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Hiring and Attracting Tech Talent With an Engineering-First Mindset

In a job market where a skilled engineer can go across the street for a bigger paycheck, the best way to get and keep great employees is by building an environment where they can thrive.

Top engineering talent is in high demand, and there is no shortage of open positions. So how do you attract and retain great engineers? It's not just about the money. In a job market where a skilled engineer can go across the street for a bigger paycheck, the best way to get and keep great employees is by building an environment where they can thrive.

This effort requires more than a simple checklist of benefits or programs. At the core of building a successful engineering team is collaboration and customization.

Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

In many organizations, human resources owns both recruitment and people development, but without an engineering-first mindset, it’s nearly impossible to demonstrate your investment in technology talent and differentiate your company from all the rest. 

Collaboration between HR and the company’s engineering and tech leaders is key in showcasing commitment to candidates and employees. What works for sales or finance might not work for a technical department, so we recommend finding customized strategies where HR and engineering each provide their own perspectives and expertise. The HR team can bring industry best practices, and engineering experts can weigh in to help tweak job description language and tailor recognition and development programs to their needs.

Short and Sweet

Creating an interview process that’s clear, transparent, and fast can be the differentiator in snatching up top talent. The market is extremely competitive, and qualified candidates are often interviewing for multiple positions at once. Companies should strive to move from application to offer in approximately two weeks or less. Moving quickly not only gives you an edge over competing firms, but also shows enthusiasm about the candidate, which translates into a willingness to invest in their success.

You also need to be clear in the expectations to ensure that you can move quickly and avoid confusion. We recommend laying out the process in advance whether it’s two, three, or four steps. Answer key questions from the start: What can the candidate expect? Are there tests involved? Who will (s)he meet with? What are the goals of those interviews? 

Simply put, don’t play games. Building that trust from day one helps candidates feel confident in the company’s honesty and transparency.

Another best practice: Look for those who can think. If you find a candidate who is smart and capable, snatch them up. It doesn’t matter what technologies they already know. Specific technologies can be taught; interviewing should focus more on the potential in who can learn.

Making an Impact

Strong engineers like to generate value and make an impact on the world. They are attracted to transparency and want to see how their own work translates into customer value.

Look for engineers who want to know they are a part of something bigger -- ones who think about the business. Then once they are on the team, invite them to contribute ideas and suggestions for improvement, so that they feel empowered to make a difference. We’ve seen firsthand how this encourages engagement and fosters excitement among our teams as well as how it can positively influence product development.  

This also creates an environment where talent (at all levels) can grow. Eliminate barriers to advancement and support the exploration of new technologies. Allow your employees the time for upskilling and embracing new tools and consider supporting (and even funding) side projects, which drive creativity and problem solving. Engineers want the flexibility to grow and experiment, so encourage them to do so.

Mentorship is another strategy to support individual employee growth. In particular, sourcing external mentors can be a very effective way to bring unbiased perspectives and fresh ideas to motivate and inspire engineering talent.

Empowering Productivity

Developers don’t want to get bogged down in the “manual labor.” Instead, they want to be productive and see results.

Building engineering processes that cater to their preferences and streamline workflows will go a long way. A few best practices include more automation, less QA testing, and ditching time estimation. Don’t push teams to build as many features as possible in a single sprint. By simplifying the planning process, engineering leaders can make everyone’s life a lot easier, allowing teams to dedicate more time to actual productive work.

Often the biggest challenge of an engineering team is scale. In order to maintain a positive customer experience, R&D needs to keep up. And in order for R&D to keep up, it’s critical to create a healthy environment that attracts and retains top engineering talent. Whether it’s with interesting and challenging work or finding ways to motivate them, the success of an organization is driven by the company’s investment in its employees.

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Nadav Lev is senior vice president of R&D at Axonius, a cybersecurity asset management company. He is passionate about computer science and using cutting-edge tools and automation to build efficient, productive R&D teams. He served six years in the elite 8200 unit and finished with the rank of Captain. In his last position, he was an R&D Team Leader at Cymmetria. Nadav holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Tel Aviv University.