Recruiting Tech Talent, Moving Beyond the Buzzwords

Posted by Kathleen Smith

Buzzword BingoEvery industry and profession has buzzwords. In the government and government contracting community we have our fair share. Buzzword bingo anyone?

A term is developed. It catches on. Before you know it there are conferences developed to discuss the term. If the term is really prevalent there may even be some budget put towards it. If these are big terms, you might see a lot of budget. Look out when two terms are combined.

We have seen this with two terms: Cloud and Cyber.

Cloud computingI was recently in a recruiter’s office and saw this meme. His frustration with his colleagues was evident due to their confusion about the terms and their assertion that the positions needed to be filled quickly with little to no understanding of the basic difference between programming languages, applications or skill sets.

It was clear he wanted to channel his inner Inigo Montoya.

In the government contracting space, cyber security funding has been the fastest growing stream in recent years and looks to be the one category that will continue to grow as other budgets shrink. A recent informal poll of companies confirms that everyone is getting into cyber or considering getting into cyber.

The challenge is there are over 20,000 positions in Maryland alone that require some type of cyber experience and skills. There is a gap in the understanding of who these people are, and what skills they need. Worse is we have a community of recruiters, many generalists, who are being pushed to fill these positions without the training or understanding of the critical technical skill sets needed to fill these positions or how to cultivate this pipeline.

The tech talent knows there are gaps in understanding. At last year’s RSA conference one Tripewire blogger noted the variety of definitions for the term “risk”.

Fortunately some 2013 buzzwords have faded away – Shutdown.

The bottom line is to fill these positions we have to pull back the veneer and get to the heart of the skill sets. A frequent question about cyber is, “Isn’t this Information Assurance from 10 years ago?”

Yes, but a little bit more. Talk to any group of hiring managers and ask them the particulars of the cyber objective of the positions they are trying to fill and it is very different. Some are frontline defense, others are architecture. Some need programmers, some need HUMINT. This goes back to the recruiter’s tool kit: Learn key aspects of the job and have good relationships with the front-line talent, program managers and hiring managers to build the case for why key talent should join your team.

These positions need to be filled and there are talented professionals out there looking for the next killer project. The challenge is the recruiter trying to talk with them needs to understand the key components of the position. Tech recruiters – good tech recruiters – take the time to talk to their candidates and learn from them. What is the difference between Red Hat and Fedora? What is the difference between Java and Python? Who would want to learn Java versus Python? Not only understanding the difference between the programming languages but where their application fits best to solve the problem.

Recruiting is building relationship with talent communities. You don’t necessarily need to be a JavaScript programmer to be able to recruit one, but you should know the intricacies of the skill sets. It also helps to understand that tech talent are people who have lives beyond coding and it is not just all Red Bull and D&D.

recruitDCWe’re devoting a recruitDC session to this hot topic in May. Talk Tech to Me will bring two recruiters (one cleared, one non-cleared) and two tech candidates (one cleared, one non-cleared) to have a very upfront, and perhaps uncomfortable discussion about tech recruiting.



This entry was posted on Thursday, May 01, 2014 11:44 am

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