Why Recruiting Tech Talent From Outside the Industry Improves Candidate Quality

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It’s all too easy to succumb to the temptation to rely entirely on dependable sources of job candidates — especially in the tech sector. For one thing, it’s usually much easier to recruit existing talent who already know the industry landscape and the requirements of working in the field. Veteran employees have more experience than new talent, and there’s less effort and risk involved in hiring someone with proven skill over someone new to the tech world. However, according to McKinsey & Company, about 44% of current tech professionals started their careers in nontech occupations.

Traditional tech recruiting strategies often fail to uncover dynamic, new talent from untapped areas. Tech recruiters need to be sufficiently open-minded to pull in new candidates to the hiring pipeline and broaden the range of prospects to truly diversify the talent pool.

As the tech talent pool grows, a larger percentage of people from varying backgrounds will be able to break into the field, bringing a variety of experiences to the table. When you restrict yourself to working within the same group of candidates, you’ll inevitably end up with a limited range of talent. This also leads to more hiring competition, tightening the ability to grow your candidate pool when other companies are consistently poaching it.

3 Tips for Recruiting Quality Nontech Hires

To expand your reach for skilled job candidates outside the tech sector, follow these steps:

1. Focus on Inclusivity During Recruitment

Recruiters should search for talent in various locations, including job boards or networking organizations that feature or at least include individuals from outside of the tech industry. Be aware that not everyone will have the same background, but don’t discount potential hires just because their current and previous job titles don’t align exactly with the role you’re recruiting for.

When trying to bring in candidates from different backgrounds, keep in mind that they don’t always know the technical or industry-specific jargon. As such, eliminating technical jargon from job listings immediately makes those listings more accessible to job seekers from nontech backgrounds. Instead, prioritize including skills and attributes such as drive, a continuous learning attitude, and the ability to multitask on job descriptions. Revamping your job postings is a good first step toward attracting diverse, fresh talent.

After this revamp, focus on expanding the platforms you recruit on. LinkedIn might be the premier recruitment app, but it isn’t the sole social media source for finding nontraditional tech hires. Reaching out directly to users on Instagram, Behance, Facebook, and even Snapchat has become increasingly popular. Even utilizing the right hashtags on social channels can increase candidate volume  by as much as three to five times. That’s not to mention that social media is an effective tool for screening potential employees.

2. Embrace Soft Skills

Widening the recruitment talent pool naturally leads to an increase in diverse and fresh ideas — and in the resulting benefits of a team from various walks of life. Diversity isn’t a buzzword. It’s a practice that cultivates workplace cultures loaded with varied perspectives and creative problem-solving.

Employers in highly technical fields sometimes neglect to account for essential soft skills, such as interpersonal competence, but that type of ability is at least as important as the capacity to execute job functions. For example, professionals with experience working in human-facing customer service roles will likely excel in team-based technical assignments. Servers arrive with project management skills, and former teachers will be right at home leading presentations.

Soft skills-based hiring also creates an opportunity for company decision-makers to review their existing workforce and identify excess and underrepresented areas of expertise. For example, are most of your tech workers analytical and/or risk-averse? Seek out employees with decisive, quick-thinking personalities to balance the equation.

Recruiters are sometimes guilty of relying on job requirement “wish lists” that paint a picture of the ideal candidate for the role but also exclude talented individuals who don’t check every box. Instead, focus on the work that employees will be responsible for, the skills they bring to the table, and their potential rather than their pasts.

3. Hire for Personality

Candidates with personalities that make them willing to learn the skills necessary to excel in the tech field should be able to successfully transition to their new jobs, so long as they’re properly trained. Design training programs that emphasize applying transferable and soft skills and trainees’ existing knowledge as a means of familiarizing themselves with new material.

Hiring for personality also aids in creating a strong company culture. Employee morale sometimes gets overlooked, but it’s an essential aspect of a successful business. Happy and motivated workers are often more productive  and likely to remain with the company for the long haul. Recruiting candidates with strong interpersonal skills will go a long way toward maintaining a respectful and collaborative environment.

The trick for successfully hiring for personality  lies in the interview process. Personality isn’t something that typically shows up on a résumé or cover letter, but you can uncover it during the interview process. You won’t have to change much about how you conduct interviews; it’s more about how you evaluate potential candidates. For example, if you ask someone to tell you about themselves, listen closely to their answer. Pay attention to how they speak about their passions or lessons, past experiences, and colleagues. Inspecting these answers from a personality lens tells you a lot about a candidate and whether they’re a good fit for your company, even without experience.

Tech recruiters must look beyond the narrow confines of a candidate’s résumé and instead attempt to truly understand the candidate’s mindset and motivations. A driven, passionate, and ambitious individual is always worth giving a chance to. After all, there’s no guarantee a lazy but experienced worker will outperform a dedicated but inexperienced and willing-to-learn candidate. Recruiters often stumble by over-emphasizing direct job qualifications rather than the soft skills and character traits that might very well be a more accurate indicator of future success in the tech field.


Mike Northrop is currently the managing director of company relations for LaunchCode.

By Mike Northrop