Hiring Challenges in Technical Industries

It is hard to hire a good technical employee, such as a software developer, engineer, or scientist, because they need to have both technical skills and the ability to work well with others.  Technical leaders tend to be good at assessing technical skills but sometimes fall short on assessing people skills.  Human resources (HR) is the opposite; they tend to be good at measuring people skills but may miss the ball on assessing the right technical skills.

We’re leaving money on the table because we can’t fill the positions. –Frustrated business executive

In many companies, either HR or technical leaders oversee hiring technical people and they often complain about each other.  Rarely do they work together.

Technical leaders’ complaints about HR
  • I’m spending too much time weeding through resumes and interviewing applicants.
  • I’m frustrated that I’m not getting qualified candidates from HR.
  • HR is not helping; in fact, they are hindering the process.

The technical leaders complain that HR seems to take the approach that more bodies produce more good hires.  Technical leaders say they don’t need bodies; they need qualified candidates.  The leaders find that HR thinks more recruiters will supply more good candidates, but it actually does the opposite; it cheapens the job because it’s listed in many places and it disincentivizes the recruiters because the recruiters compete for the same people.

I have hires in hand and pass them over to HR and HR never gets back to them. –Technical leader

HR’s complaints about technical leaders
  • I’m frustrated because I don’t know what to look for in candidates; the technical leaders don’t communicate with us.
  • Technical leaders focus too much on the technical skills. They weed out good candidates because they don’t have the exact experience.
  • Technical leaders aren’t willing to put in the time to recruit candidates; they want us to find them, and we don’t speak their language.

HR partners complain that they have to set up recruiting and assessment processes without any communication from the technical leaders.  They don’t know what they are looking for or where to find qualified candidates.  Without this knowledge, they stick to what they know: recruiters and job search websites.

I can’t find technical people who will talk at college fairs. I can’t do it because I don’t know their jobs. –HR partner

What is the solution?

My recommendation is to take the best of both worlds and have HR and technical leaders work together to recruit and assess good quality talent.  Cross-disciplinary collaboration often results in more creative solutions.  In a tough job market, technical companies need creative ways to find and attract high quality technical talent.

A collaborative hiring effort requires:
  • Good communication between HR and technical leaders.
  • Up-front planning of recruiting strategies that work.
  • Willingness from both HR and technical leaders to be open to suggestions from each other.
  • Mutual respect and support for each other’s roles and processes.