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Recruiting tips for a Learn-To-Code program

April 30th, 2021

Recruiting tips for a Learn-To-Code program

This photo shows a group of almost 20 people climbing a mountain. A learn-to-code program is a similar feat—a significant learning curve, complete with some discomfort, but with a great view at the top.

Suppose you’re contemplating a Learn-To-Code program to reskill people from non-technical backgrounds for upcoming software projects. You’re considering this approach, because you’ve scoured the landscape for computer science grads and can’t find enough qualified candidates. Tapping non-tech talent seems like a viable and intriguing option. But how do you identify employees who will thrive—or at least persevere—in an intense reskilling curriculum?

“Finding candidates who are both interested in a coding career and well-suited for it can be the most challenging part of running a reskilling program,” says Jessica Schneider, VP-Product Development at DevelopIntelligence.

You’re looking for people who have the aptitude and grit to make a radical, swift career change into software development. Learn-To-Code programs are like drinking from a fire hose. In 14 to 16 weeks, participants will be ready to write code in an entry-level developer position. They need the drive, endurance and frustration tolerance to handle a steep learning curve.

Think of a backpacking expedition with substantial elevation gain. For your trip, you want people with the motivation and commitment to reach the top, even if parts of the journey are tough.

Finding these candidates involves three distinct phases

Phase 1: Recruit

“Begin with a clear goal for the number of candidates you want to recruit, as well as minimum qualifications,” advises Allison Freedman, Implementation Program Manager with DevelopIntelligence. “Also, track the application source, so you can focus your efforts on sources that are driving the best results.”

What groups do you want to target for your Learn-To-Code program? If you’re recruiting from the outside, are you looking for people from a particular background, such as musicians? Are you aiming to increase diversity in your tech workforce? Is there a geographic requirement?

Where will you find these candidates? Through workforce development centers? University alumni offices? Recruiting websites?

If you plan to reskill internal candidates, who can apply? Some organizations ask managers to recommend potential participants. Other companies invite applications from anyone who is interested.

Most important, how will you screen for applicants’ motivations, aptitude and commitment? Asking for mini-essays can help you understand why a candidate is interested in the program. What do they hope to get out of it? Recruiters: Is the candidate’s reasoning realistic, authentic and compelling?

These applicants do not have coding experience, but you need to assess basic computer literacy. Additionally, cognitive assessments can reveal how candidates approach challenges and solve problems. Do they have the right aptitude for coding and the rigor of a Learn-To-Code program?

In this initial screening, some candidates will stand out, and you’ll want to take a more in-depth look. Others will wash out, because of low assessment scores. Or, they didn’t complete the requested steps by the assigned deadlines. If candidates don’t have the drive to meet commitments during the recruitment phase, they are not the right fit.

“If you find you’re not getting the right kind of applicant, go back to the drawing board and revise your recruiting strategy,” says Freedman.

Phase 2: Evaluate

The evaluation phase is two-way. You want to get a feel for how well the candidates are able to learn and apply new skills. And you want to give them a taste of what the program will be like.

What does it mean to “learn to code” or “learn to be a developer”? What kind of content and curriculum does a Learn-To-Code program cover? A well-designed evaluation phase helps candidates answer these questions, so they can make an informed decision about fit. Is this the right opportunity for them?

Assign basic learning material—self-paced pre-work and/or an exercise. This gives applicants a feel for what they’ll be doing and lets you see how they tackle problems. They may not get everything right, but you’ll get a sense for how they approach problem solving. As well, you need to test their knowledge retention.

If a candidate is brimming with excitement after this evaluation, that’s a great indicator of potential fit. “By successfully completing this portion of the recruiting process, they’ve also demonstrated they are committed to learning and able to follow through on deadlines,” notes Schneider.

At the end of this phase, you’ll have a short list of highly qualified candidates.

Phase 3: Select

The final leg of the recruiting journey involves a behavioral assessment and one or more interviews.

Schneider says, “You would never hire job candidates without interviewing them. The same is true for a Learn-To-Code program. You want to determine fit and commitment. Really think about the engineering culture that candidates will be going into after the reskilling program.”

Involve a variety of people in the interview process—software engineers, managers, people on the program team and at least one professional recruiter. If you get green lights from these interviewers, you likely have the right candidate for your program.

Because a Learn-To-Code program represents a dramatic career shift for many candidates, consider building in a grace period for opting out. Candidates can go through this extensive vetting process and think they understand what’s involved in the curriculum. But two weeks into the program, they realize, “This isn’t what I expected and it’s not for me.”

Accepting a spot in a Learn-To-Code program represents a big change for the candidate. While no one wants to see attrition, employers need to plan for this contingency.

Knowing there’s an option to bow out without penalty by a specific date can make the decision process easier. An opt-out provision helps reduce the fear factor and stress involved in making a career leap.

Things to keep in mind when recruiting for a Learn-To-Code program

“Allow more time than you think you need for each step in the recruiting and selection process,” advises Freedman. “Make sure to build in time to review the results of each phase with your selection committee.”

Even if you have a compressed schedule, resist the temptation to take shortcuts. You want to get the most from your reskilling investment, and this requires having the right candidates in your program. You want people who will stay with the program through graduation and become full contributors to your software projects.

Though recruiting for Learn-To-Code programs is a challenge, it becomes easier over time as you refine your process. Many employers are now utilizing this type of reskilling program to create a dependable candidate pipeline for upcoming projects.

For more information on reskilling non-technical talent for software development and IT roles, email info@developintelligence.com

Photo credit: istock.com/Svetlana_Mokrova

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Insourcing: 8 reasons to fill your tech talent pipeline from within

April 21st, 2021

Insourcing: 8 reasons to fill your tech talent pipeline from within

This photo shows a yellow caterpillar with its shadow as a butterfly to signify growth. Insourcing talent gives employees opportunities for transformational growth.

“Insourcing” may be a trending term but the concept isn’t new. Akin to “internal promotions” and “internal transfers,” it refers to selecting from current employees to fill open positions. But organizations today aren’t just focused on moving a customer service representative from one department to another. An increasing number of employers are completely reskilling internal candidates, equipping them for radical career changes. Particularly, they are preparing non-technical employees to move into software development and IT roles.

What’s fueling this insourcing and reskilling trend?

There are eight common motivations for reskilling internal candidates:

1. Solve a tech talent shortage

In many regions, the demand for software developers outpaces the supply. The competition for talent is intense, making it hard to find a pool of applicants. Organizations are looking for innovative ways to fill staffing needs.

2. Create a dependable, predictable talent pipeline

If you know you’re going to need software developers by specific dates for upcoming projects, you can launch a formal insourcing or reskilling initiative so that you have the right skill sets available at the right time.

3. Staff mission-critical projects with invested employees

Internal candidates are a known quantity. You’ve had a chance to assess their work ethic and culture fit, as well as how they communicate and collaborate. They’ve already proven their commitment to your organization’s mission and values.

4. Retain and leverage institutional knowledge

Because current employees have a history with your company, they know things that new hires won’t. They understand the customer, as well as your products and services. And they’re familiar with:

  • Alternative processes
  • Where documentation exists
  • The history of decisions
  • Who to go to with questions
  • What’s been tried, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked
  • Why past projects failed or succeeded

This knowledge can translate to valuable contributions on software teams.

5. Offer a new career option to employees whose roles are phasing out

Some businesses are streamlining workflows and costs by automating functions previously done by employees. Rather than lay off dedicated team members, a growing number of organizations want to provide an attractive new career path for these individuals.

6. Counter competitive threats

It’s hard to stand out when so many companies are hiring. How do you retain top talent when recruiters are contacting them to discuss higher pay or better benefits? Insourcing and reskilling initiatives can be important elements in a retention strategy—a way to differentiate yourself from other employers. For many employees, your investment in their career growth is a powerful motivator to stay aboard.

7. Infuse a software team with deeper domain knowledge

Suppose you’re building a claim software system. A claim processor who has been a long-time end user of claim-related software can bring an important lens to your project. This person understands the workflow, stakeholders and the types of problems that crop up when processing a claim. Imagine having this expertise on your team when you’re eliciting software requirements. This detailed domain knowledge also can help with spotting opportunities and flaws in the architecture and code. And you’ll get priceless input during testing and deployment.

8. Expand a team’s perspective

How do you help a software team gain a “voice of the customer” perspective if they are not in direct contact with customers? Have you considered reskilling a rockstar customer service representative for a software development role? Insourcing provides a great avenue for cross-pollinating teams. Someone from a non-technical background will think about software projects in a different way, which can lead to new ideas for features and functionality. This person can help expand a team’s knowledge and improve the products and services you are providing to your customers.

If you’re interested in exploring insourcing and reskilling in more depth, Pluralsight and DevelopIntelligence recently hosted a webinar on this topic. It’s available without charge in two formats: video and podcast. Also, check out this blog post. If you have additional questions, please reach out.

Image credit: istock.com/wildpixel

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