5 Red Flags to Watch for When Recruiting Tech Talent

Red flags recruiting tech talent

There has never been a better time to work in tech.

That is, if you are a senior software developer with five years of experience, a passion for picking up new programming languages, and an Inbox overflowing with potential job offers.

As reported by TechCrunch, more than 1 million unfilled programming jobs will exist by the year 2020. Translation: Companies of all sizes must work extra hard to attract, recruit and retain tech talent in the years to come.

With that said, hustling to recruit candidates should never come at the expense of ignoring signs someone isn’t right for the job. Rushing through the tech talent recruiting process can be quite costly. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 74 percent of hiring managers and HR professionals admit having hired the wrong person for a position. The average cost of a bad hire? Nearly $15,000.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the price at approximately 30 percent of the employee’s first-year earnings. In other words, the higher the position, the more costly the lost momentum will be. Smart companies interview several candidates, conduct performance-based assessments and assess cultural compatibility before deciding upon their perfect match.

“It took until the very last interview before I found a developer with the right skill set and background, as well as a desire to work for an early stage startup,” says Paul Towers, founder of Task PigeonBesides taking their time with the hiring process, top recruiters watch for five red flags when recruiting tech talent:

5 Red Flags to Watch for When Recruiting Tech Talent

1. Acing CS101 Algorithm Tests

Just because someone has a computer science degree, and can successfully complete an algorithm test, doesn’t mean they can code in the real world. “There are books dedicated to acing these useless interviews, and mediocre coders who lack proven skills buy them, so they’ll get hired in spite of their lack of visible coding talent,” says Javascript expert Eric Elliott.

Unfortunately, presenting candidates with stock puzzles, whiteboard demonstrations and algorithm tests — that provide no real indication of job performance — are still common talent assessment methods while tech talent recruiting. 

The reality is most successful developers have long forgotten the exercises they learned in undergraduate programs. That is, if they even studied computer science in the first place. Why? Most CS programs don’t teach students the practical skills they need to succeed in tech.

Key Takeaway: Developer candidates who breeze through formulaic assessments probably spent more time studying than building apps or software programs in real life.  To learn more about how our tool helps solve this problem, request a demo today

Make this “red flag” a non-issue by encouraging your organization to utilize performance-based assessments that present candidates with the exact problems they will be solving on the job.


2. Relying On Buzzwords

Have you ever heard of the saying, “Show, don’t tell?”

Well, the old adage is especially relevant when it comes to developers.  The best developer candidates present one-page resumes summarizing their accomplishments, with accompanying links that support their claims.

Conversely, less experienced candidates heavily rely on buzzwords, while providing little supporting evidence. Does that mean you should entirely discount someone whose resume is peppered with cliches? Not necessarily; just make sure to issue a realistic performance-based assessment to ensure the candidate can perform on the job. Side note: Tech recruiters should also steer clear of overused phrases in job advertisements.

According to a recent report from Adzuna, 74 percent of job advertisements use at least one generic buzzword in their description. The IT sector’s most commonly overused word? Play. Other overused cliches include ‘ninja,’ ‘wizard,’ and ‘’assassin.’

Key Takeaway: The best candidates have simple resumes that are supported by an abundance of project links.


3. No Online Trail

No portfolio? Not good. 

No online projects? Even worse.

No visibility on an industry site like Dribbble? The worst.

“Don’t interview anyone who hasn’t accomplished anything,” says TechCrunch columnist Jon Evans. “There is no excuse for software developers who don’t have a site, app or service they can point to and say, ‘I did this, all by myself!’”

Considering that the cost of registering as an Android developer comes in at an economical $25, and both Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services offer free service tiers, Evans has a valid point.

As previously mentioned, a CS degree doesn’t guarantee anything; neither does a certificate of completion from an online program. Top developer candidates will have a significant online footprint, including visibility on sites like GitHub and StackOverflow.  

Key Takeaway: Don’t interview anyone without a portfolio demonstrating the development of real applications with real users.


4. Not Asking Good Questions

Another common red flag when tech talent recruiting is a candidate who doesn’t ask specific questions about your company projects and systems. As previously mentioned, top developers have plentiful job options.

They aren’t just looking for a paycheck; they want a fun challenge. As such, the best developers won’t be afraid to ask questions like:

How do your engineers know what to work on each day?

What is your team’s biggest challenge right now?

Do you have continuous integration?

What frameworks do you use?

What is your culture like?

If an interviewee doesn’t turn the tables on you, chances are he doesn’t know enough to know what to ask.

Key Takeaway: Prioritize candidates who take a particular interest in the projects your organization is working on. These individuals are most likely to contribute with enthusiasm, experience, and expertise.


5. Vague On Problems Solved In Previous Jobs

Finally, be wary of candidates who are reluctant to provide details on previous job experiences. A good developer should be able to speak to things like workflows, frameworks and collaboration tools used.

Go beyond the resume with questions like:

What were your team’s most important product metrics?

What is an example of a complex IT problem you solved?

Did you learn any new technologies in that role?

What type of development style did you follow?

(e.g., Agile, Waterfall)

What measurement systems did you use?

(e.g., MixPanel, statsd)

Key Takeaway: Pass on candidates who cannot confidently back up the claims made on their resumes with specific details of completed projects.


Do Your Due-Diligence When Recruiting Tech Talent

Top developers may seemingly be in short supply, but that doesn’t mean companies should rush to recruit the first available candidates.

Take heed of these “red flags” — acing CS101 algorithm tests, buzzword-heavy resumes, zero online trails, failure to ask the right questions and vagueness on past job experience descriptions — and you are significantly more likely to find your diamond in the rough.

Interested in trying out our AbilityScreen product for yourself?