To say it’s been a tumultuous couple of years for tech hiring would be an understatement. Companies are still adjusting to the rapidly shifting post-pandemic way of working, and the significant layoffs in Big Tech and the backdrop of economic uncertainty and emerging techs like AI aren’t helping. There are reasons to be optimistic though - all signs point to 2024 being the year tech hiring takes off again, and when it does, you need to be ready to capitalise. This guide will give you everything you need, from sourcing, interviewing and employer branding to retaining your best employees and building a positive culture, to ensure you’re landing the top tech talent and making sure they stick around over the next 12 months...

Special Thanks

We’d like to say a massive thanks to Olivia Williams at Dunelm, Jonathan McCarthy at DuckDuckGo, Michael Nsiah and Parul Singh for their insightful contributions. We really appreciate your help!

Job adverts

Let’s start at the beginning - if you’re not getting your job ads right, you’re never going to attract the best talent. The modern techie knows what they’re looking for, and they aren’t willing to compromise. If you want to put yourself in pole position to land the best techies on the market, you need to put your best foot forward and show them you’ve got what they’re looking for...

What are they looking for?

We recently surveyed over 60,000 Haystack users to find out exactly what they want to see in a job ad, and the results speak for themselves. It’ll be no surprise to see salary at the top of the pile of info techies want to see, but it’s interesting to see employee benefits and company size down the list. Ultimately, today’s techies want to know how the role will benefit them - how much will they be paid, will they be able to make progress and is your company somewhere they would enjoy working. You might think it’s great that you have a ping-pong table and a shiny office, but this info isn’t going to move the dial when it comes to landing the best tech talent. Focus on what techies want to hear - not what you want to tell them!

Salary transparency

We know there are a lot of valid reasons why you can’t always put details about salary front and centre of your job ads. However, you are severely limiting the number of applications you’ll receive - we found that 69% of techies won’t even consider applying for a role that doesn’t give some info about salary. We found some ads on Haystack received eight times more applications after including salary info. That’s why we built our hidden salary feature - so you can let techies know if you’re paying within their expectations, without explicitly stating what you’re paying.

Job descriptions

The best candidates hold the cards in today’s hiring market, and they’re looking for companies that have their best interests at heart and resonate with their core values. The job description is your opportunity to get this across. There can be a temptation to cram every piece of info you can into it. However, this can be counter-productive, as techies simply aren’t going to read an essay long job description. It’s highly likely they’ll be looking through a lot of job descriptions, so you need to make sure yours stands out from the crowd. Ideally, someone should be able to scan your job description and quickly pick out those key bits of info. Remember, sometimes less is more and key info that’s easily digestible is always going to be more attractive than long paragraphs that the techie has to sift through to find out what they want to know.

Employer branding

So, you’ve got your job ads up to scratch and you’ve shown the tech community what you’re all about. That’s only part of the equation however - you also need to present your brand as one that understands and resonates with techies...

Where do techies find their info?

If you want to successfully get what your brand’s all about across to techies before they apply, it’s important to consider where they’re getting their info from. Our surveys have found that the majority of techies will look at your company website to get a feel of what you’re all about, so you should make sure it explicitly shows your commitment and interest in tech. You have total control over the messages that you’re conveying on both your website and social media, so make sure they accurately show off the personality and mission of your company.

Colleague advocacy is key

Over half of job seekers will look at a peer review site such as Glassdoor to see what other people say about working for your company.  It’s free to build a basic company profile, outline your mission and respond to reviews. Take the time to respond to all reviews - positive and negative - as it shows you take feedback seriously. Encourage your existing team members to leave reviews without pressuring them or flagrantly trying to cancel out a negative review that has just been left.

How we do it

Whilst Dunelm have a massive presence on the UK high street, they haven’t always been recognised for their tech innovations. We recently spoke to Dunelm’s brand awareness guru, Olivia about how they’ve elevated their presence in the tech community over the last few years and how it’s transformed their tech hiring...

Thanks for joining us! I guess a good place to start would be by giving us a little bit of a background to the Dunelm brand story and how it’s developed over time?

So we started to look at developing an employer value proposition around two years ago. Before that, we didn't really have a strategy or direction as to how we wanted to talk about ourselves as a business or an employer. We decided to pull together everything and just figure out what our different candidates and our different colleagues wanted. We started that two years ago, and we did loads of internal and external research - we looked at our competitors for talent, we looked at other retailers, we looked into different areas.

For example, in tech, we looked at specific companies that are doing employer brand really well to get an idea as to how they're attracting people. We then pulled together what we thought our employer brand should be. We've got a key set of values and shared purpose for the business, and that's ingrained already into lots of things that we do, so it made sense for the EVP to feed into that. But we then added in messages and nuances and what we call ‘pillars’ to make sure we're giving ourselves a set of messages that resonate with different groups of people, so depending on their life situation and circumstances, where they are in their career, what type of role they do, they would get a message that is nuanced for them. It's not one size fits all, but it still fits in with how we want to tell our story as an employer.

That's how we came up with our employer brand, which is Find Your Happy Place. The meaning behind that is we are the home of homes and we feel like home should be your happy place, so when you're working, you shouldn't feel any different. It should be somewhere that you feel supported, that you feel that you can collaborate, be challenged, have autonomy, and that you're in a secure environment. We created that two years ago, and since then we've just built and built and built on it, and it's something that's really ingrained in the business. We're finding that we're getting a lot of engagement and a lot of people resonating with how we're talking about ourselves, and also more importantly, we're getting people to stay.

What challenges did you face when developing your EVP for a tech audience?

We've got three key pillars in the EVP. One is believing in our long-term thinking and ambitious plans. The second one is being empowered to take opportunities every day. So that's around progression, training and development, autonomy within your role. And the third one is to contribute to our caring, friendly and supportive atmosphere. All the different audiences that we have resonate with different pillars in different ways, but the tech audience is the only one that resonates with all three. So, it just shows you that it's definitely not a one size fits all and you can't talk to people all in the same way and just expect that they will resonate with one certain message. We've found that we have to use that in order to really personalise how we're talking to tech talent.

We also know that we have a perception challenge with people not necessarily seeing retail as a destination for tech talent. We have to make sure that we are getting across exactly what it's like to work here, and making sure that we're not selling people an experience that they're not going to get, but we're also bringing to life everything that we do. We know that retail is not going to be for everyone, but we just want to make sure that we are talking about ourselves in the best light. It's definitely a journey that we’re on, but we are seeing a difference in terms of people recognising us as an employer and not always us having to go to them to convince them that it's a good place to work.

What was your approach to getting your brand in front of the audience? Where did you go to find them and what kind of channels have you used?

We revamped our careers website in the last six months, so that was a big project for us. That was the whole piece, not just tech, but we made sure we really personalised the information that people get when they go through to apply for a job. So in our tech, digital and data section, we talk lots about the tech stack. We give lots of information around what training and development opportunities are available just for tech, because it's kind of set up as a separate entity to the rest of the business in terms of learning and development. We made sure that through the stories we're telling, we're really bringing to life what it's like and making it really personalised. We also have our tech newsletter that sits on a tech engineering platform and LinkedIn. We talk through the different things that we're doing - some of that is highly technical pieces, and some of it is a bit more about the culture, and that goes out weekly.

We also need our partners in order to reach those people that might not necessarily think of us as a place to work. So especially with our Haystack profile, we've made that really as in-depth as possible in terms of trying to give people a proper insight into what it's like.

Can you share how your company is integrating learning and development initiatives to support both technological advancements and diverse talent growth, in order to enhance overall brand awareness?

We've got a big learning and development team and different areas of our business are partnered with an L&D partner. There’s a specific kind of strategy for our tech colleagues in terms of learning and development, and things like development technology are changing all the time. That’s treated as sort of a separate entity in terms of the rest of L&D, in terms of the things that they need for tech. As well as that, we offer training programs for people that are in their first job or second job, right up to leaders within the business. So there's coaching and mentoring available for different schemes and different things, no matter where you are. If you're a new line manager, if you're part of our leadership team, if you're identified as strong growth potential, there's lots of different opportunities to have a support network and develop your skills while you're here.

We get a lot of colleagues that are really engaged with those programs and as part of their colleague experience, it's something that they really value. We want to make sure that we keep doing that for different colleagues. We've recently just launched a program called Reach, which is available to all colleagues across the business. The aim of it is to empower colleagues from underrepresented ethnic groups to reach their potential. That's the first project or program of its type that we've done so far. We've launched it and we've been oversubscribed with the amount of people that have wanted to get involved. That's something we're really keen on doing more of, making sure that all of our colleagues can feel part of our wider team.

As you reflect on your journey with employer branding and talent acquisition, considering the successes and challenges you've encountered, what pivotal insights or lessons would you share with yourself from three years ago? How have these experiences shaped your approach and strategies?

So for me, in terms of employer brand, I would have liked to move a little bit quicker with some of the projects that we've done, but we've taken a lot of learnings that we've got along the way to mobilise our EVP. We're going to focus on colleague advocacy this year. We know that it's so much more authentic for our colleagues to be talking about their experiences versus us talking about it from a corporate perspective.

We've got a couple of leaders in our tech teams that are brilliant at talking about their leadership styles and what they're focusing on in their teams, and we just want more of that. One thing that I would say is a much bigger focus for us this year is “how do we tell those stories to our own people?”, but it's easier said than done. Some people aren't necessarily that comfortable with talking about things from their perspectives or they don't really know how to share things, so we're trying to do different training programs and support for different people to get them more confident in that.

Thinking about yourselves and the challenges you face, how has Haystack helped you in your own roles throughout our partnership?

I think it gets us in front of people that wouldn't necessarily have found us otherwise. We might not be at the top of their list when it comes to researching companies they want to move to, so it broadens the type of people we can talk to and we can tell our stories to. Anything that we can do to get to more people and more diverse talent pools is really helpful.

Regarding your outlook for 2024, you've mentioned several key priorities, such as encouraging your employees to tell your brand story. Are there additional areas you plan to concentrate on or are you building on the work that you've already done?

We’re looking into understanding our multi-generational workforce a little bit more. We have our EVP and that's been created by the nuances of people in different jobs and departments. What we now want to do is try and understand the motivators and drivers of our different candidate and colleague pools better. So really understanding where people are in their lives and what's important to them, and what they need from an employer and how we can support them in return. I think in our tech arm we're not too bad in terms of our sort of male/female split. We could always make improvements to get better, but I think it'll be really interesting to look at tech as a whole through the lens of that multi-generational workforce and make sure that we understand why people join us, why they stay and what they need from us to make that experience even more personalised.

Sourcing & Shortlisting

You’re looking for the best tech talent out there, but guess what - so is everybody else. One way to make your company stand out from the crowd in ensuring your sourcing and shortlisting strategies stand head and shoulders above your competitors...

Know your audience

The first step to effectively source the best tech talent is to know who you’re going after, and where they hang out. Techies are increasingly turning their backs on traditional recruitment services such as LinkedIn, Indeed and recruitment agencies. So much so, 40% our users would never use LinkedIn to find a new role, and 35% would never engage with an agency.

Cold messaging isn’t too dissimilar to shouting into the void, and unless you’ve happened to time it perfectly, it can sometimes be unwelcome. Try to utilise your employer brand and speak to talent that engages with you. Identify who actually wants to hear from you and proactively engage them to ensure your sourcing is giving the best results. Remember, the best candidates’ inboxes are full of noise (often from recruitment agents!) so crafting engaging outreach that leverages your employer brand is crucial.

Identifying passive candidates

Not all talented professionals are actively looking for a job. Identifying passive candidates – those who are employed but open to new opportunities – can be a game-changer. This requires a keen eye for talent and an understanding of what motivates them to shift their career path. When approaching passive candidates, personalise your communication. Highlight aspects of the role and your company that align with their career aspirations. The key is to be persistent yet respectful, recognising that the best candidates often need time and the right offer to consider a change.

Employer branding as a sourcing tool

As mentioned previously, your company's reputation plays a significant role in attracting tech talent. Improving your employer brand to accurately represent your company’s values and personality is one thing, but you need to make the most of it to attract the best talent. Pushing your employer brand out there and identifying techies that resonate with it is key to effective sourcing. Remember, in tech recruitment, you're not just offering a job; you're offering a career path and a community.

Streamlining your hiring process

Now that you’ve done the hard work, you want to ensure your interview process doesn’t let you down at the last hurdle. Now’s the time to streamline and energise, ensuring the best tech talent is keen to be part of your team...

Red flags

We asked our community of techies what they consider the biggest red flags when going through an interview process, and the results speak for themselves. Whilst all of these can be considered red flags, poor communication and unnecessary interview stages are the most likely to lead to a candidate disengaging with your process. An interview process isn’t just about finding the right candidate; it’s also about persuading them that your company is the best place for them to further their career. Keep this in mind and make sure you give the best impression of your company!

Interview stages

It’s been said that if your interview process has more than five stages, it’s a very good indicator you don’t actually know what you’re looking for. Techies will pick up on this too, and it won’t exactly fill them with confidence that your company is the place to take their career forward. We found that unless someone is very keen on the role, they start to disengage after 4 interview stages, but this can be a lot quicker if they don’t feel the interview stages are relevant, or they’re repeating what they’ve said in previous stages. Both the candidate and yourself should feel like they are learning more about each other from each stage; if you don’t think this is the case, shorten the process. Less can be more in this case and a lengthy, unnecessary interview process can ultimately have a negative effect on your ability to land the very best tech talent.

Communication is key

As you can see from the red flags above, if your interview process is putting candidates off working for you, it’s likely to be communication where you’re falling short. If you say you’re going to contact a candidate and you don’t, they’re likely thinking one of two things - either that you don’t have an organised process in place, or that you don’t consider them important enough to follow up when you’ve said you would. Clearly, neither of these leave a great impression on a candidate, leaving you on the back foot when it comes to getting them through the door.

Ready to make an offer?

Then do it! If you’re confident that you’ve found the right person for the job, nothing positive will come from delaying your offer to them. You won’t know which other processes they’re in, and you wouldn’t want another company getting in there just before you do. A swift offer also shows them that you’re very keen and helps build a positive first impression of your company.

Feedback and Continuous Improvement

In the fiercely competitive tech recruitment sector, the pivotal role of candidate feedback is often underestimated. By establishing a robust feedback mechanism, such as post-interview surveys or tailored follow-up correspondences, organisations communicate a deep respect for the candidate's experience, simultaneously gathering crucial insights to refine their interview procedures. Delving into this feedback is not merely a procedural step but a strategic endeavour to pinpoint and enact necessary refinements, from enhancing communication fluidity to ensuring the pertinence of interview stages. The diligent application of these insights, coupled with transparent communication of improvements to potential candidates, does more than streamline the hiring process; it cements the company's dedication to continual betterment and adaptability. This strategy doesn't just enrich the immediate experience of candidates but also boosts the organisation's standing within the tech community as an inclusive and responsive employer, thereby positioning it as an industry vanguard and a desirable workplace. Adopting a culture that prioritises listening and adaptability allows companies to evolve their hiring practices into dynamic instruments for organisational advancement, attracting the cream of the tech talent crop.

Success Metric for Hiring Processes

In the competitive realm of tech recruitment, key metrics such as time-to-hire, candidate satisfaction scores, and retention rates of new hires are indispensable for evaluating and refining our hiring process. Time-to-hire reveals the efficiency and respect for candidates' time, while satisfaction scores reflect our process's transparency and engagement. Retention rates indicate how well job expectations align with reality, pinpointing areas for enhancement. By closely monitoring these metrics, we can continuously improve our hiring strategy, ensuring our practices not only attract but also retain top talent. This focused approach reinforces our reputation as a desirable and progressive employer in the tech industry, committed to a superior candidate and employee experience.

Candidate experience

A positive candidate experience is crucial for any successful recruitment strategy. The heart of this experience lies in two key elements: transparency and communication...

The importance of transparency and feedback

Transparency throughout the recruitment process builds a foundation of trust between the candidate and the company. It involves clear communication about the steps involved, the timeline, and what the candidates can expect at each stage. This clarity helps in setting the right expectations and reduces the anxiety associated with job applications.

Equally important is the provision of timely and constructive feedback. Whether it’s after an interview or at the end of the recruitment process, candidates appreciate knowing where they stand. Positive feedback can reinforce their interest in the role, while constructive criticism can provide valuable insights for their professional development. This approach not only enhances the candidate's experience but also bolsters the company's image as an employer that values growth and transparency.

Keeping them engaged

Engaging candidates throughout the recruitment process is vital to maintain their interest and enthusiasm. This engagement begins with personalised communication. Addressing candidates by name and referencing specific aspects of their application or interview responses can make them feel valued and seen. Regular updates, even if there’s no new information, can keep candidates in the loop and prevent them from feeling neglected. This can be as simple as a weekly email or a quick phone call to inform them of their application status.

Utilising technology can also enhance candidate engagement. Automated systems can send timely updates and reminders, but it’s important to balance this with a human touch. For example, a personalised video message from the team or a virtual tour of the office can add a unique and engaging element to the recruitment process.

Workable summarise the importance of candidate experience very well;

How we do it

DuckDuckGo are one of the most popular companies on Haystack, and a lot of it comes down to how open and honest they are with their interview process. Jonathan McCarthy recently sat down with us to talk us through how they do it...

Thanks for joining us! When somebody first considers DuckDuckGo as a potential employer, what kind of person are you looking for in terms of experience, character, and personality?

If you look at the value set of DuckDuckGo, there are three core values to who you are as a business - questioning assumptions, validating direction, and building trust. Those are the three key elements that we're looking for people to align with from a value standpoint. So validating direction is all around data, essentially how you use data to validate your decision-making framework. We want engineers that joins the business to be data driven, we don't work on intuition. Questioning assumptions is all around how we're structured as a business. There are no reporting lines across the organisation whatsoever, it's a completely flat structure, so everyone is referred to as what we call a DRI. That’s a directly responsible individual, you have your own set of projects, objectives, initiatives that you're running on a day to day basis. And then you have a project that will help you to initiate and execute those on a day to day basis as well. The last thing, building trust, is all around the environment that we have here as we’re fully remote.

We have a couple of offices - one in Philadelphia, and one in Canada - but really we’re fully remote. I can probably count on my hands how many people go into those offices on a day-to-day basis. So building trust is all around accountability within a fully remote environment. I need someone that can stick to deadlines and we can depend on to deliver and execute. Transparency again, you know, falls into that bucket of trust, so everything from our recruitment process, our financials on a day-to-day basis, products we're building to, notes on the last company board meeting, everything is shared transparently across the organisation. There isn't this sort of delineation between those that are in America and Canada and the rest of the world. Regardless of where you're based in the world, what function you're at,  and what level you're at within the business, everyone has a 360 understanding of who we are as an organisation, what we're trying to achieve and how we are tracking that as well.

Is that the same message that you're trying to get across to techies in the first two or three minutes of them reading about you, or are they slightly different?

Yeah, I think project ownership is really, really key. We don't have a project management function at DuckDuckGo, so one of the things that I've been looking for is people that have led products, features, project improvement projects, whatever it might be - people that know how to run projects and galvanise the team around them to execute in a timely manner. That's something that we're really looking for in our candidates. People find interesting and inspiring as well - the fact that from day one, I can have autonomy. Obviously there are safeguard processes to make sure that people don't just run off and do their own thing, but ultimately you've got autonomy and leadership is built into your role. You're not gonna have work delegated to you on a day-to-day basis, you can lead and make your mark on the products and features we're building on a day-to-day basis. So that's definitely something that we weave into our pitch to candidates.

The other message we try to get across is business resilience too. As an organisation, we've been profitable now since 2014, and that's quite rare, particularly in the tech scene. We're not a business that is focused on growth at all costs, yet we are still expanding as an organisation, and we're still doing exciting things.

What challenges do you think you face at DuckDuckGo specifically?

In terms of hiring, the length of process is something that we're trying to look at. I'm running some improvement projects internally to see where we can build efficiency into the process. At the moment, typically, the process will take five to six weeks, and sometimes longer, depending on the level of the roles. I guess two or three years ago, we were up against a more competitive market landscape, and it was definitely more of a problem for us then. I think now, given that there aren't as many roles out there, it's not as much of a problem, but length of process is something that we're looking at.

The way we run our process is a mixture of project-based assignments and interviews. Every process is typically two or three projects that someone needs to complete - that can range from anything from 5 hours to 15 to 20 hours worth of work that you've got to do per project. And then on top of that, we've got to schedule in interviews as well. Every engineer, every designer, every product manager that is interviewing with us, the CTO and the CEO still meet with all of those candidates as part of the recruitment process, so it's about how we scale that process. As we go from 250 to 270, and then 370 - 380  in the next year, is the process that we have scalable?

We'd like to think so, because it's definitely a process where we're making sure that we're bringing the right people into the business. But how sustainable that length of process is long term is something we're trying to figure out.

We’re a big fan of your careers page. The first thing that’s mentioned on it is the fact that you're fully distributed. Do you find that's big pull for potential candidates?

Yeah, I think it's definitely a lever that we pull. All candidates are different, right? Some candidates prefer being in the office, and perhaps they're more extroverted and they want to interact with people on a day-to-day basis. A lot of people that we speak to have busy lives, right? They've got families and commitments outside of work, and the flexibility of not just being fully remote, which I think is great, but the fact that we don't have any core working hours, I think is the key lever that we pull here. We ask for a commitment of 40 hours per week from our team members, but how you structure those hours on a day-to-day or weekly basis is completely up to you. So again, it’s that key theme of autonomy on a day-to-day basis. I think it's the fact that we're flexible in how we work, as opposed to just solely the remote element. We don't expect people to sign in at a particular time and sign out another time, and we don't monitor the hours that people are working. It's all built on trust. We expect you to deliver value and execute on the projects that you're leading and participating in, but how you do that on a day-to-day basis is largely up to you.

I noticed you have some extremely well written and very detailed guides about life at DuckDuckGo on your careers site. I would have loved something like that as an applicant to a business, because it spells out what's going to happen, and why you do it that way. How important do you think those documents are?

They’re very important for candidates coming in us and applying for roles. We send it as a follow-up for our initial screening emails and people always mention them on calls as a reason as to why they're interested in the process and the roles that we have here. I also think it's really powerful for passive candidates that don't know much about the brand. That's a really key lever to getting people galvanised around the idea of going through the process and potentially working at DuckDuckGo.

Assessing Skills

Accurately gauging a candidate’s technical skills and competencies is crucial. However, you also need to be able to quickly assess other skills that are arguably just as important...

Keep it specific

We’ve found only 30% of techies believe tech tests are a good way of measuring their competency, so make sure your tech tests are relevant and relate to the role. You should be tailoring your tech tests to individual roles to make them as relevant and effective as you can. Whether it's coding challenges, project simulations, or algorithmic tasks, the tests should mirror real-world scenarios the candidate will encounter on the job. Incorporating case studies or role play scenarios can simulate real-world problems, providing insight into how candidates would perform on the job. Additionally, you should be adjusting the difficulty and complexity based on the level of the role – senior roles should have more challenging assessments reflective of their experience and expected contributions.

Balancing technical and soft skills

Whilst it’s usually pretty obvious which tech skills are needed for a role, soft skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving and adaptability can be harder to assess, but are equally important. They key is to seamlessly integrate your assessment of these skills into the interview process. This can be achieved through behavioural interviews, where candidates are asked to describe past experiences and how they handled various situations. Another method is to observe candidates in team interaction scenarios or group discussions. These evaluations offer insights into how candidates collaborate, communicate, and fit into the company culture. Remember, a technically brilliant candidate who struggles to work well with others can be more of a liability than an asset.

Using peer review

Peer review can be a valuable part of the assessment process. Involving current tech team members in evaluating technical tests or conducting interviews can provide a different perspective, particularly on how well the candidate might fit into the team. This collaborative approach also helps in assessing the cultural fit, which is vital for team cohesion and productivity.

Keep improving

Finally, an effective assessment process is one that evolves. Gathering feedback from both candidates and the hiring team is crucial for continuous improvement. This could involve refining technical tests, introducing new types of assessments, or updating methodologies to align with the latest tech competencies.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

The technology industry, known for its innovative spirit, is increasingly recognising the value of diversity in its teams. A diverse workforce brings a plethora of perspectives, backgrounds, and skills – elements that are crucial for creative problem-solving and innovation...

Why is diversity important?

Despite the UK having a booming tech industry that’s now worth over £800 billion, it still has some way to go when it comes to diversity. Studies show that only 8.5% of senior leaders in UK tech are from ethnic minority groups and just 16% of all IT professionals are female. This diversity isn't just about race or gender; it includes varied educational backgrounds, cultural perspectives, ages, and life experiences. For example, a team that includes members with different levels of experience, from recent graduates to seasoned professionals, can blend cutting-edge knowledge with deep industry expertise.

Companies like Google and Microsoft have shown how diversity can lead to groundbreaking innovations. These organisations actively promote diversity in their workforce and have reported that diverse teams led to the development of new products and services that cater to a wider audience.

What impact does diversity have?

Diversity isn’t just important for moral and ethical reasons; it also makes business sense. Diverse teams are more likely to be innovative and effective in problem-solving, as they bring a range of experiences and viewpoints that can lead to groundbreaking ideas and solutions. Studies have consistently shown a positive correlation between diverse teams and business performance, including higher revenue and better decision-making. In the tech world, where innovation is  key to success, embracing diversity can be a significant competitive advantage.

How to recruit inclusively

Inclusive recruiting starts with understanding and mitigating unconscious biases. Job descriptions should be crafted to be bias-free, focusing on essential skills and qualifications rather than implied preferences that might discourage diverse candidates. Employing diverse hiring panels can also ensure a more balanced and fair assessment process.

Reaching out to diverse talent pools is another critical strategy. This might involve partnerships with organisations or educational institutions that focus on underrepresented groups in tech, such as women or people of colour. Networking events, mentorship programs, and internships targeted at these groups can also be effective. Training recruiters and hiring managers to recognise and counteract their unconscious biases is essential. This not only helps in making fairer hiring decisions but also in understanding the varied experiences and backgrounds that candidates bring to the table.

Building a culture of inclusion

Diversity in recruitment is just the first step; building an inclusive culture within the organisation is equally important. This involves creating an environment where all employees feel valued and included, regardless of their background. Leadership plays a crucial role in this, setting the tone for inclusivity and respect in the workplace.

DE&I with Michael Nsiah

Michael Nsiah has over fifteen years experience in Talent Acquisition and is a core member of the RL100. His career has taken him from London, all the way to Singapore and Japan. Michael recently sat down to tell us about the challenges hiring companies are facing when it comes to DE&I, and how you can do it properly...

I guess the best place to start is with quite a broad question - what exactly is DE&I and what does it mean in the context of hiring?

I think DE&I means different things to different people. I personally think at the moment it’s very surface level - it looks at aesthetic traits, right? So skin colour, gender, sexual preference, etc. I'm not saying it shouldn't be focused on that but DE&I is so much more.

For me, DE&I is more than just looking at aesthetics. It's about people that struggle to get the opportunities that others get. How do we get them there? And that might not be determined by the gender or the race. That might just be by social circumstance, their home life that they've come from, or the area that they live in. So for me, DE&I is more than surface level. DE&I for me is about making sure everyone’s access to opportunities isn't limited because of their aesthetic presentation, or because of where they live, or because of their background.

What do think of the current state of DE&I and what challenges do you think remain for companies?

I think the current state is that everyone is trying to, or wants to do the right thing, but they're not set up to achieve it. Within my network and what I've seen, organisations are trying to do the right thing. They have dedicated professionals within the DE&I space, but they haven't really invested beyond that.

I think people have the best intentions, but they just don't have the full buy-in to get it done. I also think that not everyone sees DE&I same way. That's a key problem, because if you're a person I'm trying to influence from a DE&I perspective and you're like ‘I've got these five things and DE&I is at the bottom of them’, how are you going to achieve your role of making sure a company is very diverse and equitable and inclusive? I think it means different things to different people, but the reality is, it's a topic that needs to be talked about. But it needs more than just talking about, it needs action. That action can't just be one rule for everyone and everyone follows suit. Is anyone really being held accountable? I don't think so.

When should a company start thinking about diverse hiring?

From the moment the organisation is set up, to be honest with you. I know it's easy for you to say when you're not sitting in the CEO's position, having to deal with all the various different business initiatives that they're trying to address as a leader. And obviously, when you're a leader of 15 people, it's different to when you're a leader of 1000 people, or 70,000 people. I think an organisation should be thinking I know I want to be attractive to everyone, not just the people that might have gone to Oxford or Cambridge, or might have a particular skin colour, or a particular gender association. Now, I know I’m making this sound easy. The problem is it's not that easy because if you've employed 70,000 people, how do you address that problem? So I think organisations should be thinking about DE&I from the moment the organisation is an organisation. But equally, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. I just think there has to be a conscious effort.

When it comes to talent attraction, this is where I believe workforce planning is critical. A good workforce plan will look at how long will it take to get someone in the seat, then look at the whole organisation and what other skill sets are transferable to this function. If you have a really good tool and a really good system in place, then before managers even go out to market, they have that in mind. Without it, you might take the approach of ‘we need someone quick’, which means you've literally just wiped out all potential DE&I candidates because the likelihood is they're going to be under qualified to some extent, or they're going to be very expensive because they sit in a group of skills where they know their value, and you're probably not the first person that's called them. So I think a good workforce plan and hiring strategy, and internal mobility is the way to do it.

What is the main benefit of diversity hiring for companies?

There's enough data out there that shows that companies that have diverse workforce outperform their competitors that don't from a commercial and a retention perspective, and just general workforce happiness. If that isn't important for you as a leader, then I don't know what anyone's going to do to convince you. I think leaders have to want to be inclusive, be diverse, be equitable. They have to want to. They have to want to hire everyone.

I agree that smaller companies probably have the bigger challenge, as they just don't have the internal talent pool and they're at a size where they're trying to scale and grow. If you're a leader and someone said to you ‘I can give you five non-diverse talent right now and your business would be a 100 times bigger in a year's time’, or ‘I can give you three diverse talent and two non-diverse talent and it will take you three years to get to where you want to get to, because you need to upskill the non-diverse talent’. I'm just assuming the diverse talent could be more skilled than non diverse talent, but in a world where you've probably borrowed money to start your business, you're not going to say I'll take three years because your lenders may not give you that much time. Your savings may not allow you that freedom to wait three years, so I think there's got to be an acknowledgement of that. There is a diversity problem within certain spaces like tech, but the other side is to just be more strategic about how you hire, like advanced workforce planning. There's so many companies who do it really well, and are literally saving organisations thousands of pounds because they are getting them to think ahead of just ‘I need that role filled’ - they’re thinking about the whole organisation structure.

Do you think companies are aware of their diversity issues?

I'm going to say something really bold here, which is to say a company claiming it’s not aware of its diversity problems is rubbish in my opinion. I'll give you an example, I live in Liverpool, and Liverpool's got his own social challenges. If you have an office in Liverpool in the north of the city, diversity might not be a thing that you care about too much because your demographic of people within your reachable limit are going to be non-diverse people, as in let's say, mainly white people. For companies to turn and say ‘I didn't realise I had a problem because everyone in my demographic is white’, I don't buy into it. That's my personal view.

I've worked in a lot of organisations across the world, and especially when I was in Asia, where challenges around diverse talent were talked about so much. These are places where there were so many people with theright skills available within our reach, but they didn't have a certain thing that the expat community would have brought to that role. So therefore, we have to try and find a balance, because the locals are getting angry, and we did that by being strategic, so we promoted from within. So we improved and promoted people, and they were all promoted because they were very credible for what they achieved in their roles. What that meant was we could then create the funnel at the bottom of the hierarchy, where we could bring in people and train them up. This is something that I talked about in my current role quite a lot, which is about growing your own. That's how you fix diversity, because trying to tap into a talent pool that's already matured where everyone's doing the same thing drives your cost base up, and it creates an inequitable platform.

In tech, I believe the current average tenure is three years.  I personally think it's a misinformed interpretation that you don't invest in training them because they’re just going to go somewhere else. My argument is what happens if you did that every year? You'd slowly increase the numbers. I use football as an analogy, I'm a West Ham fan. We've been a selling club for years. They get them up to a standard and then they sell them on and make money. I know in the corporate world it's different because you don't charge someone to hire your staff, but if you bring them in and nurture them, eventually word starts getting out - ‘that's a really good place to go and learn, or I really enjoy working there, I'm actually going to stay there. I just think if you start very small, you can scale it, but if you're already scaled, it's very difficult to try and implement this because then you have to get over so many hurdles.

How do you think companies can ensure they retain and progress their diverse hires?

I don't know if this is just about diversity, I think it's about all employees really. I think for diverse talent, some people have the mindset, and rightly so, that they are limited in their job because of the diverse characteristics, right? I have literally refused to believe it up until three years ago, when I saw people going into jobs that I had equally applied for. I was pretty confident I was one of the strongest people, and I knew the hiring manager quite well. They gave me strong feedback, but then a female got the job. I will naturally go and think, is it because I'm a black male? Is it because one of our senior stakeholders has a problem with engaging with a black person?

I think to address that, it's just about really good L&D and education. I attended a seminar about inclusive language and working with your colleagues to make them feel included. I used to hang around in all communities when I was younger, and it was really strange because a lot of my trans and gay friends spoke the most derogatory about their own community, but not in a malicious perspective - it was just banter. You see overweight people do it quite a lot sometimes where they make references to their weight as a joke. I find that sometimes it's just a coping mechanism, but I’ve also hung around people that didn’t face any type of trauma like that. They were comfortable in themselves because they're around people that respected and loved them for who they were, they had family support, et cetera. And in those situations, I think the one consistent thing was learning education.

If we apply that to the workplace, we need to make everyone feel welcome. We need to make everyone feel that by speaking up or standing up for someone, they're not going to get punished for it. How can you tell that someone's a bigot, or a racist, or a homophobe in the interview process? You can't, can you? So when you do get them, you need to make them realise that they're going into an organisation where they don't have the luxury of space to be that bigot, that homophobe, that sexist, whatever it is. It starts from leadership, and it’s down to learning and having the right people in positions of power.

What metrics or indicators should companies be using to measure the success of their DE&I policies?

In my existing organisation we report on final interview metrics, and we have an organisational objective to have one underrepresented individual at the final stage of interview. Do I think that's the best, or the only metric? No, but it does  work for what we're trying to achieve. I personally think you should measure diversity throughout the whole process.  So you look at how many diverse talents you’re attracting. If you have a hundred applications for every role you advertise and you only get five diverse talent, and I'm talking about gender, race, all of them, how are you going to show a willingness to be diverse? Whereas if you show that actually in 2021, we used to advertise and we found that we were getting a lot of males from job board one, so we moved to job board two and saw that increase to 60/40  male/female. And within that, we also saw an increase of 0 to 10% diverse talent. That's a more credible stat to report than we've hired 20 diverse talent this year, but in our organisational makeup, they only make up 5% of the headcount. What does that mean? What are you telling me? You're telling me that you've hired some diverse talent, but how are you addressing the general equality across the whole organisation? I think you should measure it from the front end, because if you're not attracting diverse talent to apply to your jobs, then how are you going to say you're trying to be diverse?

Any final words of advice for companies that are focused on their DE&I hiring and policies?

I think just be honest about what you're trying to fix. You can't fix everything in DE&I in one go - it's too big a space. For example, we had a women in tech event in our London office last year in March, and I got talking to a few of the attendees, including a black female who has been in tech for the last few years. She'd been training herself, and had been struggling for so long to get a job. She was talking about how age discrimination is so prevalent because she was in the 50+ group. She asked me what we were doing about it and I said we're not, we haven't even talked about it yet. I just think within inclusivity, there's a long list of stuff that you can do to be inclusive, and you have to sometimes pick and choose what you're trying to address, but not make everyone else feel left out. That means we might make a big effort to target female hiring within technology, for example, but it doesn't mean that we're not taking attraction of black people seriously.

What it might mean is that we say, right within technology, the data tells us that there's more males than females. We know the problem is gender balance, so we're going to target gender for this year, but next year we're going to look at getting the older population into work because we see the value in their skillset. So I think really be clear about what you're trying to address, because otherwise you're just going to go to a hiring manager and they're just going to be thinking there’s too much here, I'll put this down and pick it up in a few years time. Whereas if you look at it and think here's how we fix that specific area it’s a much better conversation starter.

Neurodiversity in Tech with Parul Singh

After years of working in Talent Acquisition and Employer Branding in tech, Parul founded Parallel Minds; a Neurodiversity consultancy on a mission to build a brighter future for Neurodivergent people in tech. She gives us the low-down on how you can optimise your processes to hire Neurodivergent tech talent...

Neurodiversity 101

- Neurodiversity refers to the infinite variations of the human brain

- Someone who is Neurodivergent has one or more of the Neurodivergent conditions such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Tourettes etc. They see, process and experience the world in a different way

- Roughly 15-20% of the general population are Neurodivergent but a staggering 53% of people working in tech identify as being Neurodivergent (ref Tech Talent Charter)

- Neurodivergent people in tech bring an incredibly valuable set of skills that are crucial for innovation and building the best tech products. But these strengths don't come without their challenges and unfortunately many hiring processes aren't accessible to Neurodivergent candidates who end up being inadvertently filtered out even if they're highly qualified

- Only 21% of respondents in the EqualTech research reported their employers tailoring recruitment processes for Neurodivergent candidates

The approach

Naturally, the instinct would be to focus on encouraging candidates to disclose and ask for reasonable adjustments. While this is an important component of accessible hiring processes, it’s not the most realistic. Because of the stigma and bias surrounding neurodiversity, and the fact that the stakes are higher at interview stage as opposed to already working in the company, it’s not realistic to rely on candidates wanting to disclose, and also putting the onus on them to advocate for themselves. The challenges are nuanced so the ideal solution is complex and multi-faceted but ideally we want a dual approach; pathways for tailored support for neurodivergent candidates who disclose paired with a universally accessible hiring process.

If you’re familiar with Universal Design in product, you’ll know that designing and building tech products with accessibility at the core is crucial for usability for **every customer**. We can apply a similar principle to accessible hiring processes too, where we don’t focus on conditions, but on removing barriers (also known as a barrier-based approach).

One of the best things you can do when embarking on your journey to creating accessible hiring practices is to get neurodivergent people involved - if you don’t have an internal ERG (eg disability, neurodiversity etc)  then perhaps consider employees who have been through the recruitment process recently. Neurodivergent people are generally very open to helping improve things for fellow neurodivergent people. You could even look at creating focus groups to encompass other minority groups as this will also ensure that intersectionality is at the core of your inclusive hiring efforts.

Not all interview types are fit for purpose

- With a plethora of interview types for tech roles, it’s difficult to find the perfect balance between the right type of assessment but also giving candidates the best chance at success

- If you have a psychometric test, consider if this is necessary. Research has shown that psychometric tests filter out neurodivergent candidates and refusal to provide an alternative assessment may result in legal consequences

- Consider the impact a one-way video interview or a timed online technical assessment may have on neurodivergent candidates

Examples of reasonable adjustments you can offer:

- Transparent interviewing; providing interview questions to the candidates ahead of the interview. This works particularly well for competency or behavioural interviews

- Offering the option of a remote or in-person interview

- Pasting the question into the chat after asking the question to allow the candidate processing time

- Break down longer interviewers into shorter ones, or at least scheduling a break

- Offering an alternative type of interview or assessment

- Recommend bringing some short hand notes where appropriate

Other steps to take

- Avoid last minute changes, and if they must happen communicate this to the candidate, eg swapping out an interviewer

- Build in breaks to interviews

- Avoid open-ended and vague questions that require someone to “read between the lines”

- Avoid hypothetical and role-playing situationsInclude an overview of the interview breakdown in the diary invite eg “Introductions - 5 minutes. Technical interview - 25 minutes. Q&A - 10 minutes”

- Consider your assessment criteria and if it ensures Neurodivergent candidates won't be impacted by unconscious bias. Candidates should only be marked against their ability to do a job not how good they are at small talk, how much eye contact they make or if the interviewers like their personality

Career Development & Growth

The tech industry offers a vibrant landscape for career growth, where each step forward is fuelled by innovation and skill development. Let’s look at how robust training, development, and well-defined career paths keep techies engaged and motivated...

Training and development opportunities

Modern techies aren’t just interested in how much a role is paying - they’re also looking for a role that will help propel their career. Offering a spectrum of training opportunities – from mastering new programming languages to adopting innovative software development methodologies – keeps skills sharp and minds engaged.

However, the focus isn't solely on technical prowess. Workshops that enhance soft skills like effective communication, leadership, and project management are equally critical. These skills are what transform a technical expert into a well-rounded professional capable of steering projects and teams to success.


Think of mentorship programmes in tech companies as being somewhat akin to a guiding light. They offer invaluable support and insights that help your techies navigate the complexities of the  industry. A mentor can pinpoint strengths, target weaknesses, and set realistic yet ambitious goals. It’s like having a career compass with a personal touch.

More than a ladder

Viewing career advancement in tech as merely climbing a ladder is too simplistic. It's better likened to a diverse array of pathways, each presenting unique challenges and opportunities. With the vast diversity in tech roles, career paths should be equally varied. Whether it’s advancing to a senior technical position, shifting to a different tech speciality, or moving into management, the possibilities are numerous.

In this context, clear and transparent career progression plans are essential. They provide a roadmap for staff, outlining the journey to their career destinations and the skills required en route. Regular career discussions and performance reviews help keep everyone aligned with their goals and the company’s objectives.

Staying ahead of the curve

In the swiftly evolving world of tech, continuous learning isn't just advantageous; it's imperative. For techies, keeping up with new technologies is crucial to a flourishing career, and getting stuck in a role using antiquated techs just isn’t going to cut it in the modern hiring market.

Online courses, workshops, and conferences serve as vital resources in this quest for knowledge. They provide adaptable learning options suitable for everyone, from novices to seasoned tech professionals. Platforms like Coursera and Udemy are brimming with a wide array of courses, while tech conferences present chances to immerse in the latest industry developments and network with fellow professionals.

Creating a Retentive Culture

In the rapidly evolving tech industry, creating a culture that not only attracts but also retains top talent is crucial. A retentive culture goes beyond just keeping employees on board; it involves fostering a work environment that encourages loyalty, satisfaction, and productivity...

Employee engagement strategies

If you want your best techies to stick around, employee engagement is key to creating a retentive culture. An engaged employee is infinitely less likely to look for new opportunities, and ultimately make a greater contribution to your success. You should ensure you’re creating a collaborative and supportive work environment that provides ample opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Your managers are key to this - they need to be approachable, provide regular feedback and encourage open communication.

Another effective strategy is implementing flexible work arrangements. This demonstrates trust and respect for employees' work-life balance, which is particularly valued in the tech industry. Continuous learning and development is also critical for tech professionals - offering training programs, workshops, and opportunities to work on challenging projects can keep employees intellectually stimulated and committed to the organisation.

Recognising and rewarding tech talent

Recognition and reward are arguably the most powerful tools in your arsenal when it comes to retaining tech talent. Employees who feel valued and appreciated are much more likely to be motivated and loyal. Recognition can come in various forms, from formal award systems to informal acknowledgments in team meetings. Monetary rewards like bonuses and salary increments are important, but non-monetary forms of recognition can be equally impactful. Personalised acknowledgments, opportunities for career advancement, and public recognition of achievements can go a long way. Innovative companies often use a combination of these methods, tailoring their approach to match the preferences and motivations of their tech talent. For instance, offering a coveted training course to an employee who values professional development can be more effective than a standard bonus.

Promoting work-life balance

In the tech industry, a healthy work-life balance is crucial for employee well-being and retention. Companies embracing this ethos, through flexible hours, remote work options, and full vacation utilisation, help staff manage personal and professional demands effectively, reducing stress.

Wellness programs like gym memberships and mental health days further demonstrate a commitment to employee well-being, enhancing workplace positivity and loyalty. These strategies not only improve job satisfaction and retention but also lead to a more engaged and productive workforce.

Employee Benefits

In the cutthroat world of tech talent acquisition, offering enticing employee benefits is akin to having a trump card. It’s not merely about the salary; it’s about piecing together a benefits package that truly resonates with the desires of tech professionals...

Understanding what techies want

First and foremost, it's essential to grasp what techies truly want when it comes to employee benefits. They tend to look beyond the standard offerings, preferring benefits that align with a forward-thinking, tech-savvy lifestyle. This might encompass flexible working options, comprehensive healthcare schemes, and opportunities for personal and professional development.

Health and wellness

In a field where mental sharpness is crucial, physical and mental health benefits are highly prized. Comprehensive healthcare plans, mental health support, and wellness programmes like gym memberships or wellness apps can make a significant impact. These benefits demonstrate the company’s concern for the overall well-being of its employees, and encourage loyalty and a positive working environment.

Flexible working

The tech industry, often at the forefront of workplace innovation, has had to embrace flexible working as a fundamental shift, particularly post-COVID-19. The pandemic accelerated a change in work culture, with many tech professionals now preferring the flexibility of remote work over traditional office settings.

Options like remote working, flexi-time, and telecommuting have transitioned from perks to essential aspects of job satisfaction. These arrangements enable staff to balance work and personal life more effectively, leading to enhanced productivity and mental well-being. The ability to work from anywhere, or to choose working hours, not only reduces stress but also fosters a sense of autonomy and trust.

The shift towards flexible work options has had a profound impact on employee loyalty and commitment. Companies that offer such flexibility are seen as more attractive, demonstrating an understanding of modern work-life balance needs. This approach not only improves existing staff retention but also positions a company as an appealing choice for prospective talent.

Colleague Advocacy

In the tech industry, where innovation and collaboration are paramount, colleague advocacy emerges as a potent tool for talent retention. This concept revolves around fostering a supportive environment where team members are not just colleagues but advocates for one another's success...

What role can colleague advocacy play in retention?

Colleague advocacy is the idea that a supportive work environment is key to employee satisfaction and retention. When team members actively support each other's professional growth and well-being, it creates a positive and collaborative workplace. This mutual support can range from sharing knowledge and expertise to providing encouragement and constructive feedback.

Fostering a culture of advocacy

Cultivating a culture of advocacy within a tech team begins at the top. Leadership must actively promote and exemplify  values such as open communication, collaboration, and mutual support. This involves not just verbal encouragement but also embedding these values into the core practices of the team. Initiating regular team-building activities that focus on collaborative problem-solving can bolster this culture. Such activities enable team members to work together in new contexts, deepening their understanding of each other's strengths and perspectives.

Peer-to-peer mentoring is another vital component. By pairing more experienced team members with newer ones, a platform for knowledge sharing and mutual support is created. This not only aids in skill development but also fosters a sense of belonging and community within the team. In turn, these efforts lead to a workplace where advocacy is not just encouraged but becomes a natural aspect of the team dynamic.

Advocacy & career development

Colleague advocacy also plays a critical role in career development. When team members advocate for one another, they help open doors to new opportunities within the organisation. This could include recommending a colleague for a challenging project or endorsing their skills for a promotion. Such advocacy ensures that talent is recognised and rewarded, contributing to career satisfaction and growth.

Measuring the impact

To ensure the effectiveness of advocacy efforts, it's crucial to measure their impact on team dynamics and employee retention. Regular surveys and feedback sessions can provide insights into how well the culture of advocacy is being embraced and its effect on employee morale and turnover rates.

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