Even in a pandemic, the best software engineers are still in demand. According to the IT trade organization CompTIA, there were approximately 263,000 job postings for tech talent in June, up by 42,000 from May’s numbers. The gains were strongest for software and application developers (82,800 job postings).” This echoes the findings of job posting site Dice at the end of June, which found “employers remain hungry for software developers and engineers.”
Catch-22 for Hiring Developers
All of this means that hiring top developers is not getting any easier, especially for smaller companies or those distant from tech-rich communities. Competing with tech giants for senior software developers has been a struggle for SMB and midmarket companies for years. These businesses face a “Catch-22” problem--move to a tech hub and compete with the deep-pocketed giants, or set up shop off the beaten path and hope that local developers are available.
Outstaffing agencies have arisen to bridge the gap between talent and opportunity, recruiting and managing engineers in geographies with great developers but few jobs. But not all of these businesses are focused on sourcing senior, proven engineers.
Where to Find Top Talent
If you are struggling to fill key roles, how do you find a staffing business that offers the region’s best engineers? There are a few questions to ask to determine whether an agency has access to the best talent, and that can also deliver great teammates that enhance your organization.
- What is the firm’s application-to-acceptance ratio? The number of applications the business receives for jobs should vastly exceed the number of applicants hired. Lots of applications show that the agency is a desirable one to work for, and a low acceptance rate demonstrates that the agency has strict qualification criteria.
- Speaking of criteria...what is the staffing provider’s criteria for acceptance and for ranking the engineers’ seniority levels? Years of experience should not be the only factor for ranking developers. Communication and leadership skills, for example, are just as important.
- Who interviews and selects the engineers for your team? It should be you rather than a project manager that distributes work out of your view.
- Are the developers embedded full-time in your organization, or are they working on other projects for the staffing group or for freelance clients? This needs to be transparent, or you may not be getting the attention that you were promised. The best engineers want full-time engagements and are ready to dig-in with your existing team, stack, and processes.
- What is the minimum length of the engagements of the outstaffing company? Beware of agencies that specialize in short term assignments. Most top developers want the stability and skill development opportunities that come from longer-term, challenging projects.
- What is the retention rate of the engineers that the company hires? A high retention rate means that the developers are engaged and like the work they get and that the agency’s customers are also satisfied by its distributed team management.
- What kind of support does the agency provide--to engineers and clients? The best engineers want coaching, mentoring, and support in their roles. They also want to be accountable and integrated into the hiring team’s organization. The outstaffing company should offer structured support programs for its engineers as well as dedicated engineering management to ensure that the client has the support it needs.
There are multiple models of outsourcing available to suit the needs of companies where talent is out of reach--financially or geographically. Some models are built for short-term, quick-fix projects, others for long-term work on mission-critical development assignments. The best engineers typically want the latter and will look for companies that give them long term opportunities with cutting edge technologies and businesses. Companies looking for high-performing software engineers can find the right agency by asking these questions.