Strategies in the search for top tech talent
PRACTICAL TOOLS TO ATTRACT THE BEST CANDIDATES
ith an improving economy and growing business confidence, observers say the demand for technology workers in Canada’s capital is on the upswing. An increasing number of local startups, along with stability at the buyers of Nortel Networks Corp.’s divisions, is creating competition at the same time that baby boomers are eyeing retirement. Meanwhile, students are still shying away from technology careers.
In a marked turnaround from only a few years ago, Ottawa’s technology labour market is favouring employees and forcing employers to become increasingly creative in their recruitment efforts.
OBJ asked two experienced local HR professionals to share their tips in the hunt for employment prospects.
Ottawa-based branch manager at Technisource OBJ: What are some of the strategies you recommend to clients? SM: The most important thing is to think ahead so you can be proactive. That way, when you’re talking about finding individuals, you can look at things like the hiring of new grads. Companies can set up a really strong co-op or internship program and track these individuals, finding the best and the brightest, and then hiring from them.
One of the things that we are finding is popular with some our clients
right now is their efforts to go beyond the standard career fairs and target specific niche areas. For example, sponsor a pizza day in the lounge of an engineering building and really talk about your company, the technologies, and plan for the future with these individuals that are coming into the workforce.
OBJ: What if you have an immediate need?
SM: The best starting place is from within – referrals. Some companies have a really strong referral program, in which they compensate their individuals who either give them leads or present them with resumés. Generally, good people recommend other good people. It is their reputation on the line, so they tend to hire quality.
The traditional ways of using the major jobs boards is something that we do, as do our major clients … (as well as) looking at niche or local job boards. Most good, qualified individuals may be looking on these job boards, but most of them are already in stable jobs these days. You’ve got to take it an extra step and look at passive candidates. To find those individuals, I really suggest utilizing tools like LinkedIn, having a good company LinkedIn profile, getting either your recruiters or HR people to have good profiles, and truly understanding the tool so it can be used to headhunt people or post jobs. That’s where most people are interacting and looking for new opportunities these days.
OBJ: What about other social media tools?
SM: Younger generations find and look for information about new jobs and new opportunities on Facebook and Twitter. There are a number of niche groups in both LinkedIn and Facebook that really speak to the interests of the particular segment you are targeting. In the high-tech sector, if you are into hardware development there is probably a group where people go and talk about new products and exchange ideas. If you can go there, you can sometimes post jobs or headhunt individuals from that group.
Twitter is only effective if you provide content. You should have the basics there, but also provide interesting articles, talk about your company and post jobs and new opportunities.
OBJ: How can a company position itself as an attractive place to work?
SM: You really have to understand the strengths of your company and what your differentiation points are. You have to sell your company, and that comes down to the way that you are posting jobs. Write a really compelling, interesting job posting. And right through the interview process, continue to sell your company, the job itself and what makes it unique.
(Candidates) often see a lot of “shopping lists” of (required) qualifications that list everything under the sun if one were to have the perfect candidate. That dissuades some people. You have to take a step back, find your mandatory needs for the role, and separate that from your desired qualifications because you could actually scare off people from becoming interested in your company, or even applying. You have to be flexible.
In high tech especially, most workers are in good jobs and most of their companies are stable. The fear factor is gone in many cases. Salaries are fairly commensurate across the board, so people aren’t leaving for a huge difference in salary. It is really those other intangibles that can determine if someone is going to join your organization.
You really have to understand the strengths of your company and what your differentiation points are. You have to sell your company, and that comes down to the way that you are posting jobs.
OBJ: Where do you begin the search when you’re looking for specific skill sets?
JF: One of the areas we’ve had difficulty in finding people for is Flash development. There is a conference in Toronto called Flash in the Can, where we had a booth and hosted the Monday night event, which is a meet-andgreet. On the Wednesday night, there was a job fair where we had about eight people meeting Flash developers and having discussions with representatives from schools who are training the developers. We’d like to get on board with recruiting some of those people.
OBJ: What are some qualities you present to position yourself as an attractive place to work?
JF: It is variety. We have a lot of products and a lot of projects that we work on. We’re very heavy into automotive, the PlayBook (tablet computer) has just been released, and we’re looking at phones. We have so many different things people can do here that they don’t have to leave QNX to work on new or different technologies. We allow people to move around within the company.
When I’m interviewing people, I talk about the fact that we have very longterm employees here and that’s because of the people who work here. It’s also the product – it’s really cool technology and you can see where it ends up. People really like that, and have pride in putting out a strong product. They love coming to work.
Director of human resources at QNX Software Systems Inc.
OBJ: How do you attract candidates to your company?
JF: One of the things that we’ve done this year is put our name out there more in the local market than we ever have been in the past. The current campaign kicked off at Winterlude with outdoor projections. We put together a 30-minute video clip that was recruiting-oriented, showed the company well and spoke to what we do here. These videos were projected on the outside of buildings in the ByWard Market area during Winterlude. We saw quite a big uptake in people visiting (our) website and sending in applications right after those videos aired.
We’ve also done a lot of traditional marketing as well. We did some transit advertising, and a mix of print and job boards.