How to Hire a Unicorn: Recruiting Hard-To-Find Tech Specialists

11 April 2018

1623 Original

​It’s a well-known frustration experienced by hiring managers that demand for top technical talent far exceeds the supply. Sometimes, the requirement for very niche, advanced and specific technology skills creates ‘unicorns’ – very rare candidate profiles that businesses routinely fight over. To try and win these ‘unicorns’ over, as well as hire the best talent across the board, many shrewd tech employers are putting increased focus on hiring strategy, both in terms of the recruitment process and developing a company brand and environment that will attract and retain people long-term.

Here’s some ideas to get you started if you’re hunting for that unicorn. 

01 Develop your company mission

In a candidate driven market, developers can be picky about who they work for. A compelling, tech-centred company mission can be a powerful ‘pull factor’, so make sure mission and purpose is communicated effectively throughout the hiring process.  

02 Enhance your brand

Developing a sharp company brand takes time but should be a critical focus - you want to create a reputation as a business that nurtures and develops top talent. The developer community is small so if your firm gets a rep for being an undesirable place to work, your hiring will suffer as a result. 

03 Create an awesome environment to work in

High profile tech firms like Google and Facebook are well known for their Silicon Valley campuses, with everything from barista coffee to volleyball courts. You might not have Google’s budget, but you can certainly create a cool office that unicorns will want to play in. Aside from physical environment, policies like flexible working policies or wellbeing initiatives will not only make your current staff happy but attract new talent as well. 

04 Nurture career skills

Developers are always updating their skills: over 80% of them code outside of work.  Unicorns are top of the bunch - they love to learn, so be sure to encourage this with a positive L&D policy, time for personal technical projects and investment in the latest technologies to help them upskill. 

05 Pay a fair wage and benefits

According to the recent Stack Overflow talent survey, the most important aspect for developers when assessing new career opportunity is the salary and benefits, closely followed by the technology used in the role. Benchmark market salaries carefully but be prepared to be flexible with pay if you want to sure a ‘unicorn’.

06 Networking

In the competitive space of tech hiring, networking is key. Offer employee referral incentives, get involved in industry meet ups, or host events or hackathons. The more hiring managers, HR and employees alike network within the developer community, the more candidates you will expose yourself too. The unicorns will surely be amongst them! 

07 Keep an open mind

Be creative and a bit flexible when hunting for unicorns. Maybe you’ll find one in the current team, who just needs a bit of extra training, You might find a talented unicorn with the right technical skills in a different industry, who can apply their experience in a new environment. Finally, you could try coding bootcamp graduates – although the perception may be that they have little experience, in fact 46% were employed as developers before starting the course. With a tech background and intensive training in the skill you are seeking, they could be a winner. 

08 Invest in hiring

Finally, it’s critical to invest in the right hiring talent. Many start-ups, even small ones, have staff dedicated to talent strategy. Often specialist technical recruiters in your industry will be the quickest way to tap up sought after unicorns, as they have the network but also the know-how to speak to developers and sell them the benefits of your company. Whether you rely on headhunters or internal staff, or more likely a mixture of both – make sure you’re speaking to the most talented recruiters to help you find those unicorns!