One of the unique challenges of technical recruiting is learning about developer skills. Software development is a complex, evolving discipline with its own set of technologies, terms, and jargon. As outsiders to the developer community, it can be hard for recruiters to know where to start. In this post, we break down the six concepts developers wish technical recruiters knew.
Front End, Back End, and Full Stack
Web development consists of two environments: the front end and the back end.
The front end is everything that a user sees and interacts with in their browser. Front-end developers create buttons, text, links, design, and the overall user experience.
In contrast, the back end is what you don’t see that underpins the digital experience. Back-end developers build server-side infrastructure, including servers, applications, and databases.
Full-stack developers have the unique ability to work with front-end design and interactivity, as well as back-end databases and architectures. Full-stack developers have a combination of front-end and back-end responsibilities, and their specific tasks vary depending on the company and role.
Understanding the nuance between front-end, back-end, and full-stack developers is key for hiring the right technical talent. Technical recruiters hiring for web development roles should pay careful attention to the distinctions between these roles.
Technical interviews are the process of evaluating developers through questions that place an emphasis on technical skills. Hiring teams use individual assignments such as coding questions, projects, or data structure problems to test and score a developer’s proficiency in key skills. These interviews gauge a developer’s problem-solving skills and technical proficiency in various programming languages and frameworks. And they also give a glimpse into soft skills — like collaboration or communication style.
The reason this is helpful for recruiters to know is that developers are going to have questions about the screening and interview process. 34% of developers we polled reported that the quality of interview questions influences their decision to accept an offer. Being able to communicate the format and technologies of the interview demonstrate the efficacy of the interview early in the hiring process. It also gives developers more time to prepare for an interview, which is helpful, considering that 41% of developers we polled spend weeks preparing for technical interviews.
A Basic Understanding of the Role
Job titles for technical roles can be confusing. For example, web developers, software developers, software engineers, and back-end developers use similar technologies and have overlapping job titles. However, each role comes with a different salary and set of responsibilities. Confusing these distinctions during a candidate search has consequences for the talent pipeline. Continuing with our example, if you submit a software developer for a software engineering role, they might not have experience in system design, a core requirement of software engineering.
Each job requirement comes with a general description of the role and the skills the role requires. However, in-depth research into technical skills is necessary to understand the unique technical requirements for your role. Recruiters who have fluency over technical concepts have a competitive advantage while recruiting for technical roles.
As a general rule, a technical recruiter should research the following for each role:
- The general discipline
- Key terminology
- Required programming languages (and what they’re used for)
- Required technologies (and what they’re used for)
Say, for example, you’re hiring a data scientist role. Start by researching the following information before beginning a candidate search:
- What is data science?
- What are the key terms for this discipline?
- What languages are important for this role?
- What frameworks are important for this role?
- What other technologies are important for this role?
Impossible Job Descriptions
In 2020, developer Sebastián Ramírez created a viral post about a job description that mentioned a framework he developed. The employer required four years of experience in FastAPI, which was only one-and-a-half years-old at the time. Posts like these are extremely popular in the developer community. (The post received 176,000 likes.)
I saw a job post the other day. 👔
It required 4+ years of experience in FastAPI. 🤦
I couldn’t apply as I only have 1.5+ years of experience since I created that thing. 😅
Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that “years of experience = skill level”. ♻
— Sebastián Ramírez (@tiangolo) July 11, 2020
At first, it seems like a lack of due diligence is to blame for unrealistic job descriptions. But if we take a closer look, we can see that the underlying problem is that employers and developers measure skill in different ways.
Employers typically assess skill based on years of experience. The assumption behind this approach is that years of experience is a direct indicator of a developer’s skill level. For roles working with new technologies, this can lead to employers seeking an experience level that is quite literally impossible.
In contrast, developers recognize that the only indicator of skill level is, well, skill. A developer with two years of hands-on experience in a framework that’s two years old is an expert in that technology.
To be fair, hiring managers are responsible for setting correct experience ranges. But verifying the accuracy of this information before starting your search saves recruiters from wasting countless hours, and saves developers the frustration of having to explain why the qualifications for the role are impossible.
Java is a high-level, back-end programming language used to create complete applications. Java is a fast and secure language with nearly endless use cases. Developers use Java to create applications, create video games, build back-end infrastructure, and even control Mars rovers. Java is the second most popular programming language in the world.
81% of tech employers require developers to have college degrees. Unfortunately, focusing on pedigree unnecessarily limits the applicant pool. But competition for talent is driving employers to adopt a skills-based hiring approach, which prioritizes real-world skills to make strong hires and access a larger talent pool.
In addition to furthering DEI initiatives, skills-based hiring helps recruiters by significantly broadening the results in candidate searches. To demonstrate the relationship between skills, education, and talent pools, we studied data from LinkedIn Recruiter.
If you search LinkedIn Recruiter for professionals with a bachelor’s or master’s degree and a back-end developer job title, the search results in over 190K developers worldwide. If you try the same search but remove the education criteria, the talent pool expands to over 270k developers. That’s a 42.1% increase in the total talent market achieved by dropping a qualification that doesn’t necessarily equate to the ability to succeed in the role.
So what happens when you conduct an even broader search? Instead of searching for job titles, try a skills-based candidate search. Searching for professionals with back-end development skills expands the talent pool to over 790k developers. Compared to the initial search, that’s an extreme 316% increase in the talent pool!
Skills-based searches yield a larger talent pool because they include:
- Developers who have a different but related title
- Developers who don’t have a job title
- Professionals who have backend skills but aren’t back-end developers
This trend holds true for all major technical roles, including front-end developers, cloud engineers, and data scientists.
|Role||Role- and Title-Based Search||Role-Based Search||Skills-Based Search||Increase in Talent Pool|
*Result is for cloud computing skills.
The tech industry loves to talk about the developer shortage crisis. But by looking at the data from a skills-based perspective, we can see that the problem is perception, not scarcity. If you’re a recruiter hiring for a technical role, the right developer is out there. You just need to look in the right place.