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Hiring Developers – Thinking Outside the Box

With so many highly publicised companies doing great things, the IT sector is an attractive destination for many people. This is especially noticeable with development roles. The issue is that many of these people don’t have industry-specific experience, despite being passionate self-starters. These inexperienced but skilled candidates are a largely untapped part of the talent pool with a huge amount of potential.

Recently I’ve talked to a number of people, both in and outside the industry, who want to break into development but don’t have the required experience. Naturally, they’re in a catch 22 when it comes to finding a role. Employers don’t want to hire someone without industry experience, but people can’t get that experience without being hired.

With the current talent shortage, taking a second look at candidates can help you to uncover hidden gems and maintain a competitive advantage.

What to Look For

It’s understandable to want a candidate to have experience. Training and development is a costly exercise, and you want your new hire to hit the ground running as soon as possible. However, just because a candidate doesn’t have commercial experience, doesn’t mean they don’t have the technical skills. So, what should you be looking for when experience isn’t a factor?

With technology now so readily available, many people are picking up development as a hobby. Because of this, a vibrant community of hobbyist developers has formed, who are attending conferences and MeetUps and using GitHub and StackOverflow, to share their code with others and learn from each other. Just by working on their own projects and getting involved in the community, these people are building a portfolio for themselves that you can then use to assess their skills – as well as a network of people who can vouch for them.

When it comes to qualifications, keep in mind that it’s a tough ask for someone who relies on their full-time job to pursue a qualification in development. However, a university degree isn’t the only way for a candidate to credibly back up their skills. There are so many courses, such as those run by the likes of Udemy and even Google, that can teach those technical skills. Though a university programme will encompass a wider range of practices, the value of other courses can’t be written off.

Getting those certifications also talks to the candidate’s character. If someone is serious enough about development to devote time to getting certified, then that says a lot about their commitment and dedication. The same goes for working on projects in their spare time and getting involved in the industry community. When a candidate doesn’t have industry experience, making sure that their personality and attitude is right is essential. A willingness to learn and go the extra mile are valuable skills that you can’t teach.

Tapping into Hidden Talent

Now that you know how to identify this talent, the next step is to engage them. An important step here is to be open minded, and show them that you are willing to give them a chance. More often than not, these candidates are people who have something to prove and have the technical skills to back it up. Giving them that trust will motivate them to repay you in spades by working hard, going the extra mile and being loyal to the organisation.

Get your company involved in the community groups that these candidates are involved in and network. Just searching "development” on MeetUp throws up a number of results that are hotbeds for all kinds of development enthusiasts. By having a presence at industry events, you’ll be able to put your company at the forefront of these candidates’ minds, presenting yourself as an employer that has its finger on the pulse of the IT community. Another way to do this is to link up with a recruitment agency, as they have this kind of presence in the community and are often already attending these events. At OCG, we regularly attend and have networks within these communities, so we have a good idea on what these groups are doing.


If you’re confident that you’re able to onboard them effectively, thinking outside the box when it comes to engaging talented developers can reap huge rewards, and can keep your organisation ahead of the game. The technical skills are one thing, but a hard-working, dedicated attitude and a willingness to learn is another, and often are just as hard to find.

IT skills are only going to increase in demand as the world continues to digitalise, so that talent shortage isn’t going away. If you want to find out more about tapping into this kind of talent, feel free to get in touch.

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