IT hiring: Why your tech stack matters

Hiring top talent in today's market takes strategy. Assembling a compelling, cutting-edge tech stack can make a big difference
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The stock market can rise and fall; a pandemic can overtake the globe; overall employment rates can fluctuate wildly – but one thing will stay the same: the demand for tech talent.

Over the last decade – and especially in the last few years – the tech sector has shown itself to be curiously invulnerable to wider trends in employment. Unemployment in the sector has hovered at around 2 percent, even with the recent layoffs and much to the frustration of recruiters, who work tirelessly to secure top talent in an ultra-competitive field.

Accordingly, the usual perks employers use to lure in high-quality candidates – say, lax remote work policies, employee perks, salary, and benefits – are less effective when it comes to recruiting tech candidates.

Tech candidates, after all, are an unusual breed. Often, their main interest when seeking a new job is whether that job will present challenges unique and interesting enough to hold their attention and expand their skill sets.

[ Also read Why inflation should not stop IT hiring. ]

I can say with confidence that often means one thing: an innovative tech stack. Build one of those – and promote it properly – and you’ll find that the often-disheartening task of finding qualified engineers gets a whole lot easier.

Why your tech stack matters

Let’s start with a quick definition of what a tech stack is.

Essentially, a tech stack is a group of technologies that work together to create your product. Primarily this means the different coding languages used for your front-end and back-end, as well as various frameworks companies can use to simplify the process of developing and deploying code. The list of coding languages companies can use is endless – and the ones they end up using can be hugely consequential when it comes to recruitment.

Let’s say you’re looking to hire an engineer with 5-10 years of experience. You’re having trouble: you’ve tracked down some compelling candidates, but they all seem to have 20+ years of experience and concomitant salary demands.

Engineers are looking for new challenges – as a breed, they're vanguard-oriented, always looking to master the latest technology.

Usually, there’s a simple explanation: The technologies that make up your tech stack are too old.

If you’re using outdated coding languages, you’re going to struggle to find newly graduated candidates. Again, engineers are looking for new challenges – as a breed, they’re vanguard-oriented, always looking to master the latest technology. They want to feel like they’re stretching themselves, learning something new – for the sake of learning, and to advance down the line at whatever company they end up working for (or perhaps more often, to burnish their resume for the next gig).

Of course, changing your company’s tech stack isn’t cheap. But it’s worth looking at it as an investment that will give you a leg up over your competitors and make recruitment less of a burden.

Once you’ve got an innovative tech stack, promote it

If you work in or around tech, you know that engineers don’t respond to job listings – they need to be actively recruited. And they are – endlessly, day in and day out, to the point that the recruitment emails start to feel like white noise or (worse) obnoxious spam.

[ Related read: A day in the life of a software developer ]

In a competitive environment like that, differentiation is essential. You want to become an employer of choice – a company people are excited to potentially work for.

Assembling a compelling, cutting-edge tech stack is an important part of that process. So is talking to your current team about what makes your tech stack so exciting and distilling their answers for public consumption. But promoting that tech stack might be the most important part.

You’ve invested in changing it – now make sure people know it exists

That means becoming active on open-source platforms, forums, and developer communities and posting about your tech stack to social media and brand websites. It means attending relevant meetups and bringing it up consistently there.

It also means centering your tech stack at every part of the application process. Include it in job descriptions. Mention it when you reach out to potential candidates (but only if it relates to their skillset – someone whose core language is Java will get annoyed if you reach out about, for instance, a Python job). Bring it up during the interview process, and even give the candidate the opportunity to collaborate with the team and solve a real challenge with the stack.

Once the message is out there – once potential hires start to recognize that your company is committed to the cutting-edge and can offer challenges they might not find elsewhere – you’ll find that the recruitment process starts to get a lot less difficult.

That’s the power of an innovative tech stack.

[ Check out essential career advice from 37 award-winning CIOs! Get a variety of insights on leadership, strategy, and career development from IT executives at Mayo Clinic, Dow, Aflac, Liberty Mutual, Nordstrom, and more: Ebook: 37 award-winning CIOs share essential IT career advice. ]

Nancy Drees is the founder and CEO of Vacaré Group. Nancy’s vision for Vacaré Group was and continues to be designed to improve the outsourced recruiting experience for companies by becoming a partner to their clients.