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Wise words from “Wise Man Say” – Part two

We had the pleasure of chatting to Hung Lee, technology recruiter turned entrepreneur, after the Reconverse event and shared part 1 of his insightful interview last week. He had some interesting views on positioning yourself as a leader and how important it is to specialise…

Now, in part two, we ask him how to make events work for you, how to spot a fraud and the trick to winning in a market suffering from a skills shortage…

ZP: You’re always very active with recruitment events. What do you enjoy most about the events circuit and what impact has it had on your career?

HL: It’s been huge! I didn’t realise this until I left the agency game and I think it’s something every recruiter needs to learn.

Recruitment can sometimes become quite procedural – the person who does most in the office often comes out as the top biller.

This can make doing things that seem very expensive in time – such as attending or holding networking events – seem like a bit of a jolly. The truth is it creates the opportunity to meet a huge amount of potentially significant people in a closed environment.

If you treat it like having multiple business meetings in one day, you can really get the most out of it.

ZP: Recently you’ve talked about the problems faced by recruiters in testing the technical ability of developers in a candidate-driven marketplace. What solutions do you see to this problem?

HL: I think there are probably two levels to this assessment.

The first level is “Does the recruiter have the literacy in the field to be able to spot someone who’s clearly a fraud?”

It’s something that a recruiter who’s working in a vertical will master quite quickly and that, I think, would suffice.

The second level is the recognition by the recruiter and the end employer that quality control is ultimately the responsibility of the end employer. The agent can only provide the best advice.

What we’ve found is that assessment is very contextual, with different employers assessing the same candidates in very different ways. The truth is we don’t know how someone’s going to do until we see them working in the job.

ZP: With such a shortage of technology talent, developers find themselves in the dream position of being spoilt for choice with job opportunities and often with offers. How do we deal with this skills shortage and is it something that’s likely to change?

HL: It will have to change, it’s untenable. Many companies are having serious business problems because they aren’t hiring the people they need.

“there’s a lot of pedigree hiring going on. In most industries, it has to be said, there is too much focus on the companies or brands a candidate has worked at before”

There are lots of reasons for the talent shortage. One is that there’s a lot of pedigree hiring going on. In most industries, it has to be said, there is too much focus on the companies or brands a candidate has worked at before. That really drives the shortage as this bias offloads the quality assessment to another business who has previously hired the candidate. This could be reduced through better ability of hiring managers to assess candidates themselves.

Technical skills are also a stumbling block as employers look for specific skill sets and focus on particular knowledge pieces rather than ability to learn. Most talented developers will be able to pick up new development languages relatively easily so I think all employers should try to open themselves up to hiring to train rather than looking for the finished article every time.

Increasingly in tech we’re seeing a lot more workforce flexibility – you can potentially hire someone on a contract and try before you buy. Give someone a project to do on the weekend and pay them do it! There are lots of options which negate the risk of hiring and all of these should be taken in to account when trying to hire tech talent.

ZP: What’s your best advice to any new recruiters who want to succeed in the technology market?

HL: If you’re going to do what everyone else does then you’d better be prepared to put in the hard yards.

If you’re prepared to take a bit of risk and show some courage in order to get a competitive advantage you can sidestep the opposition. Be smart, if you fish where everyone else is fishing you will only ever be average. It takes a roll of the dice but that’s what makes the difference between someone becoming moderately successful and becoming the top performer.

Do you agree with Hung’s tips? What would you add?

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