In a tight labor market, companies are turning to new recruiting tactics and technologies to find and hire top tech talent.

“Hiring tech talent is a top priority for recruiting and business leaders across industries, which has caused hyper-competition,” said Lauren Smith, vice president of Gartner’s HR practice.

Nearly two out of three recruiting executives report tech talent as a critical segment for their organizations, according to Gartner’s 2019 Future of HR survey. Of all S&P job postings, 39% are for just 29 roles, including software developers, computer systems analysts, IT project managers, and enterprise architects. And 65% of recruiting leaders agreed that the digital/tech talent market is more competitive than others, the report found.

SEE: IT Hiring Kit: Programmer (Tech Pro Research)

“Companies from diverse sectors are converging on the same critical talent pools,” Smith said. “This hyper-competition is currently the biggest challenge facing tech recruiters.”

Recruitment management solutions such as Success Factors, Taleo, and Workday have been on the market for years to help companies keep track of the pipeline of new hires, open positions, and interviews, and their use continues to expand, said Andrew H. Bartels, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

“More and more companies are adopting these technologies, especially in today’s market where many companies feel that it is a seller’s market, not a buyer’s market when it comes to tech talent,” Bartels said. “You’ve got to be much more aggressive and work harder to get the talent that you want, so getting the right technology for that is important.”

AI-powered recruiting

A newer recruiting tactic involves technologies that automate and streamline the process, Bartels said. For example, sites like LinkedIn can help cast a wider net, and pull in talent in a more automated way, he added.

These technologies often apply artificial intelligence (AI) to a candidate’s resume to detect certain patterns and identify potentially strong candidates, Bartels said. For example, these tools can examine a person’s tenure at a company, and the time it took them to move from one level to another.

SEE: The future of IT jobs: A business leader’s guide (Tech Pro Research)

“AI-powered recruiting is really beginning to take off,” said Nate Meneer, researcher serving CIOs at Forrester Research. “There’s a lot of data on candidates out there, and many different vendors in the talent acquisition space who have begun to aggregate their own data sets in terms of workers and their resumes.”

As these databases grow, so does the ability for machine learning solutions to offer help in this area, Meneer said. However, this could lead to privacy concerns, in terms of the degree to which information about a candidate’s employment is collected and used to evaluate them.

While AI-powered recruiting tools tend to focus on avoiding racial and gender biases, other biases can creep into the data, Meneer said. For example, if you are searching for people who went from an entry level position to a lower management position in less than three years, it may reinforce an existing pattern, he added. “There’s the risk that AI can mitigate certain biases but also potentially exacerbate others,” Meneer said.

Companies should experiment with AI-based tools, but treat them as supplemental in the hiring process, instead of the primary way to source and evaluate candidates, Meneer said. “AI can offer a lot of interesting perspectives on things and can be one source,” he added. “The problem is when it becomes the automatic go-to and when people rely solely on that solution.”

Hiring tactics for a competitive market

Outside of technology, companies are engaging in a number of strategies to hire tech talent in the competitive market. These tactics include:

  • Alternate talent pools

While companies may struggle to recruit tech titles like machine learning engineers due to location or cost, they can hire people in different careers with relevant, adjacent skills–for example, economists with basic programming knowledge, Smith said.

“A strong internal training program can help candidates or new hires develop the specific skills needed,” Smith said. “Looking at a broader talent pool can help an organization create more sustainable talent pipeline.”

Looking internally to people already at your company who may want to grow their skillset can also be a way to find the talent you need, Bartels said. This has several benefits, including providing employees the ability to advance, avoiding recruiting fees, and improving your company’s ranking on sites like Glassdoor, since employees can report that they were able to grow internally, Bartels said. “That becomes a very powerful recruitment message to new hires who might want to come in,” he added.

SEE: Interviewing guidelines policy (Tech Pro Research)

  • University collaboration

Organizations are increasingly developing partnerships with universities, using scholarships, internships, or fellowship programs to source tech talent from schools, Smith said. “This helps them get the best candidates and build a brand early in the minds of top-tier talent,” she added.

  • “Acquihiring”

Some companies gain highly skilled tech talent by acquiring the startups that currently employ these professionals, Smith said. Those acquiring companies can potentially gain access to new products as well as the talent that developed them, she added.

  • Engaging the tech community

Some organizations are creating talent communities for tech workers to gather together to learn about industry advancements, best practices, and career opportunities. This can help define your organization as a leading tech brand, not just a place with individual job opportunities, Smith said.

  • Creating a talent brand

Businesses are used to thinking in terms of customer brand and how they are perceived by that audience, but “in the world of Glassdoor and LinkedIn and Jobcase, you have to have a talent brand as well, and you have to maintain that brand,” Meneer said.

Much of this work involved making sure current employes are satisfied, Meneer said. “To do that properly involves taking the kinds of strategies and approaches that have been used for customer experience and transposing them over to employee experience–things like personas and journey mapping, key touch points, identifying things to say, ‘What are the things that will really enable our employees to have a good experience?'” he added.

  • Analytics

Using data analytics to determine high-performing employees and where they came from can help organizations target specific sources of talent more efficiently, Smith said.

  • Creating a career journey from the start

Organizations should lay out what the employee’s learning journey will be at the company from the start of the recruiting process, Meneer said.

“I think the perfect scenario if you have a prospective recruit is that there can be an honest conversation about what that role is going to do for the employee and what that role is going to do for the employer,” Meneer said. “Make it clear to the employee in terms of resources that are going to be offered for learning and development.”

Sometimes companies steer away from those conversations because they think if they train an employee, they will leave for another firm, Meneer said. “Those conversations can kind of run contrary to the desire to hold and retain employees,” he added. But having them from the point of recruitment is a good way to communicate culture and determine a career path.

“In today’s labor market, both recruiters and hiring managers must shift their recruiting emphasis from just defining who they are and what they offer to understanding who the candidates are and what the candidates want,” Smith said. “Progressive organizations recognize that to craft employment branding messages that will be differentiated and stand out today to tech hires, they must first understand the candidates they are trying to attract.”