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Career Development, Coding

Should Recruiters Learn to Code? How Technical Skills Can Transform Your Recruiting Career

General Assembly
September 25, 2023
How Learning to Code Helped Me Grow as a Recruiter

Ask a recruiter how their year’s going, and you’re likely to see a head shake. According to Gem’s 2023 Recruiting Trends report, nearly one quarter of recruiting teams saw reductions in the second half of 2022. Many are dealing with layoffs, hiring freezes, or limited resources despite headcount growth, but that isn’t the full story.

Talent recruitment is experiencing a strange moment, induced by economic swings and labor market changes. Every industry is feeling the effects of the great skills shake-up where talent on the market doesn’t match the jobs that need to be filled.

If you’re a recruiter who’s been laid off or simply want to advance and future-proof your career, now’s the time to lean in instead of get out. What makes a good recruiter even better? Let’s dig into ways to upskill, advance, and land a lucrative technical recruiting position.

HOW DO I ADVANCE IN RECRUITING?

The career path for recruiters is fairly clear-cut. Entry-level professionals start out as recruiters, then can advance to senior recruiters after two to four years of experience. Eventually, you can become a principal recruiter or move into a leadership role as director of recruitment or VP of talent acquisition.

To move up in your recruiting career and win at hiring top talent, you can develop yourself in a few key areas.

1. CONTRIBUTE TO BEST RECRUITING PRACTICES

To earn that promotion or land a leadership role, it isn’t enough to keep your head down and talk to candidates. You need to actively contribute to your team and collaborate across departments. Document best recruiting practices, mentor younger teammates, and share ideas for how to improve recruitment processes.  

2. UPSKILL

In their report, Gem found that 35% of talent teams are using recruiting slowdowns to invest in recruiter upskilling, learning, and development. Seeking out a mentor is a great first step to give you soft feedback and help you set learning goals for advancement. Then, determine which skills you want to develop, which courses are right, and if your current employer will pay for them.  

You can take a course in data analytics, for instance, to help your team make better data-driven decisions, or teach yourself to use AI tools to engage candidates.

3. SPECIALIZE

Rather than moving up a general recruitment career path, another option to earn more money and future-proof your career is by specializing in a specific area. A 2022 Jobvite study found that specialized/technical positions are the hardest type of job to fill by far. Companies and staffing agencies value recruiters who can fill high-skill, hard-to-fill positions such as engineers.

Specialized recruiters can earn more and stand out in a crowded job market. You can also build up a network in a niche area, giving you more connections to lean on to help you fill positions. Another name for specialized recruiting is technical recruiting.  

WHAT IS TECHNICAL RECRUITING?

Technical recruiting is the process of attracting, screening, and placing candidates in highly technical positions. These can include roles like engineering, development, UX design, and IT operations.

What Industries Do Technical Recruiters Work In?

While technical recruiters recruit for technical roles, it’s a mistake to assume that they all work at tech companies. Today, companies of all types are building tech teams to fill their needs and help them grow. Tech jobs are booming in industries like finance, retail, healthcare, and government or aerospace. Technical recruiters can also work at staffing agencies or headhunting firms which fill top positions for other companies.

THE BENEFITS OF TECHNICAL SKILLS FOR RECRUITERS

As a recruiter, you need to have a basic understanding of the teams and functions you’re recruiting for to be effective. It’s difficult to ask the right questions and judge a candidate’s answers if you don’t understand what they’ll be doing in their role. Recruiters may also need to administer coding skills assessments and evaluate performance.

Michal Juhas was a developer and startup founder before transitioning to technical recruitment. He now runs an IT and tech recruitment agency and trains talent teams on how to recruit for technical positions.

“I realized that there was a disconnect in the IT recruitment world between IT professionals and IT recruiters. When I was the CTO, I noticed that the headhunters couldn’t really help me with tech positions because they couldn’t screen them or assess their skills.” Additional training or background in the area you recruit is beneficial in multiple ways.

1. GAIN CONFIDENCE

Recruiters making the switch to technical recruiting for the first time can struggle with understanding how to properly screen and assess candidates. While they may have mastered general recruiting techniques, they may not understand the programming languages and certifications needed for the job.

“The most important aspect of the recruiter job is screening candidates,” explained Juhas. “When I’m on a screening call, I can understand the programming languages and the frameworks that IT professionals use. That helps me be more confident and to screen candidates and find them on LinkedIn, because I know those are the right keywords to look for.”

2. LEVERAGE DATA FOR BETTER DECISION-MAKING

Companies are gathering more data than ever before, and are starting to understand how to leverage data to make better HR and recruiting decisions. With data, you can analyze the traits of top-performing employees, and match those traits with applicant tracking systems to flag and assess top-quality candidates. Analyzing metrics like time-to-fill, cost-to-hire, or quality of hire can help talent teams become more efficient—and save companies money in the long run. 

3. STAY RELEVANT IN A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

Gaining technical skills and learning to code can help recruiters future-proof their careers by opening them up to technical recruiting positions or jobs at specialized agencies. Research from Burning Glass Technologies has found that demand for employees with coding skills is expected to grow 12% faster than the general job market.

4. EARN A HIGHER SALARY

Money, of course, is a compelling reason to upskill and specialize. According to Glassdoor, a generalist recruiter’s salary averages $79,120 total compensation in the U.S., while technical recruiters earn 8% more at $85,602. At the senior level, the gap widens. Senior generalist recruiters earn $100,992 on average, while senior technical recruiters earn $132,345, a 31% jump.

Some developers, Scrum Masters, or project managers also moonlight by recruiting for technical positions on commission on the side. 

HOW MUCH TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE DO YOU NEED TO RECRUIT TECHNICAL POSITIONS?

If you’re excited about the prospect of deepening your knowledge and advancing into technical recruiting, you might be wondering just how deep you need to go in your target area. While there are some technical recruiters with a very narrow focus, many recruit for multiple types of positions—from software engineering to data scientists—so you can’t be an expert in every area.

Instead, aim for a broad understanding. You don’t need to be fluent in coding Java, for instance, but you do need to understand the difference between Java and Javascript. “The recruiter needs to be able to distinguish the programming languages,” explained Juhas. “Even if a recruiter has never used Python, for example, they need to know that it can be used for different purposes and be familiar with different frameworks and libraries.”

Here’s what you should know to recruit for technical positions:

  • The structure of tech teams, from design to development to product management, and how they interact
  • Major project management methodologies, like Agile, Six Sigma, and Waterfall
  • The different applications of programming languages
  • Major frameworks and libraries for different programming languages
  • Which certifications are important for the area you recruit in, such as ScrumMaster or respected bootcamp programs

You might ask, Should I learn to code as a recruiter? Knowing the basics of coding is beneficial and can help you understand how candidates think and assess their skills. There are lots of ways to learn, from a one-hour intro course to a full bootcamp. Ask yourself which technical skills you see the most that you want to educate yourself on. Check with your employer to see what professional development they’ll cover for you. 

Get started by staying curious, playing around with basic coding, or taking an introductory course in the area you recruit for.

10 INTRODUCTORY TECH COURSES FOR RECRUITERS

Ready to get started? Check out these top 10 courses for recruiters to learn the basics and move from technical novice to specialist. 

  1. Take a free intro course in Getting Started with HTML/CSS
  2. Try your hand at coding Python, JavaScript, or HTML/CSS with a free Hands-On Coding Basics workshop
  3. Take a free Beginner’s Guide to Data Science workshop
  4. Learn at your own pace with a free Learn to Code class on demand
  5. Add data analysis to your resume with our Data Analysis on-demand class
  6. Take a part-time 10-week course in Front-End Web Development
  7. Learn how to drive powerful analysis and insights with a 10-week Data Analytics certification course
  8. Learn JavaScript in 10 weeks with our JavaScript course
  9. Take a Python course to learn frameworks, libraries, and coding for the world’s most popular programming language
  10. Learn about immersive or flex-immersive programs in software engineering

Not sure where to start? Explore all upcoming events and free workshops

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