Back to Interviews

How Innovation Redefines Sourcing Tech Talent

Written by:

Mark Stewart is the in-house Certified Public Accountant, an accomplished author and financial media specialist.

Reviewed by:

As a seasoned HR professional with over 20 years of experience, Keca is an expert in various aspects of Human Resources.

How Innovation Redefines Sourcing Tech Talent

How Innovation Redefines Sourcing Tech Talent

In an engaging interview, Matthew Jones, a veteran technical recruiter, shares his transition from financial recruiting to the tech industry, motivated by the pursuit of a more impactful career. Emphasizing strategic planning and resourcefulness, Jones discusses how he keeps pace with tech trends and the importance of building meaningful relationships in the recruitment field.

Jones outlines his approach to job advertising and candidate sourcing, utilizing his vast LinkedIn network and a long-term talent development strategy. He stresses the significance of thorough interviews to assess technical skills and cultural fit, and considers the evolving role of AI in HR, advocating for a balance between technology and human insight.

Offering advice for HR professionals, Jones highlights continuous learning and adaptability as key to success in the dynamic tech industry. His insights provide a condensed overview of effective strategies in technical recruitment and the value of personal growth and strategic thinking.

Career Journey and Skills Development

HR – Can you share your journey into technical recruiting and what motivated you to specialize in IT positions?

Matthew – I got my start in insurance/financial advisor recruiting (aka hiring people for commission-only work). It’s a sales process, so it’s exhausting. I got tired of watching people struggle in that kind of work and how it affects their families.

My wife (back then, my new girlfriend) was a tech recruiter, and she encouraged me to jump into that because everyone would get paid real money and, as a result, they would like me more. I found tech fascinating. It’s constantly changing, as opposed to the field I used to work in. 

HR – Reflecting on your 10 years of experience, what skills do you believe were crucial in transitioning from entry-level to a senior technical recruiter role?

Matthew – Resourcefulness and strategic planning (aka long-game talent farming for niche skill sets).

HR – How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in the IT industry to ensure you’re sourcing the best candidates?

Matthew – Well, I talk to tons of tech people every day (both candidates and clients), and consult with software startups focused on the talent/HRIS/ATS space when opportunities arise. I have consulted with Cyberjinn (an AI ATS/talent sourcing tool), Hirey (an AI talent sourcing tool), and AhoyConnect.

Job Advertisement and Candidate Sourcing

HR – What strategies do you employ to create effective job advertisements that attract the right candidates for IT positions?

Matthew – I have a huge LinkedIn presence with 32k followers and maxed connections, so when I post, lots of people see it.

HR – Could you share a particularly challenging role you had to recruit for and how you approached the sourcing process?

Matthew – There are two companies here in town I will NOT work with because I use them as talent farms. They are known for taking entry-level people and teaching them super niche skills (Salesforce Development, ServiceNow Development, etc.) and for paying below-market rates.

I spend an hour or two a week just helping entry-level people with their resumes and interview prep, and I have them apply to those two companies where they get hired and trained on hard-to-find skills. Three years later, when they have enough experience to be dangerous, I contact them, knowing they aren’t getting paid what they are worth. They never forget the person who helped them get a foot in the door to start their tech career, so they always take my call. I have been doing this for seven or eight years and have reaped the benefits of this so many times.

Interview and Assessment Techniques

HR – What are your key techniques for conducting in-depth interviews and assessments for technical positions?

Matthew – Open-ended questions, like “I see you mention skill X on your resume, so tell me about your work with it and why that skill was integral to completing that task.”

DON’T allow any vague answers, such as in the following situation.

ME: “Tell me about your experience with X.”

Candidate: “I used it on several web applications.” (This is wrong, so prepare to be scrutinized.)

ME: “What applications? What were they called? What did they do? Were you on a team, so I know you don’t get full credit for this project? What part of the team were you on? At what stage of development did you become involved (i.e., did you do from the ground-up architecture, or was this break-fix coding on something that was made before you joined)?”

If they can’t answer those things, they are not the right fit for the role and are likely not fit for most others.

HR – How do you tailor your interview questions to accurately gauge a candidate’s technical skills and cultural fit?

Matthew – Open-ended questions give them enough rope to hang themselves with for technical and cultural assessment. Can they speak to the required experience in detail? I ask hiring managers for good questions to ask, to sniff out the BS, and for an example of a good answer to those questions. Also, when talking to software developers, the first thing I ask for is links to public-facing work.

Culture fit comes out with questions like “What was something you and management did not see eye to eye on?” or “Tell me what is motivating you to leave your current employer.” 

AI in HR

HR – With the increasing integration of AI in HR processes, how do you see AI impacting the role of technical recruiters in sourcing and assessing candidates?

Matthew – I see it being useful to newer tech recruiters for things like technical assessments, which they may not have the knowledge base to conduct themselves. But the need for the human element, especially for culture-related stuff, will not be replaced by AI.

Personal Insights and Advice

HR – Looking back, what is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self at the start of your HR career?

Matthew – Take care of your eyes. Use blue-light-filtering glasses or screen covers and lots of eye drops. My eyes are fried so terribly that it sometimes hurts to continue staring at the screen. Get up a couple of times every couple of hours to walk around and give your eyes a break. Also, understand the business need for your position and how the company looks financially to get an idea about your job security.

HR – What common misconceptions do people have about the role of a technical recruiter, and what is the reality?

Matthew – From a staffing agency’s point of view, it might seem that we are there to help candidates when, in fact, we work for the client and have to give them what they want. Sometimes, it aligns, and we get to help candidates, too. Those are good days that make the job a little more meaningful, but that is not as often as most people would think.

Expertise and Vision

HR – In your view, what is the single most important trait for a technical recruiter to have, and why?

Matthew – Building relationships with long-game strategy in mind. I have had many former candidates become clients because I just stayed in touch untill they made it to the management level.

HR – How do you balance the need for technical skills with cultural fit when placing candidates in IT positions?

Matthew – Technical skills are must-haves, while culture fit can be coached to an extent. Control what you can by quality-checking your/their work. Take the time to coach people for the interview because 99% of the time, interviews that went poorly could have had a different outcome with the right coaching.

HR – Given the fast-paced nature of the tech industry, how do you ensure the candidates you place are adaptable and continuously learning?
Matthew – I give them an action item or two, usually based on a needed or preferred skill that they do not have yet. The initiative takers will get it done and learn it, the resourceful ones will find a way to get their hands on it to learn it (i.e., free trials/walkthrough tutorials/etc.), and the very best exhibit both of these traits.