How Extreme Recruiting Is Winning Over Millennial Tech Talent

How Extreme Recruiting Is Winning Over Millennial Tech Talent

Millennials and Generation Z are flocking to Silicon Valley for jobs. No surprise, then, that many companies outside the Valley are looking for innovative ways to attract and retain star coders in a technology-driven market.

A study from Burning Glass found programming jobs are growing 12 percent faster than the market average, meaning even more competition. The challenge remains even after companies successfully secure new talent: A TEK systems study reported 42 percent of IT leaders believe their businesses struggle to retain top picks in tech.

A real-world case study.

Deloitte is among those revamping its employer brand to combat the problem. It already has made headlines for its decision to ditch traditional performance reviews for a growth-oriented process based on more frequent conversations and autonomy. Now, Deloitte is retooling its recruitment strategy. The goal is to not only attract a wider pool of candidates overall but also to bring in those potential hires who will thrive in the environment Deloitte has created.

Joshua Kho, tech consultant for Deloitte Canada, explains that while the company's traditional process was great for recruiting business majors, the long, difficult and sometimes painful hiring process wasn't tracking for tech talent. In the past, Deloitte reps would attend college fairs and recruit based on a mix of grades and the soft skills they could see on paper. Recruitees then would go through three screening processes.

The pipeline doesn't hold for technical candidates. In fact, Kho says Deloitte actually saw fewer applicants. Kho and his team needed to rethink how they position the company and pursue tech talent. They call their solution "extreme recruiting."

An innovative solution.

Instead of waiting for individuals to apply, Deloitte’s recruiters are going straight to coding hot spots: hackathons, code fests and product showcases. For their pilot test of the new strategy, Kho and his team attended Hack the North, Canada’s biggest hackathon. “These nontraditional events are all fair game for the Extreme Recruiting Team and represent a major shift in Deloitte’s hiring processes,” Kho says.

After an initial meeting, the Extreme Recruiting Team goes straight to an offer -- no multi-step interview process, personality test or assignment. So how can they know candidates are the right fit simply by interacting at a single event?  

Three reasons why it works.

Extreme recruiting can yield much better tech candidates than the traditional or "normal" interview process. Here's why:

1. It fits the process to the person. Should we be recruiting sales reps, accountants and coders the same way? A completely different skill set requires a completely different way of recruiting. More to the point, why rely on hackathons?

Kho has a ready answer. “Why not hackathons? Why conform and follow the same methods that everyone else uses?" he says. "We wanted technically literate talent. Why try and fit the person to the process when you can change the process to fit the person. Hackathons allow us to see how talent will perform under a compressed and difficult timeline. We view their actions, how they think, how they react, how they build, how they problem-solve -- all in the artificially created stress brought on by their limited timeline.”

In addition to being lightning rods for technical talent, these events put Kho and his team at the center of the action. Reviewing skills on a CV or in a formal interview can't compare to this glimpse of working methods and styles.

2. It recruits for culture fit, not just technical skills. Hackathons and other similarly structured events also require a high degree of interpersonal skills. In order to be successful, teams have to work collaboratively and communicate effectively. These time-intensive events allow no room for ego or pride.

Ultimately, hackathons are all about learning. To get far with a team, participants must be able to take feedback well and apply it to improve their designs. Feedback at hackathons comes from non-technical team members, too, which is a great trial run to see how potential hires might interact with employees from divisions such as sales or marketing.

There's also this: Hackathons typically take place over weekends, and little more than free pizza is offered. Individuals are there because they're passionate about what they do and have a desire to solve complex problems. This means that the kind of candidates Deloitte’s Extreme Recruiting Team meets are highly motivated. In other words, they're a perfect fit for the culture the company has created.  

“I can sit in a hackathon and at the end of it, know that the students who excelled here will excel in front of a client, excel in solving that client's problem, and have the confidence to know that those solutions will be delivered within the tight timelines,” Kho says.

3. It allows for generational differences in recruiting. Millennials -- and now Generation Z -- are causing major impacts. Leaders are realizing it's not just what candidates can offer a company but also what companies can offer potential employees. A Gallup survey found 87 percent of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job. In fact, the same survey reported that “opportunities to learn and grow” was one of the top three factors needed to retain millennials. These generations want to be challenged and given responsibility, but they also want the tools to do so.

“This generation -- we, the so-called 'impatient' ones -- are looking to have an impact, to have responsibility, to change the world," Kho says. "We know that we cannot all be the future Zuckerbergs of the world, but in our own little sphere we want to enact impactful, calculated change. Companies need to speed up the hiring process, get new talent in and get them working but make the process fun, challenging and exciting. Don’t hand me your vanilla list of pre-planned questions. Talk to me to find out who I am. I may be interviewing for Deloitte, but at the same time I’m judging you to see if this is the right fit for me. If I accept your offer, entertain me, give me responsibility and let me grow but do so at my own pace.”

In today’s increasingly competitive job market, smart companies are revamping the playbook on their talent-acquisition strategy. Kho boils it down this way: “If companies can nail this down: speed, agility and excitement in hiring -- along with impact, responsibility and growth in employment -- I believe that they have a chance at hiring and retaining their talent.”