6 minute read

The new developer and technologist candidate journey

Recruiting technical talent in today’s competitive landscape is challenging—particularly now that many companies have shifted to remote workforces, so you’re as likely to be competing against Google or Amazon as the startup down the street.

In order to stand the best shot of attracting top talent to your team, you need to focus on more than salary and benefits: You need to think about what the candidate’s motivations are in their job search. By taking the time to understand a developer or technologist’s pain points, and addressing them throughout your recruiting process, you’ll be able to build an empathetic approach that helps candidates build a stronger, more meaningful connection to your company. In order to do this, it’s helpful to look at the recruiting process through the same “Jobs to Be Done” methodology that developers often use for designing products.

Simply put, “Jobs to Be Done” refers to the process of uncovering unmet user needs and designing an experience that meets those needs. This framework can be translated to the recruiting process by understanding the flaws that typically surround the job seeking process, and building an optimized experience that eliminates those problems. 

Stack Overflow conducted intensive research to understand the phases of the job searching journey, including a survey of 550 developers to understand their pain points along the way. Here’s a brief overview of our findings and how to use JTBD as a framework to inform your own recruiting strategy.

Start by understanding job seekers’ motivations

Before designing a strategy to attract them, it’s important to know why a developer might start looking for a new job. 

Our research found that these were the key motivators for seeking a new role...

Better things:

  • Better compensation
  • Better title
  • Better company culture

More things:

  • More professional development
  • More autonomy and leadership
  • More job stability
  • More interesting work

And from our survey, we uncovered that these are the questions that candidates ask themselves as they are going through the process...

  • Can I effectively communicate my skills?
  • Will the role have long-term potential?
  • Will I be able to find an open role at a company that interests me?
  • Do I have the skills required for the job?
  • Do I like the company culture?

These are the questions going around in their minds when they are reading the job spec, when they are talking with a recruiter, when they are going through the hiring process.

We also found that candidates aren’t asking themselves what others would think of their career move and how long the interview process would take. 

Learn what their pain points are

As developer candidates navigate the job-searching process, they often come up against a number of hurdles or areas where reality falls short of their expectations.

The most common issues that arose were: 

  • Limited professional development opportunities
  • A lack of diversity
  • A lack of feedback
  • Vague role descriptions
  • Lack of work-life balance
  • No understanding of the company culture
  • Unappealing tech challenges

Other factors were around a poor experience:

  • Bad recruiters
  • Poor interview processes
  • Long notice periods
  • Difficulties in the negotiation process

By taking the steps to address each of these pain points in your recruiting process, you can better serve your candidates and make your company a more attractive place for them to work.

Using Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) to improve your recruiting process

So, armed with data that showcases what jobseekers are looking for and the challenges they face, how can we use it to create a better solution to the job-hunting challenge?

Help them find the right jobs easily

Start by making it easy for jobseekers to find the right employment opportunities for their particular skill sets. Use job boards that enable developers to drill down by framework or languages used, location, years of experience, compensation, benefits, and other important factors. In addition to asking developers which tech they want to use, it can be helpful to use a tool that rules out developers who do not want to use specific technologies, too.

Give insight into what it’s like to work at your company

They’ve also communicated that they want to gain a better understanding of both your company’s work-life balance and its overall culture. While encouraging employees to anonymously review your company on public forums like Glassdoor is a good starting point, it will also be valuable to create your own talent brand content including videos and blog posts from diverse employees’ perspectives that showcase what it’s like to work at your office.

Provide opportunities to communicate their skill sets

Developers also want opportunities to showcase their abilities during the job search. Beyond simply asking them what technologies they’re familiar with, consider conducting coding challenges during the interview process that give them the chance to showcase their abilities, and include interview questions that give them time to talk through how they solved a particular coding challenge in detail in a previous job.

Give feedback, whether positive or negative

After investing weeks or months into the job application process, developers find it frustrating when they get radio silence. Take the time to follow up with all of the candidates that you’ve interviewed and give them details on what you liked about them as a candidate, as well as the reasons why another candidate was a better fit.

Provide context to help them negotiate the right compensation

Jobseekers are often frustrated with the process of determining salary, and failure to effectively negotiate can have major setbacks. Women tend to negotiate less frequently: A study found that women negotiated only 7% of the time, while men did 57% of the time. Providing salary transparency throughout the organization, with salaries based on a combination of skills and career stage, can help to level the playing field.

What does success look like?

Our research found that success in the job search doesn’t simply come down to whether the candidate gets the job or not. If a job seeker feels like they are able to successfully navigate job boards to identify the right jobs for them at a company, understand the company culture, navigate the application process effectively, and receive clear feedback at every stage of the process, the job search is successful regardless of the ultimate outcome.

To ensure a successful recruiting process with a diverse and highly qualified applicant pool, it’s important to take a deep look at what’s broken in your current strategy. You may be losing out on strong initial applicants because they can’t find the right open role, or because they don’t have enough information about the company culture. Others may be dropping out along the way if they don’t receive enough feedback or are struggling with the negotiation process. In order to make sure that you can build a strong candidate pipeline that helps your company find the best possible candidate for each role, look for opportunities to optimize your hiring process at every step of the way.

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