Top 5 IT Recruitment Challenges (and How to Overcome Them!)

The best techs continue to be hard to find and slippery to catch. As of June 2019 there were 700,000 unfilled tech jobs in the US (CNBC). In the six months since, it has become increasingly difficult to find qualified personnel to fill IT positions. 

As part of our ongoing search for ways to help tech recruiters, we surveyed over 20,000 developers and HR pros from all over the world. We discovered much about developers from our 2020 survey, and were able to use what we learned to draft a list of tech recruiters’ greatest challenges:

  1. Finding qualified candidates (74%)
  2. Aligning with hiring managers’ demands/job requirements (46%)
  3. Recruiting within tight time frames (37%)
  4. Identifying potential even if candidates don’t have the perfect matching skill set on paper (35%)
  5. Standing out from other companies to attract talent (34%)

> Oh, by the way, we’ve put all of our articles and resources on how to find and hire developers here. <

A survey is only useful if you can leverage the data to your advantage, so we’d like to offer some top tips to tech recruiters for overcoming each of these 5 top IT recruitment challenges. Let’s break it down by challenge:

1. Finding qualified candidates (74%)

What’s the problem? 

The IT field is increasing more rapidly than the number of qualified developers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 1.4 million computer science-related jobs will be open in 2020, with only 400,000 candidates with computer science degrees available to fulfill these positions. This is partially because there aren’t enough candidates trained in the tech field to keep up with increasing demands for skilled tech talents, and partly due to a lack of the requisite soft skills, experience, and formal education.

Top tips:

  • Remove IT degree requirements

Removing the associate’s or 4-year-degree requirement opens the field to a huge number of possible applicants, many of whom may be well qualified for your needs. 

Traditionally, companies tend to require either a degree or some other form of certification for skilled positions. However, particularly with tech jobs, companies are increasingly turning to internal training and nontraditional candidates to fill tech positions. 

While many developers do have formal credentials (out of the developers we surveyed, 28% held master’s degrees, 27% held bachelor’s degrees, and 21% had a two- or three-year higher education qualification), it is by no means the only path to becoming a qualified tech. 

  • Consider non-traditionally educated developers

Our survey revealed that over 35% of developers consider themselves to be self-taught. These individuals did not learn their qualifying skills by attending a collegiate program, yet are working as developers today.

  • Broaden your search for candidates

Employ multi channel recruitment strategies to look for qualified techs in the right places. If you’re simply posting your job description and waiting for candidates to flock to you, you may never find “the one”. Let’s look at a few facts (from

71% of companies find talent through employee referrals and internal hiring

65% of companies use LinkedIn

56% of companies use Indeed

These are excellent methods for finding candidates, but you shouldn’t stop there.

Some of the best developers can be found through hackathons or coding contests such as those held by CodinGame. Or, you might find your ideal candidate on a less known developer-specific job board such as ITJobPro or BlablaDev. 

YouTuber and ex-Google developer Elliot Waite explains CodinGame’s Clash of Code
  • Pursue passive candidates

According to LinkedIn, 70% of the world’s workforce is comprised of passive talent—people who are not actively seeking a job. Yet many of these passive employees would be willing to consider changing jobs, if a job that appealed more to them were to be offered. 

It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a higher paying job—today’s tech employees value highly workplace culture, ability to work from home or on a project that greatly interests them, and opportunities for training/advancement. There are lots of perks that can be thrown into a job offer to make it appealing to an individual.

  • Attract candidates with good marketing

Potential applicants may be checking out your workplace unbeknownst to you. LinkedIn claims that 49% of all employees follow social media to watch for openings with companies that interest them. It is important to maintain current, accurate job descriptions on your company website, advertise special career events your company holds or participates in, post openings in college newsletters, professional developer forums, etc. 

A positive company brand attracts job seekers, but it doesn’t happen “effortlessly”—you have to actively market your company by creating and dispensing media demonstrating a desirable workplace that people would want to become a part of.

2. Aligning with hiring managers’ demands/job requirements (46%)

What’s the problem?

Hiring managers and recruiters are not always on the same page. Both generally agree that the quality of skills and a candidate’s fit into a tech team’s culture are of utmost importance. 

However, some inconsistencies can make collaboration tricky.

For example, it’s important for tech recruiters to close positions quickly, to keep up with hiring targets. While hiring managers are/can be more interested in finding the perfect fit, even if it takes longer.

Both parties need to work together so that the recruiter is armed with the necessary information to help him or her to find a hire with the right qualifications (to make the hiring manager happy) in the shortest time frame possible (to make the recruiter happy).

colleagues working and smiling together
Happy hiring manager, happy recruiter. Happy recruiter, happy hiring manager!

Top tips:  

  • Make sure the required skill set is crystal clear

Would you expect a valid medical diagnosis from your local baker? Or would you head straight to your doctor?

HR managers and recruiters are often expected to create a technical job description without any input from a hiring manager. However, a description needs to be accurate to get the right “treatment”: a candidate whose skills match a very specific diagnosis.

Basically, it’s important for the hiring manager to let the recruiter know what technical skills are needed in the new hire. When the hiring manager and the recruiter agree on exactly what soft and technical skills are needed in a new hire, the recruiter is better equipped to find a candidate that will fulfill those expectations.

  • Separate what you MUST have from what you’d LIKE to get for the position

The key to a good hire is working together with your hiring manager and applying his or her input to create a realistic description of what the job should entail.

The tech hiring manager may want more in a candidate than you are able to deliver for the salary you can offer. Find out, for example, whether it’s more important to hire for experience or for good technical aptitude with the ability to fit in with the tech team and learn on the fly. Once you’ve determined the skills and experience level needed, try to reach an agreement on a suitable salary for the candidate who meets these expectations.

  • Review the interview process with the tech hiring manager

Traditional interviews may not ascertain whether tech candidates have the qualifications you are looking for. Discuss with your hiring manager the most effective ways to discover the best candidate through the interview process. Reach an agreement about how the interview process will be conducted. Make sure everyone involved knows the type of questions that need to be asked, and the most important qualities you are looking for. After the discussion, summarize how the interview process will be conducted and send a copy to the hiring manager and anybody else who might be involved to ensure that everyone understands what needs to transpire and is on the same page. 

  • Keep in touch with the hiring manager

Stay in touch with your hiring manager throughout the entire hiring process to ensure that your goals remain aligned and that you are on the right track for meeting his or her needs in a new hire. They know best what they need, and you know best how to get it, so if you know exactly what they are looking for, you can find the perfect candidate for the position! (It’s not always that easy, we know but, in you we trust!). 

3. Recruiting within tight time frames (37%)

What’s the problem? 

The early bird gets the worm.”  

In other words, the first company to hire gets the best candidate. Indeed, Robert Half found that 57% of job seekers are impatient: if the hiring process takes too long, they move on to something else. 

Top tip:

  • Set a “hire by” date and speed up your process

Don’t let your company dally too long and lose the best candidates. Keep the time from job opening to hire short, and keep the candidate updated throughout the process. 

Pursue all available avenues to find the best candidates, as fast as possible—LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, Hackathons, coding contests, social media, etc.

Also, parse resumes automatically with ATS—but ensure a good job description and accurate keywords are in place! You may not have time to review all the resumes yourself, but don’t miss out on candidates by not defining ATS parameters well. 

Skill assessments, such as online coding challenges and tests, can also speed up your recruitment process and keep your “time to hire” down. By sending an automated test to every candidate, you’re able to spend time on those who were able to put their skills where their mouth is.

Finally, setting a date will encourage you to track your actions and progress, so you’ll be aware of time ticking by and less likely to leave applications “gathering dust in the drawer.”

4. Identifying potential even if candidates don’t have the perfect matching skill set on paper (35%) 

What’s the problem? 

Many candidates have the degree and/or look great on paper but don’t have the savvy or experience to solve real-world coding problems. On the other hand, candidates without traditional credentials or a plethora of professional experience may be the most qualified candidates for your opening.

Our survey found that almost 25% of developers entered computer programming from other fields—10% from completely unrelated fields, and almost 14% from other science fields such as math, chemistry, etc. In other words, one-fourth of today’s professional developers’ paperwork would not reflect formal educational credentials.

So how can you tell what they can do from a standard application?

Top tips: 

  • Screen candidates with tests and challenges

Use technical tests and challenges/games to assess an applicant’s technical skills. Make these a standard part of your recruitment process.

Test your candidates with hands-on assessment tests that give them an opportunity to highlight their skills with real coding questions. Video interviews can also be a great support for technical assessment, allowing you to observe how candidates handle themselves and the problem in real world situations, compare candidate solution times, evaluate the quality and innovativeness of their solutions and their capacity to communicate and exchange ideas.

  • Consider non-professional experience in your “X Years’ Experience Required” qualifier

In our survey, 35% of coders considered themselves self-taught.

When these coders enter the market as developers, they have no official quantifiable experience, yet job descriptions often require 3-5 years’ professional experience or some sort of qualifying credentials. These developers have likely been coding since their teens, winning contests, participating in Hackathons, and gaining skill through exercises such as coding games. They may well be more qualified for your needs than traditionally trained candidates who can perform all the book drills but have no experience winging it on their own.

  • Create a pre-interview project

Many companies are embracing this technique. Give all your candidates a real coding problem your company has already had to solve. During their interview, they can provide you with their solution and explain how and why they derived their answer. This can give you good insight into their ability and their approach to solving problems. 

You can do this via testing platforms such as CodinGame Assessment (we’ve developed a “project question” feature, where you can upload necessary documents for candidates, who can then download the project, work on it in their own environment, and submit their solution).

5. Standing out from other companies to attract talent (34%)

red tulip standing out
The competition is fierce. How can you stand out as an employer?

What’s the problem? 

Because there are currently more tech jobs available than IT job seekers, companies find themselves in the position of having to compete for the top candidates. No longer does an applicant have to take the first job they find—they now have the luxury of choosing the company offering the most appealing job. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to position yourself among the most attractive companies to work for.

Top tips: 

  • Build/improve/maintain a positive company brand

Your company culture and employer branding is key to winning the battle for the top candidates. With a strong, positive brand you will be able to attract the candidates who are most attractive to you!

LinkedIn found that 75% of people who are looking for a job consider an employer’s brand before deciding to apply.

Leverage social media to demonstrate transparency and highlight your company culture. Share photos, videos and stories of your employees enjoying their job or company events; advertise training and advancement opportunities—push them through your company’s Facebook Group, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn page—any social media outlet where potential job seekers might be following your company. 

Host meetups, workshops, and hackathons, and invite outside participants—techies may participate for fun, and then be drawn into your company through their positive experience and association with existing employees. After all, remember that 92% of employed individuals would consider leaving their current job for a company with an outstanding employer brand.

Maintain and promote your career site and a company blog. Another opportunity to interest potential hires through engaging content.

  • Seek employee referrals 

What speaks better for your company than the fact that people who work there would recommend you as a workplace for their friends? At the same time, they are giving you great leads to pursue. It also tells your employees that you value their opinion, which builds community and is a strong motivator for hard work.

  • Offer work from home/flexible hour options 

The option to work from home is a huge draw for many tech employees. In many cases, when it comes down to choosing between two companies, it’s a deal breaker. If your company can’t offer work from home options, at least offer the option for some flexibility in the work schedule.

  • Offer the highest salary possible.

In our 2019 Tech Recruiting Survey Report, salary was number one in the top three job considerations for a developer (75.18%). Given a choice of two top-branded companies, salary will likely be the deciding factor. But don’t despair! If you can’t compete with top salaries, company culture, job flexibility and the right job challenge provide strong appeal for individuals who can afford to choose contentment over capital.

Today’s job market is not the market of yesteryear, and recruiters can no longer sit with their feet propped on their desk waiting for candidates to come begging for a job. When it comes down to it, it takes a lot of hard work to find and win the top candidates.

The above tips we’ve shared are by no means a complete listing, but will hopefully give you some ideas and starting points if you feel you are not getting the quality of hires you need to propel your company forward and build your company brand.

Good luck!


There’s a better way to test coding skills.

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Nathalie Morris

Nathalie Morris

Nathalie is CodinGame for Work’s content manager. When she's not busy creating quality content for HR pros, chances are she’s watching Friends, baking, or snuggling her little grey cat, Moon.