How to compete for top tech talent in a tight Nashville job market

With vaccination numbers on the rise and restrictions being lifted across the nation, we finally seem to be emerging from some of the business uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we return to “normal,” business is looking up, and employers everywhere are on the hunt for amazing candidates to fill vital roles. The scramble to hire has created a frenzy in the hot Nashville job market, and Music City’s reputation as a growing tech hub has driven unprecedented high demand for top IT and tech talent. 

Nashville tech companies were struggling to find and hire the best talent even before the pandemic hit. Now that the recovery is underway, the Nashville market has seen an influx of tech professionals who are not only outstanding in their skills, but who also know their market value. This has led to even hotter competition among Nashville companies for the tech talent their organizations need. 

If you’re a hiring manager struggling to recruit top technology professionals for your company, you’re not alone. The culture shift and outlook of professionals has drastically changed since pre-COVID-19 times, so your recruiting strategy and hiring process probably need a tune up. 

Alex Naddell, Partner and Director of Vaco Nashville’s Technology Practice, has a few key tips on how to set your organization apart in Nashville’s tight job market.

Rethink your benefits package

For many employees, the pandemic brought a fundamental change in their feelings about going into an office everyday. The tech industry, in particular, has shown a widespread embrace of remote work that stretched back long before the pandemic even began. In an April 2021 report from US News (using data compiled from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics), 6 of the top 20 best jobs for remote workers were in the tech sector. 

In the post-pandemic hiring landscape, companies looking to recruit top tech professionals in Nashville must consider adding flexible work schedules and WFH policies to be competitive. By adding these benefits, you expand your pool of tech candidates tremendously, since these policies are not only widely desired, but often expected in the industry. You can still offer optional on-site work and encourage off-site team building, while providing certain team members with the option to be on-site daily. 

Another way to be competitive when recruiting tech talent is to update your paid time off (PTO) policy. Aggressive PTO policies or even unlimited PTO can be a highly attractive benefit for tech professionals who value work-life balance. And remember: if you hire the right talent, you won’t have to worry about them abusing such a policy.

Hire the type of people who get their work done and are self-accountable; this way, you can trust that projects will be completed, while also providing team members with time to unwind and enjoy themselves outside of work.

Finally, you could consider offering a pooled bonus or equity opportunity. If you can carve out a certain percentage, it fosters a team mentality and establishes a goal that employees can work towards together. This is also a way to save on salary if you allow equity buy in. This kind of program could be a unique differentiator between your company and others, and it gives the jobseeker the option to buy into the company from the beginning.

Invest in professional development

If you want your employees to perform at their best while also allowing your company to develop innovative ideas, consider promoting weekly research & development (R&D) time. Google was famous for this initiative when they required developers to spend a set amount of hours each week coming up with new ideas.

If a company is actively promoting R&D initiatives in their job descriptions and interview process, they can gain a clear advantage over other companies who don’t publicize their R&D pursuits. Instead of making the role all about production, allow your employees to have a seat at the table for future design sets.

To keep your business on the frontline, set aside money in the budget for training and conferences. Some tech companies go to South by Southwest (SXSW), Salesforce conventions, or tech conferences every year. Although you may have to exert more time and resources for initiatives like this, the tangible benefits borne out of these events can help your business down the road. These initiatives also communicate your company’s commitment to growth and innovation when it’s time to interview outstanding tech candidates.

In addition to conferences, invest in your employees’ continued professional development. If an employee wants to get certified or go back to school to add a degree, that can greatly enhance their role on your team. Whether it’s online tutorials, virtual training, or Nashville Software School, constant investment in your existing talent pool is a great asset in elevating your recruiting process and increasing employee retention.

During a hiring crunch, it’s easy to get lost in the urgency of filling the position. But you should remember that jobseekers are considering their long-term plans and goals and how the role fits into those goals. During the interview process, provide examples of growth and promotional opportunities from within, and ask candidates about their long-term goals to see if they align with your company’s vision for the future.

Yes, there can be clear pathways to moving up the ladder, but consider this: could there also be opportunities for employees to facilitate change within the company through training committees, education, or another aspect of the business?

If you can foster a culture of ensuring your employees have the access and resources they need to grow their careers, it can be very attractive to a job seeker.

Place your tech commitments front and center

Leading-edge technology is all the rage right now, so be sure to modernize your tech stack as soon as possible. In your job descriptions, make it clear and visible that you’re piloting new products or have plans to evolve in the near future. Otherwise, you’ll be left behind in the competition for talent because you won’t appeal to the best-of-breed developers who are looking to learn and grow their careers. 

Whatever your tech stack is, you want your brand to be connected to that. You can achieve this by becoming a thought leader, through publishing white papers and case studies relating to new technology and being involved in the tech community and user groups. This will lead to your company becoming synonymous with the technology at hand and candidates will automatically be attracted to your business if they associate you with that desired tech.

In addition to highlighting the tech being utilized in your company, elaborate on products being built and project-level details. Don’t just throw the acronyms out there; talk about and promote the actual products you are building and emphasize their impact on the business. When you’re hiring, these details with allow you to discuss a candidate’s value to the future of the company.

By showing a great tech candidate what they’ll be working on, you provide a direct connection between their role and how their contributions will move the needle for the company overall.

This can help a candidate see the bigger picture and understand the value proposition.

Showcase your company culture, mission, & values

A huge percentage of tech professionals are 35 years of age or younger, meaning a large portion of tech and IT candidates are Millennials or Generation Z. Both of these cohorts value company culture and social impact more than older generations, so it’s important to showcase your company’s values and culture during the recruiting and interview process. 

Discuss how your teams participate in offsite or virtual team building activities, and highlight employee engagement events that promote connectivity among your teams. 

Additionally, discuss how your company is involved in the community. Are there any charitable organizations that your business supports? If so, how do you support them (i.e. donations, charity events, volunteer hours, etc.)? Philanthropy is increasingly important to candidates as businesses stake their claims in their respective communities.

Another point of concern for jobseekers is diversity, equity, and inclusion within the companies they apply to, especially in light of recent social justice initiatives. More than ever, employees are holding businesses accountable for their stance on diversity and inclusion. 

How does your company support diversity, inclusion, and equity within your workforce and company culture? By taking a public stance, you can stand out to potential employees who want to work for a company with progressive initiatives in place. It’s one thing for your business to have a diversity and inclusion (D&I) plan, but you must be able to effectively discuss it with potential new hires for it to be believable.

In addition to showcasing your company’s culture and mission during the interview process, it’s imperative that you’re highlighting these on your company’s social media accounts as well. This way, you can find eligible recruits online who will actively come to you.

Detail the personalities of your team members and the innovations that are being pursued within the company. Having a strong social media presence will enhance your company’s reputation in the market, which in turn can lead to more job seekers wanting to work with you.

To find outstanding talent, make sure your company stands out

As you navigate the increasingly competitive technology labor force in the coming months, it’s important to focus on standing out and highlighting your company’s most attractive differentiators. If you find yourself struggling to relay this messaging to candidates during the interview process, Vaco can help you create an effective strategy—not only in communicating your unique value propositions, but also in finding, vetting, and hiring the top IT talent you need.  

Alex Naddell is a Managing Director and the Technology Practice Leader for Vaco’s Nashville office


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