4 ways scaleups can compete with the tech giants for talent


Tech recruitment is hotter than ever before. There are two main drivers for this surge in demand; the requirement for more digital products and services from digitally native businesses and digital transformation from organisations which are trying to keep up in a changing market. In an economy with largely rising unemployment, there are currently more tech roles than suitable applicants. If you read UKTN daily you can see the millions invested in tech growth, with the UK receiving a record $15bn in venture capital funding. So, if you’re a tech scaleup right now one of the biggest limitations to growth will likely be finding talent.

But the world of work has changed significantly too and is unrecognisable compared to a year ago. How, without offices, and with the growth of the Open Talent Economy (where businesses can hire remote staff from any location), do high growth tech companies differentiate themselves in order to hire the best people for their business and ensure they don’t lose out on the larger tech companies with deeper pockets?

Here are four areas where hiring talent is changing and traditional recruitment likely to need a re-think:

1) Think of Talent Acquisition as part of your brand strategy – use new tools to brand your recruitment campaigns

In a world where employer reputation is becoming increasingly visible—through social media and an ever-growing choice of online resources—Employer Brand and an engaging culture have become vital considerations, especially for those applicants who now find themselves in demand in a fiercely competitive employment market. Defining and mapping every touchpoint to the candidate market is an essential step to showing why you’re the organisation for the best tech candidates. Company culture and values now matter to candidates more than ever. Recent research by experts has shown that many of the best young applicants make important decisions based upon the social responsibility of an employer, you have to stand for something to appeal to younger applicants.

2) Experiment with different recruitment strategies – recruitment doesn’t mean just LinkedIn and Indeed anymore

Methods such as contingent based recruitment simply don’t deliver the results that are required. With competition for top tech talent on the increase, now is the time to adopt a recruitment mindset of experimentation that echoes the same innovation seen in software development. Work with new strategies and innovate fresh ways of attracting talent. Scaling tactics that don’t work well won’t bring in results: it’s not enough to just do more of the same if  Returns are already diminishing.

Sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed can only go so far in that they exclusively target the active candidate market. For example, when demand for software developers is so high, only 20% of the talent pool may be actively looking for a job – using an intelligently designed recruitment strategy can get reach out to a network of passive candidates who may not realise the benefits of new roles may bring to them and their career. Consider non-recruitment consumer-based, advertising channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Google and even TikTok. These platforms have sophisticated targeting engines which can identify candidates based on skills. Employer branding is again important to consider, to create campaigns that will live in the media and be an authentic reflection of who you are as an employer. It’s easy to set up advertising experiments on these consumer-based platforms, you can segment messaging to determine which recruitment messages will work best to specific subsections of candidates.

3) Flexible working – smaller teams mean more flexible roles – and more acknowledgement

The challenges facing scaleups when competing for new talent against the budgets of the tech giants are considerable. However, whilst larger organisations possess almost limitless resources to target prospective employees, increasing expectation to work more flexibly (accelerated by the COVID crisis) has presented smaller companies with more of a level playing field. A smaller work environment and workforce increase the likelihood of collaboration and familiarity with other staff in other departments, including more senior management. In turn, increasing the impact of employee voices and their chance of shaping the organisation.

After all, the advantages of working with a successful scaleup present many opportunities; more flexible hierarchical structures, increased chances of promotion and an opportunity to broaden key skills. Employees are also offered the chance to effectively input and influence the development of the company and carry with it their own career trajectories.

4) The red herrings of recruitment technology – building out your toolset

Recruitment innovation should be treated with the same test and learn the method as product development; your recruitment technology should mirror your marketing technology stack. From data capture, to retargeting, to email automation, the similarities in the marketing toolset can inform how to build out your recruitment solution too.

Be efficient in targeting solutions to the challenges you face: the technology implemented needs to work harmoniously. It’s unlikely that you’ll find one system which can fulfil all of your recruitment needs. Instead, you may need to consider collaborating with marketing for the best combination of tech sets from web analytics platforms to email-based CRMs. It’s important that these services connect for an effective digital recruitment strategy.

It’s vital to draw out a road map towards the solution, one that takes into account future plans for recruitment and then sources the technology that brings this to fruition. There simply isn’t an out-of-the-box one-stop solution that ticks all the boxes – keep it simple but keep it focussed.

As a tech innovator, you know what differentiation means, and as a leader, you know what values your company stands for. Recruitment today is all about the message, medium and candidate experience; it is a combination of these elements that will help you to compete with larger scale tech companies in the fight for tech talent. In a saturated talent market, you may have to borrow some elements from marketing as well as using traditional recruitment methods to stand out to tech talent. It’s all about thinking creatively, experimenting and drawing upon what makes your business unique. Remember: there are more similarities in product development and intelligent recruitment than may be initially evident.

Scaleups need the talent as well as the tech to compete – one without the other puts a stop to innovation across the business. Apply a similar thought process to your product development to help you attract the best talent, rethink and revolutionise your recruitment strategies.