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Why we need to feed the tech talent pipeline

Software developers: Big demand, limited supply


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With the increasing need for a greater technical workforce in Colorado, finding qualified candidates can be a tall order. This is especially true for those companies that might not be able to offer the same big perks and salaries as tech giants such as Uber or Google.

According to an article in the Denver Post, “Colorado currently has more than 16,000 open computing jobs, and the average salary of these occupations is $92,000. By contrast, the overall average salary in Colorado is around $50,000.”

This bears questioning; is the gap solely due to a lack in talent or to the evaluation process when seeking the right talent?

Employees are a company's greatest asset. Building an all-star team is the single most important factor to a company's success. It is not uncommon to get distracted by the type of language a developer has been working in, the years of experience the candidate has, or which Computer Science program they have graduated from.

However, there are a lot of different traits hiring managers should look for in a software developer outside of the basic box.

So what are those traits? And how could companies find the talent they need to be successful?

Constant self-learning

Technology is ever-changing, and it is important for software developers to be adaptable to the change. This means always learning and diving into new technologies outside of contributions to a company’s codebase.

Are companies open to candidates working in languages different from what the team is using? How is versatility being taken into consideration when assessing a candidate?

Assessing the candidates’ ability to problem solve, think logically and be resourceful is important. Then determine if the team has the bandwidth to support any of the potential gaps that may be there during the onboarding and ramp up time.

Curiosity

Whether they are digging into a new topic to improve their skills as a software developer or in their personal life, curiosity drives a person to discover and push outside of one’s comfort zone. Curiosity in a developer will push the solutions, team execution, and final product beyond expectations.

How do you tell if a candidate is truly curious though?

You could start by asking when was the last thing they geeked out about? Did they explore something new or outside of their comfort zone?

Pay attention to their responses. How is their energy? Their tone of voice? Take note of the what and why that drove their excitement or curiosity.

Now, what about the wrap up of the interview? Were their questions at the end probing and inquisitive? Were there any questions at all?

Interpersonal skills

Is the candidate a thoughtful communicator?

This is an essential characteristic to screen for, as it can demonstrate collaboration, teamwork, and the ability to share and receive feedback. Interpersonal skills can be directly related to productivity and thoughtful contribution. These skills can also point to the ability to move into team lead roles or the liaison between the technical team and the non-technical team, bridging a much-needed gap.

Another way to pinpoint this characteristic is by reviewing past experiences and employment. Did the candidate ever hold a non-technical role? Career changers can be a great fit for this reason.

Diverse Perspectives

Step outside of a personal network when it comes to hiring. Invest in a little recruiting. Explore candidates that may be a little more junior, self-taught, not from a traditional CS program, a career changer.

It is proven that companies with diverse teams are more successful long-term.

In 2015, McKinsey & Company published an article stating that; “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. And companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Enlist a person to remove identifying information in the code challenges the candidates submit so that the team can review them without bias of gender, age, years of experience, etc. Score these challenges against the traditional interview process. Compare and contrast the results. Consider how this could help diversify a team when removing unconscious cultural bias.

This process could open the opportunity to less senior candidates, as well as others that may have been dismissed earlier based on which CS program the candidate attended, companies the candidate worked for previously, or even age.

There is an increasing need for technical talent, and a definite gap in need versus talent, however there may be more options than seem obvious upon first glance.

Lia James is the partnerships manager at the Turing School of Software & Design. She specializes in finding the best talent for specific companies and helping students with career strategy.

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