Updated: Jan 28
“How technical does a Technical Recruiter need to be?”
I’ve long thought that Technical Recruiters should be more technical than they are. I considered
the question when thinking about my favourite sport; Football! Would anyone take seriously the
analysis of a football pundit who had zero understanding of the game? Or, would anyone trust a
doctor who had no knowledge of anatomy?
The obvious answer is... no.
So why do Technical Recruiters think that they will be able to gain credibility and can be
effective at their job without any interest, knowledge, or training in Technology?
When founding Techruiter at the start of 2019, my co-founders and I had a hypothesis:
‘Recruiters who have a greater understanding of technology will be far better at
identifying and engaging “great” engineers, as well as be more able to build lasting
rapport with hiring managers; thus, be far more effective and impactful hiring partners.' When reflecting on it at the time, we quickly realised tech wasn’t enough. We had to combine
this focus on technical knowledge two other irreplaceable elements, in order to make the impact
A true people focus. Doing the right thing by all the people we interact with. Compassion. Empathy. Feigning it to pursue PR / commercial ends was not enough.
Honesty & Transparency. Having the courage of our convictions to have difficult conversations, and act in a truly consultative manner. Back up our convictions with data, and build true rapport.
Recruiters who know tech? How it’s gone.
Over the last 22 months, tech knowledge has become the USP which differentiates us from our
competitors. It’s why we chose our name, Techruiter (a portmanteau of “Tech” and “Recruiter”).
Not only can we source more effectively, screen more deeply, have more engaging
conversations with our candidates and client partners; but we can actually inspire and influence a tech organisation to re-design parts of their interview process or refactor the way they code test candidates. This is a truly excellent service that companies desperately need from their Talent Partner. Our impact goes deeper than a few hires, we make lasting changes to the organisation that helps them build great teams for the long term.
How did we do this?
We started at the beginning of 2019 by hiring Computer Scientists and training them to become
Technical Recruiters. Our idea was that having a CompSci degree means that the individual
would have fundamental knowledge of Algos, BigO, Data Structures, and have an
understanding of programming paradigms (particularly Object Orientation, given that most
schools teach Java and / or C++), and that from this baseline level of knowledge we could teach
them about a broader range of technologies from a high level. We felt that familiarity of the
domain would help them to become great technical recruiters; that their learning curve would be
shortened. That, in reasonably short order, they would be confident enough to advise and coach
experienced Software Engineers on their career trajectory and technology choices; or, to advise
a CTO on what skills to hire for, or ‘what not to hire’. We quickly identified what wasn’t covered in most CS degrees - a synoptic, comparative, broad
knowledge of the technology landscape. System Design and Architecture; Databases;
Infrastructure, CI/CD - as well as the tradeoffs between different types of technologies. Why
would a company choose to use PHP in their stack, rather than Haskell? What are the tradeoffs
between MySQL and Cassandra? If languages and technologies are “tools in a toolkit” (the
generalist approach); what use cases are best served by which technology?
This is where we spent the first few weeks; filling in knowledge gaps of real world production
topics which aren't always covered in a classroom setting. A crash course - training our
recruiters to understand the building blocks of building software in a production environment.
As we grew beyond hiring Computer Scientists, we have hired folks with a true passion for tech; whether they were smartphone geeks, avid gamers, or read up about driverless cars, any curiosity for the tech innovation age we are living in is perfect!
The “Smart Generalist” Tech Recruiter
Techruiter is arguably the first tech recruiting firm (that we know of) that purposefully does not segment it's recruiters into “specialisms”. We don’t adopt the culture of having “Java Recruiters”
or “Mobile Recruiters”. We believe a Technical Recruiter should be language agnostic and be
able to source and deliver hires across the spectrum of languages and technologies. This is
diametrically opposed to the old agency adage “a narrow desk is a better desk”, which suggests
that if one focuses on one narrow area of specialisation, then one will become deeply
experienced master in it.
We teach our recruiters to be generalists; that a great Engineer will pick the best tool for the job.
We have seen it firsthand; in companies who employed us, Java Engineers writing their first
ever line of code in Scala and continuing to build a complex real-time data processing platform entirely built in Scala. The requirement here wasn’t to hire Scala Developers but great
generalists who in turn wrote and managed Scala code.
We experienced the same at Babylon Health who transitioned their architecture from Ruby to a
combination of Java and Python. Architectures evolve over time and the lines are blurred
between Java Developers or Python Developers etc. Whilst some will have their personal
preferences; having a recruitment culture where you only source for one particular skill of
developers is inefficient and halts a Tech Recruiters career growth. It can also harm an
organisation's ability to evolve or innovate their tech stack over time; if all of their engineers can write code in one particular language!
Techruiter Training Academy
In our training academy (another first in the industry) we have hired Technical Recruiters who worked for other recruitment companies, but were never given any formal tech training. The only real training they were offered from their ‘successful recruitment employer was sales training!
Handling objections, winning business, closing a candidate and getting verbal
acceptances on a job offer was the height of training they received!
A Techruiter’s first week is spent getting a crash course in CompSci and Software
We cover the following topics in depth:
Programming Paradigms: differences between Object Oriented Languages, Functional
Programming, Procedural languages. We believe helps build an holistic understanding of the
differences and why certain languages are better used for specific situations. We aren’t
advocates of one particular technology but appreciate the use cases and benefits!
Databases: we discuss the differences between relational and non-relational databases,
discuss terms like sharding and their impact to the architecture. Here we also discuss NoSQL
databases such as Cassandra and Hbase and what use cases they are best for.
Multithreading and Concurrency: We love to explore complex topics so our Recruiters are
comfortable speaking to candidates about the challenges of running multiple processes and
managing memory efficiently. We feel getting an Engineer's understanding of these topics helps
us evaluate their skills in the type of scale and complexity they can work in.
Microservices: With architecture systems evolving from SOA to Microservices and practically
every tech company breaking apart a monolith to microservices; some doing it well, some not so
well. A Tech Recruiter needs to be able to navigate questions around the microservice architectures. We recruit for Software Engineers who can design efficient architectures
and decide how to approach microservices in the right way. DevOps and Cloud: Knowing the relationship Software Engineers have with Infrastructure
massively helps your ability as a Technical Recruiter. You can discover if ‘Infrastructure-As-Code’ is observed, if Containers are used, and Engineers if are able to deploy directly and roll
back deployments if needed. We discuss configuration management tools like Chef and Puppet, CI / CD, and containerisation such as Docker & K8s.
. Distributed Computing and Data Engineering: a fun topic! We move away from keyword
matching as many recruiters do, discuss why technologies such as Hadoop, Spark, Kafka and
Akka are used Machine Learning: With AI's prominence, and our founders having worked in AI companies, it's important for us to have an understanding of Machine Learning, in order to differentiate between researchers, data scientists and engineers. We learn about the various kinds of machine learning, what the models are designed to do and how they work, and what the most widely used Algos / NNs are.
How is the experiment going?
We have bootstrapped the company with no investment for the past two years, have grown through some of the most difficult economic conditions of recent times to 15 people; with presence in three countries; US, UK and Spain. We have partnered with over 40 companies; placed entire engineering teams that (in record time) went on to build massively impactful products such as ZOE’s Covid Symptom Tracker. We consistently source great candidates; over 60% of candidates we introduce proceed to final stages in our clients' hiring processes, We've helped make key transformational hires at organisations such as ZOE Global, iTech Media, Forge and YLD. It's still early days for us and we are still learning, iterating and improving!
Some feedback from our hiring partners and our recruiters:
Historically, we found it challenging to hire the number and quality of engineers necessary to fulfil our business goals, but techruiter. helped change that at iTech.
The team was exceptionally technically knowledgeable, showed me a good number of really shiny CVs, and helped me build out our SRE function which was our biggest challenge.
I continue to work with techruiter. because I trust them to tell me what’s going on in a straightforward way, they deliver great results, and because they know how to talk to software engineers (like me)
- Io James, Head of Engineering, iTech Media
When I met Omar, I was very impressed by the explanation he gave me about the company and job. He got my interest in the first moment and I went straight away to start the hiring process. His good communication, as well as the advice and tips he gave during the journey, made me feel at ease which finally lead to an offer :)
The fact that he has a Computer Science degree gives him an extra edge because he understands the tech world and can match companies and candidates with finesse. I never felt like he was asking me a simple checklist as you know we are used to.
No chasing, very honest at all times, and all I mentioned before can be summed up in one sentence: trust in this guy 200% to find your next opportunity, you will not regret it.
- Diego Esclapez Martínez, Software Engineer
I had the pleasure to work with Gabriel and I was impressed by his motivation, commitment,
professionalism, and friendliness. He takes the time to fully understand the needs and expectations of his clients, and will work with them as a team, keeping the best interest of everyone in mind. Without doubt, one of the best tech recruiter I have worked with so far
- Emmanuelle Raffenne, Head of Engineering