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Tech Recruiting: Q&A with Brian James Kirk of Technical.ly

Kathleen Garvin
Tech Recruiting: Q&A with Brian James Kirk of Technical.ly

I recently spoke with Brian James Kirk, co-founder of Technical.ly, a technology news network.

In October, his team published a free e-book, "Beyond Recruiting: 9 creative ways companies are hiring in competitive technical fields." Looking ahead to 2015, I emailed Brian some questions about what students, job seekers and prospective career changers can expect with jobs in tech.

So, what do recruiters look for when hiring for digital marketing and tech positions? Read on for Brian's answers and the link to Technical.ly's free e-book.

Question: Technical.ly published a free e-book, "Beyond Recruiting." How did this project come about?

Answer: Technical.ly has written dozens of stories about tech recruiting over the past five years in the markets on the East Coast that we cover. Usually, those are best practices or innovative ideas that are new to the recruiting world: things like investing in the STEM pipeline to encourage younger people to get gain technology-based skills through apprenticeships or educational programs, or rethinking the "perks" in a compensation package.

As we started to amass that coverage, we decided it could be really beneficial to publish a guide for the hiring managers at companies with limited marketing dollars to help them recruit.

Q: Did you find anything particularly surprising when you were interviewing recruiters, employers and employees, and doing other research for the e-book? Any misconceptions about working in this broad field, either from recruiters or job seekers?

A: No one is surprised that it's hard to find and retain good talent, particularly in technology-related fields. That's always been on the minds of folks in HR departments at any company.

I think the biggest lessons you'll find in the case studies we've put together is how far companies are willing to go to recruit. Bounties — where companies pay cash for referrals — aren't a new concept by any means. But rewarding up to $5,000 for those referrals is representative of how competitive this space is. And, of course, getting involved in community efforts that don't directly correlate to the hiring funnel, but instead help build an organization's image in order to attract smart people, is another example of how companies are playing the long-game to build their team.

Q: Let’s talk skills: what are some skills recruiters are looking for in 2015 (and beyond) in applicants they once didn’t five years ago?

A: There's always going to be a hot new framework or technology service that companies want their talent to be familiar with; things that give those companies an edge on their competition. But what we've seen more prominently is their want to hire problem-solvers, not platform-specific experts. If you're analytical and willing to learn new things, you're more likely to get hired in the technology space.

Q: New careers in digital marketing and tech seem to pop up overnight! Any suggestions on how students and prospective job changers can stay ahead of the curve?

A: Understanding the fundamental business challenges is more important than filling in expertise and talents on a resume. Over the past decade, social media platforms have been constantly created and reinvented; but at the core of those platforms is a business need to connect with others, which is more about marketing, customer service and community building, than any one tool. If you understand what it takes to take advantage of new tools to help you do those things more effectively, you can do them anywhere.

Q: Media outlets (including Technical.ly) have reported on a skills or degree mismatch when it comes to placing people in tech jobs. Are the recruiters you spoke with doing anything to face this head-on in today’s job market?

A: For sure: that's why companies are getting so creative about hiring. They want to stand out to the small pool of talent in their local communities.

We analyze this kind of question on a local level, as we report on small communities on the East Coast: Philadelphia, Brooklyn, DC, Baltimore and statewide in Delaware. Though there's a focus on gobbling up talent in their local communities, companies based in these markets are also starting to look across the corridor to help fill their roles.

Q: I love the story in the e-book about Mike, a guy who once sold cell phones at a stand in a mall. One day he answered a Craigslist ad for a part-time errand runner who would have the ability to learn how to build software during down time at the company. Nearly four years later, he was a lead developer at the same software firm. What does this say about the tech field at large?

A: Apprenticeship is just one of the smart ways companies are finding new people. An apprenticeship program is two solutions in one: it helps a firm recruit from a bigger, more diverse pool of talent, and it proves that building software isn’t some untouchable skill that only a select few can reach, which is so commonly misunderstood.

Tech skills will continue to become so ubiquitous in the workplace that it will really start to blend with day-to-day roles, no matter what department your working in. That makes for a great opportunity for job seekers looking to gain an edge in the job market.

Get your free download of "Beyond Recruiting: 9 creative ways companies are hiring in competitive technical fields" when you enter your email address.

Brian James Kirk is a co-founder of Technical.ly, the technology news network in the Northeast Corridor of the U.S. Brian handles business development, marketing and product development, forging new partnerships, building brand identity and coordinating events and projects. You can find him on Twitter.

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Kathleen Garvin is an online editor and analytics wrangler for The Penny Hoarder, the largest personal finance blog. She's also a contributing writer for I Want Her Job and started a beginner-friendly digital marketing blog, The Maroon House. Kathleen is the former blog editor at SEMrush.
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