor market will likely only get worse.
Considering the continued adoption of technology, Wilson suggests there is not one single strategy for finding talent, but many.
"Due to the competitive market in Austin, it's imperative to do your own searches, attend job fairs (and) meet ups and look to your internal top performers for referrals," said Wilson.
Eddie Cianci and Brendan Caffrey, both engineering directors at Litmus, an email testing, marketing, and analytics company, say employee referrals have been a successful action for them, as well, but it doesn't come for free.
"The key to great referrals (is to) create and constantly foster a place where people love to work," said Cianci and Caffrey. "If you can pull this off your employees will tell their friends how much they love it and you'll see high quality referrals."
When it comes to recruiting tech talent, having the long game in mind can also work to your advantage, said Trevor Brosnan, head of technology at startup Plastiq.
"While most companies in the technology field are reactive recruiters, I've found that the most success comes from proactive, passive recruiting," said Brosnan. "In general, recruiting the best technology talent takes time, especially in active technology markets such as the Bay Area, Boston and New York."
"Since nearly all of the best candidates are passive candidates—meaning they are currently employed—recruiting on an on-going basis is important," Brosnan said.
Experts also suggested using websites like Hired.com, Poachable, LinkedIn and StackOverflow Candidate Search to connect with people who may not fit the typical engineering stereotype.
The following are a few tips for finding, recruiting and retaining tech talent.
Keep the door open
Brosnans' approach at Plastiq is that there will always be a role for the right talent.
"To stay true to this approach, we keep a number of job postings listed permanently," he explained. "When passive candidates are interested in working with us, we have the ability to on-board and add to our talent pool."
Show off your brand
The coolness factor goes a long way in aiding recruitment efforts, especially with millennials. Therefore, putting time and effort into building a great brand can contribute to successful recruitment efforts.
"One of the biggest lessons I've learned about recruiting is being able to present a valuable brand to technical talent," said Brosnan. "While working with a previous company, despite being in San Francisco, we really struggled finding great talent simply because no one knew who we were."
Brosnan said it's also important to ensure the brand appeals to engineers and speaks to technologists.
"This may be sharing what type of work is offered, the technology the company works with, and the type of environment provided," Brosnan said. "Recruitment is a two-way sale—not only does the candidate need to sell why we should hire them, but as an organization, we need to sell the candidate on why they should work for us."
"By marketing more of those aspects, as well as getting involved in the local tech community, we were able to spread the word about the technology side of our company, and go from very little IT interest to having candidates actively seek out our company for interviews," Brosnan said.
Don't just get it, keep it
It's also important to ensure you retain tech talent once you have it. That means setting the stage appropriately and ensuring a good match for a position. In other words, don't over-promise to a potential employee.
"Matching the perfect talent to the culture and position within a company is key," said Casey. "You have to be honest, upfront and explain in detail the work environment, projects and systems/ languages the candidate will be working with."
That also means asking the right questions.
"I've found that within the technical field, it's easy for recruiters to ask too many 'what' questions to assess knowledge, but not enough 'why' questions to understand thought processes and how candidates would fit into the team," said Brosnan. "When hiring IT talent, identify candidates' technical experience, along with their ability to work well with others, form teams and (make sure they) have the soft skills to work with their business counterparts in order to be successful and complete tasks."
Offer something different
Setting your company apart from the masses can also help attract tech talent. One thing many tech workers seem to crave is the ability to call some of the shots.
"Our strategy for hacking the best talent is to give them a lot of leeway to pursue their desired approach to work," said Brosnan.
Sometimes that's easier for startups than it is for established companies.
"In larger companies, employees may have different incentives, but generally, processes are slower and there are greater restrictions in place," Brosnan said. "As a startup company, Plastiq doesn't have those same constraints, so we provide engineers who are proactive and willing to go the extra mile the opportunity to work on new technology, to build innovative products, and take a lot of ownership around building products that excite them."
Don't forget your own backyard
It's important to remember that great talent can come from within the company as well. This is an aspect of recruiting that is often overlooked—the talent you need might already be in the company, but in a different role.
"The approach we take at Plastiq is to create a free-market environment inside our organization," said Brosnan. "This gives employees the potential and freedom to move around and pursue different opportunities within the company, helping to minimize any desires to look outside of our company in order to grow their career."
But do remember to look outside your territory
Since its founding in 2005, Litmus has always had a percentage of remote employees, said Cianci and Caffrey. However, a few years ago, the company made a more concerted effort to be remote-first, meaning that all of their processes, workflow and tools are designed with remote employees in mind.
This remote-first approach has changed the way the company hires and recruits.
"While the Greater Boston-area, where Litmus is headquartered, is a great area for tech talent, it's small if you compare it to the global talent pool," said Cianci. "Switching to hiring remote employees has significantly increased both the quantity and quality of our applicants."