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Unless you’ve been in the tech recruiting space for decades (which, if so, congrats!), you’re probably not too familiar with the changes that have happened in the space. The tactics that once worked to fill our open technical roles just don't work anymore. 

Here are a few ways that technical recruiting has changed over the years (and what this means for you as a modern-day recruiter).

Technical Education Has Evolved

In the 60’s, very few universities had on-campus computers, making it incredibly difficult to learn how to write software. There also weren’t many formal education tracks in software engineering, so companies found themselves recruiting liberal arts and mathematics students instead.

Decades later in the 80’s, software development became a more institutionalized field, with many universities now offering formal education tracks to students interested in becoming software engineers.

In the 2000’s, newer engineering graduates competed against each other for jobs at career fairs on college campuses. Today, students are turning towards non-formal education to learn computer science or coding, such as taking online courses, utilizing on-the-job training, or working on their open source contributions.

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Programming Projects Now Touch Everyone

In the 60’s, universities, businesses, and government clients wanted software that would help them be more productive. Specific projects included things like time-sharing systems, data processing machines, digital storage systems, and online business transaction processing.

With the rise of the personal computer in the 80’s, enterprise customers were no longer the only ones interested in the potential of software. Software engineers began working on products to make the everyday citizen’s life a little easier, working on things like office suites, calendars, and home finance programs.

If we fast-forward to the 2000’s, the possibilities of software were endless (thanks to the World Wide Web). Today, developers are writing the script for the future. Software comes with us everywhere now- it’s not just for business applications or personal computers. Every company needs software developers to accomplish its goals.

Recruiting Tactics Are More Personal

In the 60’s, companies resorted to low-tech advertising tactics, such as posting classified ads in newspapers, having skywriter planes advertising programming jobs with fly-over banners, and using headhunters.

Casper Jones, a specialist in software engineering methodologies, said, “Headhunters did not call specific people by name. Instead, they’d make general calls to a programming office space and hope that someone would be interested.”

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The 80’s weren’t much different -- companies still heavily relied on outsourcing their work to headhunters.  

In the 2000’s, things shifted a bit. More experienced candidates would actively apply to jobs by sending hard copies of their resumes directly to the companies they were interested in. When companies actively sought to hire developers, they relied heavily on recruitment agencies. Many of these agency recruiters were far less concerned about what the candidates wanted than they were about the commission they would get for filling the role. Developers then got used to endless cold calls from recruiters about jobs that weren’t even remotely relevant to their interests or career goals.

Let’s jump to today. Some companies are still using these outdated tactics (with little to no success, mind you). But those who have adapted to the new way of tech recruiting – the developer hiring process – are seeing results. This includes looking for developers in the right places (where they actively hang out, not generic job boards), using the right tools (no “spray and praying”), and talking to them the right way (not treating them like glorified typists).

So what can we learn from the historical changes in tech recruiting? Recognize that developer hiring is a process – a process that will take some time to implement. But if you’re willing to change your approach of recruiting and hiring developers, your entire company will benefit from your efforts.  

evolution of tech recruiting


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