How To Find Technology Talent In The LinkedIn Era

Rachel Murphy (center) and member of the Difrent team which has transformed from a recruiter to a delivery business since her arrival in 2017.Rachel Murphy/Difrent Group

It’s now over 15 years since the public launch of the business social network LinkedIn, now a subsidiary of Redmond software giant Microsoft. The open distribution of information about people and their careers has had many interesting effects, but none more so than on the world of recruitment.

Before LinkedIn and other career-related sites like Glassdoor, information about jobs, people and opportunities to match the two was held behind the doors of recruitment companies. Closed proprietary databases of candidates were the lifeblood of such organizations. Reid Hoffman’s creation has dramatically changed the landscape, alongside mass job advert aggregators like Monster.

“I think it’s been a slow acknowledgment that the agency database is obsolete. I mean, the number of recruiters that still used the database as their USP was hilarious!” Glenn Martin, a former employee of a global technology recruiting company, told me. Last year Martin set out on his own to try to find alternative ways to help clients match needs to people with those talents.

“GDPR has probably been the final nail in the coffin. It highlighted the amount of duplicate and low value of agency data combined with a consultant community that saw no point in contacting people they wouldn’t place.”

It was a desire for more creativity in his work that led Martin to jump ship. “I want to help clients to think more creatively about the candidate’s experience of them from the point when they discover them to the point where they apply for a job. Typically, most companies only think about how they get someone to apply – this thinking doesn’t go far enough in my opinion.”

For other recruiters, a more profound shift in the business model has been seen as necessary to adapt to the world outside.

Last year Difrent Group brought an experienced CIO Rachel Murphy into their business as Managing Director to establish a technology delivery capability alongside their more traditional recruiting functions.

“I joined a recruitment company, but on day one I changed the business model to a digital delivery business,” said Murphy, who had led the technology functions in the UK’s National Health Service, Nursing and Midwifery Council and Department for Education before her current role.

Difrent’s approach was driven in part by a significant shift in the procurement approach by the UK Government in recent years. The Digital Marketplace has provided a streamlined method for government bodies to specify and go to market for specific business outcomes from technology. These purchasing frameworks have been designed to encourage more SME delivery suppliers to compete against more the familiar large systems integrators and the world of contract recruitment. The focus throughout is on outcomes, not the resources required to do the delivery, and is helping suppliers to innovate their approaches.

But changes aren’t just happening on the supply side. Finding new approaches to identifying and attracting skilled technologist to join in-house teams is also necessary for markets where demand outstrips supply. Consultant Katrina Collier. She works with clients to help them develop social media strategies that go beyond looking in the obvious places of LinkedIn, and instead on deeper technology sites like Stack Overflow.

For Collier, in a candidates’ market, recruiters need to change their mindset. “Recruiters have been disrespecting people for forever, and it’s now coming to bite them on the bum!” she told me. It’s no longer enough for organizations to define their recruiting needs regarding a job specification and then expect someone to fit that model. Instead, “highly sort after talent needs to be sourced and wooed to your company and job opportunity,” says Collier.

Nearly two decades ago I was involved in building a team of web developers at the UK public service broadcaster the BBC. The resulting recruitment campaign, which ran full-page adverts in the technology supplements of the national press, won an award. Just imagine today winning an award for an advertisement for a job.

But while LinkedIn and others have changed those channel approaches forever, organizations using significantly different methods of finding the people necessary to deliver technology projects still seem like outliers.

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