Looking for Tech Talent? Why it’s Time for Execs to Ditch the Resume

If companies want to find the best tech talent, they need to look beyond the traditional resume pedigree. Enter the self-taught developer.

With tech startups and large enterprise companies actively seeking top tech talent, in 2017 it can be challenging to recruit for software engineers, developers, and other technical roles.

Yet, according to Indeed.com, employers are boxing themselves in, limiting the applicant pool. For example, despite the fact that 86 percent of hiring managers in large companies say finding people to fill technical roles is a major challenge, one in four recruiters still consider an Ivy League degree as “critical” to their evaluation process. And while those with an impressive curriculum vitae (CV) may have excellent qualifications, there are many paths to developing an excellent tech skill set.

Below is a different way to think about hiring for technical roles in 2018 and why it may be time for executives to ditch the resume.

An Alternative School of Thought

Stack Overflow’s 2016 developer survey found that 69 percent of developers consider themselves partially or wholly self-taught. What’s more, fewer than half of surveyed developers hold a formal degree in computer science.

Developers today follow many paths to learn their craft—not just traditional university degrees. This is in part due to the incredibly high cost of bachelor degree programs, which average more than $36,000 per year at public universities, and nearly $49,000 at private schools. Bootcamps, on the other hand, typically range from $5,000 to $21,000 in total, according to Course Report.

Another way developers are seeking alternative education routes is through massive open online courses (MOOCs) or participating in a microdegree—a set of online courses that include a capstone project designed by a tech company and training offered by top universities.

According to the Stack Overflow survey, those who “learn on their own” typically earn as much as traditionally-educated programmers, and have no trouble finding work.

The Paradox of the Self-Taught Developer

For recruitment experts like Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder of HackerRank, a recruiting platform for developers, clinging to the outdated notion that good talent only comes from elite universities makes it impossible for companies to fill critical, technical roles. It also pushes companies to overlook some of the most capable talent.

“We are drawn to people who are like us,” Ravisankar told Workforce Management Magazine this past January. Yet unconscious bias can impact hiring decisions, leading managers to dismiss skilled candidates in preference for someone with more familiar academic backgrounds. For Ravisankar, once companies let go of their academic bias, they often discover a broader pool of talent with surprising skills.

In the article, Ravisankar shared the story of a former dishwasher who taught himself to code, but couldn’t land a job because of his unconventional career path. Once he was able to prove himself in a coding challenge, he immediately landed a role at VMware.

“It’s a great example of someone who was repeatedly rejected in every resume screen but now works for a Fortune 500 company,” Ravisankar said.

Capitalizing on the Developer Pool

In order for companies to capitalize on this recruitment pool, they will have to rethink their recruitment criteria. To begin this process, Ravisankar encourages companies to focus on real, measurable skills, not academic pedigree or resume history.

Companies like HackerRank and Geektastic, for instance, use coding challenges to test candidates’ actual skills, allowing the best coders to sift to the top regardless of how they learned their trade.

Github is another great source for finding tech talent. The hosting service for software development projects acts as a community for developers to work together. Any recruiter can browse repositories and find thousands of potential technical candidates actively collaborating—and who many be looking for a full-time job.

If companies want to find the necessary talent to meet their IT goals, they need to look beyond the traditional resume pedigree. When companies base hiring decisions on ability rather than CV they can eliminate unconscious bias, and find the best talent for the job.