If you’re reading this article, you already know it’s an exciting time to be working in Tech in Asia. Roles that previously seemed boring or ‘geeky’ are now the driving force behind companies wanting to get ahead, especially as the economy digitalises and more incentives are given to specialists who can make sense of data and software in the financial cyberspace. ven the Singapore government is making moves to alleviate this imbalance by launching a Tech.Pass for foreign industry experts and nurturing local talent through upskilling programmes.
The emerging problem for hiring teams in Singapore is that while tech giants operating in the region are consistently rifling through the cream of the crop, smaller companies, local SMEs, and start-ups have to compete against the talent crunch with fewer resources and repute.
As we say to many of the clients that come to us with this reality - it is apparent that your hiring strategy will need to evolve to attract (and then retain) the best tech talent. Start with these 4 questions:
1. How will the everyday life and responsibilities of my tech talent look different from those working at other companies?
You might believe your team has a great rapport, your company’s mission is unique and exciting, and that the culture which wraps all of that up is clearly empowering. Why wouldn’t anyone who reads that on your LinkedIn About page not want to work for you?
Well, the difficult truth is that almost every company with a sound PR team in 2022 has the same keywords on their bio. You know that employer branding produces results, but you’re going about it the wrong way. Companies who embellish their job descriptions with benefits like ‘free lunch’ or ‘hot-desking’ to appeal to the generic Millennial/Gen-Z worker are not looking beyond what a ‘fun working environment’ actually entails to this demographic. Frankly, no one cares about the foosball table in your lobby if employees repeatedly have to work late because simple processes have yet to be automated.
In recruitment marketing terms, this is where you will need to identify the Unique Value Proposition for the tech talent group specifically.
In conversations with Silicon Valley companies, EDB Singapore highlights that tech talent as a group is less interested in career progression than they are in having their expertise respected and rewarded. Besides the appropriate compensation for their contributions, a healthy engineering team is defined by the company’s willingness to balance top-down plans with initiatives from the tech team as they respond to user needs or by allowing them to experiment across different functions. A common characteristic of this community to remember while presenting your UVP is that they are driven by an ethos of mastery and growth.
Their field is transforming rapidly every day, and many want to be at the forefront of that innovation - so they must believe this is possible even in a ‘smaller’ or non-tech company. Having weekly meetings to outline the tech team’s progress or including success stories and profiles in the company’s newsletters will ensure they know their work is valuable to company goals and that they belong to the wider team.
Your employees are your best brand ambassadors in demonstrating to online visitors what genuinely goes on inside the company. Encourage the freedom to post about their ongoing work projects (with necessary censoring), challenges they’re facing, and even their side-hustles and hobbies on social media. This not only humanises what can otherwise come off as ‘promotional content,’ but allows potential tech candidates to judge how they will relate to the employees in the company and whether the work will be interesting to them.
2. Are we leveraging the right communities?
In the same regard that your current employees are your best advocates, tapping into their network is crucial in making the search for tech talent more manageable. Ensure you have a referral program in place that incentivises team members to reach out to their peers, be more vocal online about job openings, and feel more involved in the recruitment process in general. You don’t necessarily need a big budget for this - for example, Google often starts by asking their employees questions like ‘Who’s the best software developer you know in Boston?’ and Salesforce regularly hosts informal ‘Recruitment Happy Hours’ for employees to invite potential candidates to enjoy a few drinks and get acquainted with the company. Creative incentives like a weekend away, or extra paid time off can feel more valuable than a cash reward and emphasises a culture of work/life balance.
There are also many thriving tech communities in Singapore that you can leverage to broaden your talent reach. These communities attract passionate candidates with similar interests to socialise and learn from each other. Not all of those that attend may be looking for a job, but at the very least, it is worthwhile to establish a presence in the local tech scene. You may also take a proactive approach by organising your own events with organisers like SGInnovate, DataScience Singapore, and those connected with Engineers.SG.
3. Do our job descriptions and candidate experience reflect what we’re hiring for?
In their 2021 Tech Talent Expectations Survey, Randstad Singapore identified 59% of ICT professionals turned down a job opportunity during the interview process because of a mismatch between the advertised job and the actual project scope. 39% also reported rejecting the offer because the interviewer didn’t seem to understand the role they were hiring for.
The interview process is a critical touchpoint for your employer brand. Companies need to ensure that hiring managers are trained to clearly communicate what the job entails or bring in another team member or consultant who can. A good job description is relevant, inspiring, and well-targeted. You want to share the best examples of your company culture while also paying extra attention to how you frame the position. It is more useful to answer important questions like the size of the department or what the current stage of the product is than to waste space with qualities that should be a given (everyone wants a team player).
A good alternative instead of listing all the roles and responsibilities of a certain position is to complete these sentences:
In the first month, you will…
Sharpen your skills in the second month by…
Execute in the third month by…
By setting the expectations early on in the recruitment process, candidates will be more invested as they visualise themselves in the position and be affirmed that you’re already thinking of their development plan. Don’t forget to include the ‘next steps’ and ‘what to expect from the interview process’ so candidates are also assured that their application won't be lost in a black hole.
4. Are we limiting our candidate base?
Finally, keep in mind that during a talent crunch drive can be more important than pedigree. Traditional job descriptions with a long list of credentials and work experience requirements can exclude younger talent who may even be savvier with newer technologies and languages compared to their senior peers.
Unfortunately, academic pedigree has become a convenient crutch for hirers as superficial reassurance that they are making the right call. By purely seeking credentials during the screening process, HR managers risk missing out on great talent that in this ever-changing digital landscape are increasingly self-taught or part of a mid-career upskilling programme.
Finding a balance between potential and experience will cultivate a thriving work environment where experienced candidates have the drive to teach and new talent have the courage to learn. Don’t be afraid to seek out potential hires through internships and campus recruitment efforts as well or broaden your hiring parameters to include those outside the industry who might have transferable skills (engineers, digital marketers, and those working in the non-profit sector are often good fits).