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Recruiting High-Tech Employees in a Competitive Market January 3, 2023

by Howard Kaplan

The list of sometimes hard-to-fill high-tech roles is lengthy and includes cloud, systems and telecommunications network engineers; SharePoint developers and administrators; software developers; and, of course, cybersecurity specialists including analysts, auditors and more. Yet, despite the different backgrounds and experiences each role requires, the recruiter’s task remains unchanged: review the requisition and match the correct talent to the job description. Sounds simple, right?

Much has been made of an uneven playing field when it comes to private versus public sector jobs and the salary an individual can command in the private sector. Most individuals are either drawn to large or small organizations and/or private or public roles, including government contractors. Given the self-selection this dictates – and understanding that most employees of government contracting firms know the salary bands at play – salary isn’t the hurdle it’s often considered. Money matters to every candidate, but, if the business development team prices the proposal correctly, recruiters can meet the salary requirements of even the most talented high-tech candidates.

That being said, high-tech recruiting for government contractors is not based on any secret sauce. Rather, it requires experience and ongoing honing of one’s craft. Time to fill (TTF), the ultimate measure in the high-tech recruiting world is, on average, 45 to 55 days. Our team is running at about 33 days currently.

High-tech recruiting for government contractors is not based on any secret sauce. Rather, it requires experience and ongoing honing of one’s craft.

Our process comprises five key steps.

Step 1: Select the Optimal Tools

There are many tools or job boards available to recruiters. A combination of three suffices. Tool selection depends on the position to be filled and personal preference. When recruiting for a position requiring a security clearance, a cleared job board is a good resource. Other boards offer large databases of candidates who have posted their resumes and, for a fee, allows recruiters to search them using key terms. Some fee-based platforms offer personalized in-platform messaging. Choose the two to three that align with your hiring needs and budget.

Step 2: Develop Targeted Search Strings

Crafting the right search strings is central to identifying candidates who match the job requirements. In fact, a well-assembled search will frequently return candidates who match the job requirements perfectly. If a search doesn’t yield viable candidates, then go back and tweak the search terms. Being willing to adjust is important.

Step 3: Assemble a Candidate Pool

Assemble a top-50 candidate pool. Then create two secondary pools, each containing 50 of the next most qualified individuals. Notably, reaching out to the first 50 candidates typically results in five responses, two to three of whom are viable. Rather than following up with the remainder in the primary pool, move on to the second and third groups of 50 to identify the ultimate top 3 candidates for referral to the hiring manager. The 50-50-50 technique is a very reliable approach.

Step 4: Craft Your Contact Message

Many theories focus on how long or short the initial message to candidates should be. Including the entire job description and asking candidates to review it is ineffective. Likewise, writing a one-sentence introduction and asking the candidate to contact you about an open opportunity is too vague. The message must catch candidates’ attention and give them something meaningful to consider.

Many theories focus on how long or short the initial message to candidates should be.

A nice lead-in with a truncated job description, typically the general responsibilities, is the way to go. Most industry practitioners begin with a compliment, for example, “I came across your resume and was impressed by your background in cybersecurity.” Such an opening tends to spark interest and lower the individual’s guard. Close with something like, “Please review the information below and, if interested, get back to me with a good time to chat.” Such a message makes the connection and often converts candidates into interviewees and eventually into hires.

Step 5: Submit Candidates to the Hiring Manager

Once top candidates have been screened, it’s time to give the hiring manager options. There’s some psychology at play in this step. Never trickle candidates to the hiring manager one by one. Putting one person at a time in front of the hiring manager typically results in a muted response, where great candidates end up on the “back burner” in expectation of someone better. Present the best three options at the same time and 90 percent of the time one will emerge as the favorite. It all goes back to the quality of the initial search and its capacity to identify the best talent.

No one goes to college with the goal of studying recruiting techniques. Being a recruiter has its foundation in human resources, but it is a technique that is learned and honed across a career. It is best refined through daily practice where mistakes optimize approach and resultant TTFs set you apart.

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