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Five guerilla recruiting tactics for hiring top tech talent

How to attract top technology talent when you aren’t Amazon, Google or Microsoft

When it comes to attracting skilled tech talent, it’s next to impossible to stand out from the crowd when “the crowd” is the world’s most admired tech companies. You know them. The sexy “glamazons” that every top-notch software engineer, technical architect or data scientist dreams of working for one day.

But these are not your only rivals in the war for talent. With digital a critical strategic business driver, industries not typically known as technology powerhouses are expanding their tech workforces and clamoring for talent. In fact, more than 25 percent of Goldman Sachs’ staff are engineers, reports Bloomberg.

From AI to VR, your business needs digital capabilities to serve customers and fuel growth. Find the talent you need to get it done with these five guerilla recruiting tactics. After all, it’s a war out there.


1. Ditch your job description

Traditional job descriptions are boring, seen-it-once, seen-them-all laundry lists of skill requirements. Honestly, it’s hard to get excited about them. To help candidates truly see themselves in a role, reimagine the job description. Forget adding flashy language like “coding guru.” That’s just a gimmick. Instead, create a living document that reflects your culture and key behaviors.

  • Use a “day in the life” storytelling approach to write job descriptions that candidates can easily identify with—and get excited about.
  • Think beyond today—or this year—by charting the role’s trajectory, including skills to be gained and future career path options.
  • Emphasize behavior-based motivators over rote skills and spotlight the potential personal impact and ownership inherent in a role.
“As a software engineer, you will work on a specific project critical to Google’s needs with opportunities to switch teams and projects as you and our fast-paced business grow and evolve. We need our engineers to be versatile, display leadership qualities and be enthusiastic to tackle new problems.”

Source: Google software engineer job description

2. Create your own purple squirrels

Purple squirrel is a term used by recruiters to describe the perfect candidate—a rare and highly-coveted breed. Instead of spinning your wheels looking in the same places for candidates who may not even exist, you can shake up employee recruitment with a new playbook. Seek out tech skills in unexpected places and invest in education, which is good for the community and creates a strong talent pipeline for the company.

  • Look within the company for candidates outside of IT who want to develop their tech skills—and help them rapidly grow into new roles.
  • Consider candidates with a strong fit with the company culture even if they do not have a four-year college degree.
  • Forge partnerships with educational groups and institutions to develop community-based skills programs and internships.
In response to a shortage of network engineers in the 1990s—which impacted its ability to sell its products—Cisco started a networking academy to train high school and community college students in network administration. Academy graduates got jobs in tech and would often recommend the products they were trained in. A win-win.

Source: Harvard Business Review

3. Be you

The luxury of choice makes top recruits naturally highly-selective. That’s why differentiation is so critical for Davids to compete with Goliaths for the best of the tech talent pool. Differentiation is rooted in your culture. Ensure you have a clear sense of who the company is, what it stands for—and why—to connect the growing number of candidates who want a values match.

  • Get the word out by documenting your organization’s cultural strengths consistently across all recruiting and marketing channels.
  • Be authentic at all times. Have a relaxed environment? Don’t wear a suit to interviews. Have quirky things about your office culture? Show them off.
  • Know the cultural dynamics of specific teams within your company and carve out unique environments that foster them.
A Fortune 100 insurance company located its in-house innovation incubator in a separate physical space to cultivate its start-up culture and create an environment to attract tech talent.

Source: Boston Business Journal

4. Move from how to what

Your company needs IT talent that is skilled in what you do—and how you do it. Traditional hiring practices are not designed to determine this elusive fit factor. Turn to behavior-based hiring based on data, not on subjectivity and gut instinct, to objectively assess if a candidate’s past performance, personality, behavior and motivators set him or her up for success in a role.

  • Shift your employee recruitment process to a behavior-based model to focus on hiring “the whole person” instead of an isolated set of skills.
  • Use online DiSC® assessment tools to know what makes people successful in key IT roles, and screen candidates for key behaviors.
  • Benchmark your high-performers’ behaviors and competencies and feed this insight back into hiring criteria and interview processes.

5. Get personal

If ordering a refrigerator filter can be a personalized experience, why isn’t employee recruitment? Consumer markets have conditioned your candidates to expect personalization. Make it happen by understanding and connecting with candidates on a human level so they experience your company’s culture and values from their very first interactions with you, and beyond.

  • Power personalization with the latest digital technologies—remember, tech talent have zero tolerance for old-fashioned tools.
  • Curate the recruitment journey with what you learn in assessing top candidates early on—“sell” based on their motivators and values.
  • Provide unexpected value to candidates by sharing individual assessment results with them so they get new insight on job and career choices.
Analytics-based screening tools provide in-depth and customizable assessments that help companies truly understand candidates and continue with personalized outreach after they are hired.