The top 10 skills U.S. employers are after right now? They’re all technical skills, according to our latest data here at LinkedIn. And small wonder–for all the (justifiable) talk of emotional intelligence and other soft skills as hot commodities in the job market, some employers seem willing to skimp on some of those as long as it means staffing up with all the qualified UI designers and network security experts they need.
LinkedIn is no exception in the race for tech talent; like everybody else, our recruiters are also looking for new ways to attract and retain employees with the technical chops to keep us on the cutting edge. But in my experience, the best way to do that isn’t by forgoing the human element and just zeroing in on the technical stuff–it isn’t an either/or. In fact, pulling in the best tech talent in a competitive job market means doubling down on the things that tech candidates aren’t always thought to care about.
The typical recruiter call goes something like this: “Hi, I’m Brendan from XYZ Company. We’re growing like crazy, we have whip-smart people, free food, and the coolest projects ever. Want to hear more about working for us?”
They usually don’t. Why? Because that’s no way to differentiate your company. By now, loads of companies–from the biggest established players to small startups–already offer Instagram-worthy work cultures, replete with perks and creature comforts designed (with various degrees of success) to appeal to the most in-demand tech workers. By now, your in-office rock wall is a cliché, not a selling point.
Unless, of course, you can tell a powerful story that includes it. Recruiters have a difficult job these days–they need to offer compelling narratives to job seekers that capture all dimensions of the company they represent. Not just facts and figures, but the feeling, spirit, and culture of the employer that they’re selling to job candidates (and if that includes an onsite espresso bar, then sure, great). I like to ask recruiters, “Could you walk into your CEO’s office or boardroom and grab their attention with how you tell the company’s story?” If not, up your game.
The same goes for what you communicate online. Here at LinkedIn, prospects who visit our Company Page can check out videos like this one about “InDay,” a special day allocated for employees to invest in themselves and their communities. They can find photos of group activities, like our speaker series or team offsites. Or they can browse social posts by LinkedIn employees themselves, tagged #LinkedInLife.
The goal of all this content is the same: to help people envision not just what it’s like to work at LinkedIn, but what it’s like to work on the particular team they’d be joining. So when our recruiters speak with tech prospects one-on-one, they might mention the giant backgammon room or Mad Libs wall at our new San Fransisco digs, but they’re much more focused on helping them understand our culture, gain a sense of belonging, and get a taste of the technical challenges they’re likely to face on a specific team. Speaking of which . . .
. . . it’s not just about how well you tell your story. It’s also about who’s telling it.
We’ve found that tech prospects would rather hear from the company’s own engineers than from its recruiters. So before reaching out to a prospect, we comb our networks to find first-degree connections with employees, and invite those employees to help make the initial contact. The people who work here at LinkedIn are our best ambassadors.
When they get involved, the message shifts from “we need more people and I heard you might be looking” to the infinitely more appealing, “I would love to have you swing by the office and give me your opinion on our technical architecture and security plans.” Not long after we started trying this strategy, it tripled our rate of positive responses by candidates. We’ve also found that those who start LinkedIn’s hiring process this way make it through their interviews more quickly and successfully than those who don’t.
These days, we look less at where somebody’s gone to school or worked in the past, and more at their ability to adapt and absorb new information. And even though we’re hiring for tech skills, we still dig deep into soft skills.
After studying the engineers who’ve done well here, we found that many don’t have a “pedigreed” engineering background, and many came from a different track altogether. Certain roles actually require a variety of skills that an engineering program might not have delivered. Instead, we prefer to hire smart people with strong soft skills who can then “skill up” on the job. To help make it happen, we created a very focused engineering bootcamp for developing specific tech skills and hanging on to our most talented employees.
Since we’re fishing in the same pond as other high-tech employers, our recruiting team has had to get creative–and that’s meant using LinkedIn data to identify untapped talent pools, including at smaller or lesser-known companies. Not only do great people work in those places, but it’s often easier to get their attention.
The same goes for schools and educational background: We do our best to look where others aren’t looking, and have built some tools to help. As we add facets into a search on LinkedIn’s Recruiter software, for instance, the system runs algorithms across 467 million members and will start making suggestions you might not have considered, like pinpointing graduates of Maharaja University instead of a highly sought-after Stanford grad.
Next year’s list of hot job skills might show a totally different top 10, with a less technical focus. But for now, we’ve found that giving more of a human touch to even the most high-tech recruiting can go a long way. And when you think about it, that’s not so surprising after all.
Brendan Browne is VP of global talent acquisition at LinkedIn.