IT talent: How to recruit the class of 2017

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In the ongoing war for tech talent, CIOs want to recruit the next generation of IT professionals – those graduating in the class of 2017 – before they are scooped up by competitors. But now that every company is a technology company and competition is at an all-time high, enterprises have to go much further than college fairs to find and attract the talent they need. 

We asked five IT and business leaders to share their tips and successful strategies for bringing in the fresh perspectives and new energy that graduates have to offer. Here’s what they had to say. 

Cynthia Stoddard, CIO, Adobe: “At Adobe, our aim is to provide an inspiring environment that cultivates creativity. Our workplace tells a story, and it creates a network effect whereby our employees can tell their friends and college peers about the tools and leading-edge technology they are using. I think companies have to demonstrate that they have an inspiring environment that graduates can come into and really flourish. That’s what will attract more graduates to your team.”

Mateusz Warcholiński, COO, Brainhub: “I've hired 20 developers last year in a really high-competition market. As a small software development company, we couldn't afford to pay extremely high salaries or give superb benefits. What helped us were two things: Clear vision (and execution of it) to become the best javascript software company in Europe; and pitching the projects to developers instead of job descriptions. The interesting projects, senior developers from who you can learn a lot, and modern tech stack are better than any other benefits you can imagine.” 

Curt Carver

Curt Carver, CIO, University of Alabama at Birmingham: “We’re actually working with the business incubator at Birmingham’s Innovation Depot to attract, train, and hire high school graduates, as opposed to college grads. We are bringing them on to work the help desk, to be web developers, and, ultimately, to change the trajectory of their lives.

You don’t need a college degree for all IT work. We recently won a $6 million grant from the Department of Labor, and we just graduated our first class of 2017. Over the next four years, we plan to graduate almost a thousand people from this program. Further, we’ve got a consortium of local companies that have agreed to interview and potentially hire these graduates. Currently, we have a very high placement rate – 75 percent of these graduates have jobs on the day of graduation and 100 percent of the first class will have a livable wage job within 30 days of graduation.  

One of my greatest agents of innovation has worked for this organization for 15 years, and has a high school degree; he does not have a college degree. Once we made high school graduates our focus, we worked to develop a partnership between the city, the incubator, local universities, two-year colleges, and local companies to truly make a difference in the lives of the next generation of IT talent. It is about changing the trajectories of lives.” 

Guy Yehiav, CEO, Profitect: “As CEO, it’s important for me to constantly be thinking of new ways to attract the top tech talent and continue to grow our team. We have an advantage because we're based in the Boston area – home to a number of the top universities in the country with strong tech programs. That also means that we're faced with the competition of other companies recruiting the same talent. Instead of offering non-traditional perks sometimes associated with tech companies, like ping-pong tables and happy hours, we focus on attracting select talent that want to have an entrepreneurial experience and serious benefits, like competitive pay, career management paths, unlimited vacation days, gym reimbursements, and a focus on a work/life balance. These candidates tend to be more serious and long term.”

Kristen Byrne, director of recruiting, Clarity Consulting: “To recruit new graduates, you may have to reach them well before they are ready to be hired. That’s especially true of women, who may not enter the industry even if they have a STEM degree and are under-utilized in the industry. One way to get involved at colleges is via the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). You can sponsor your own events or dinners with them, or bring your female technologists to talk about your company. You even go further and get involved at the high school level  – this helps you contribute to the greater goal of making young women aware of the opportunities in tech for them, but it also helps spreads awareness about your own company.”

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.