#TalentQA | 4 min read
The latest in our #TalentQA series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Senior Tech Recruiter at Google, Amy Miller.
Drawing on her experience of recruiting technical candidates for this prolific business, Amy reflects on the changes she has seen on the side of talent acquisition, the unique challenges of engaging technical talent, and how she navigates these changes in her role at Google today.
Third Republic (TR): How have you seen talent acquisition change throughout your time in the industry?
Amy Miller (AM): I wouldn't say it’s gotten harder, but it’s definitely more complex. When I think back to the late 90s, when my career in recruitment started, we were still filling out paper applications and running paper ads - now everything is online.
Being online has made it easier to connect with people, because there are so many avenues to go down, but it has also removed a lot of the personal aspect of talent acquisition.
So, what I think has changed the most, is that now we, as professionals, need to work harder at keeping the whole process human.
TR: You mention it being easier to connect with people - with this in mind, how have you seen candidate behaviour change during this time?
AM: When you think about how we behave in general with each other these days, it’s so much easier to hide behind the anonymity of the internet. People can say some really terrible things about companies.
I think this has opened the door for people to have less regard for what they’re saying, including candidates – and so it comes back again to keeping talent acquisition human.
I also think that candidates’ expectations of what we can do for them, and what our job is, is becoming increasingly misunderstood because of the influx of information across the internet. When you couple this with the ability to be anonymous, I think we’re seeing candidates who have less regard for talent acquisition professionals and the process.
TR: Taking this lack of regard into consideration, would you say we are now working in a candidate-driven market?
AM: I would say yes, but I would caveat that by saying that this is only the case in certain areas. For instance, in tech for sure. I’ve been in tech for 10 years, and it’s definitely one of the tighter markets out there, but there are other roles where the trend is going in the opposite direction.
It really depends on the industry you’re in, but in the tech industry I am definitely seeing candidates who are getting multiple offers etc. So yes, the power is very much in their hands.
TR: Do you believe that tech candidates are harder to source and engage now, as a result of these shifts?
AM: I think that people are easy to find, but harder to engage. Specifically, in regard to tech candidates. The folks I talk to are pretty available on the likes of LinkedIn and Github, so it’s not that we can’t find them, it’s just that it’s increasingly difficult to deliver a message that will get their attention.
It’s the paradox of having to cast a wide net but finding that balance between reaching out to enough people and also making sure that your message is worth a response. Half of the job does come down to dumb luck in that respect; if a candidate is not mentally ready to engage, they won’t respond to a message even if it’s incredible, but if you get a candidate who is having a bad day, they might reply to a more generic approach.
Despite this, a huge part of the role is still about giving these candidates a reason to engage with you, because the engagement piece is definitely becoming more difficult.
TR: Do you think this lack of desire to engage is due to the influx of messages being received by these technical candidates.
AM: Yes! These high-demand candidates definitely have recruiter fatigue; most of them will be receiving something like 17 InMail’s in one day, all of which look the same, and it’s becoming exhausting for the individuals on the receiving end.
TR: How do you overcome this challenge at Google?
AM: Some people presume that, because it’s Google we don’t struggle, but we have to fight against the likes of Apple, Tesla and Facebook so it’s definitely not a walk in the park!
I lead with wanting to understand what gets people excited, and then present a specific business problem I am trying to solve, and then assess whether the answers resonate.
For me, it’s all about trying to instigate an emotional response. It doesn’t make sense for me not to be transparent and tell them about an open opportunity, but it’s about balancing that with being mindful of what they want to hear and what will excite them personally.
TR: We’ve heard more and more that the candidate experience is now key to talent acquisition. Have you found this to be the case, even when working for household names like Google?
AM: It’s as important, if not more important, when working for a brand like this. The thing with any large company is that, if you screw up, everyone is going to hear about it.
I don’t want to say it’s a fear, but as a representative of the company I have to be on my game, because if you provide a terrible experience, to the wrong candidate, on the wrong day, then it tends to end up all over the internet.
TR: Looking forward, do you think the rise in digital and technology will continue to influence and alter the industry?
AM: I think that certain repeatable, scalable things will become more automated - like a technical review. A lot of technical interviews involve a senior engineer asking to write a specific piece of code and providing feedback on this, but I could see a future in which a lot of that process is automated.
In line with this, I do see there being a move away from the people aspect in some areas of the industry, but I think this will make retaining the human element even more important.
Recruiters will become even more critical because you’re dealing with keeping people warm, engaged and happy, but the repeatable stuff will go towards AI tools and technologies.
TR:What other emerging trends are you seeing in the talent acquisition industry?
AM: I see a lot of focus on certain recruiters being highly technical - sourcers who code etc. and solid recruiters who are going deep into the technical aspects. I think we will see more of this and, in turn, I think it will create two distinct streams of talent acquisition.
There will be the sourcers, and the front-line candidate generation individuals who bring people in, and then those who sit on the closing-end and who manage talent with a more relationship-based approach. Both parties will be key to the talent acquisition structure but will be separate but very much equal.
TR: Finally, speaking of maintaining that human element, do you think we going back to relationship building recruitment?
AM: Yes, even though your relationship with a candidate can be short-lived, it really is about building those relationships, and having intense and personal bonds – even though it is only over the space of several weeks.