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7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips

The best coders are going to start ups and the Googles of the world. What can financial services recruiters do about it?

Among my many roles in my last full-time financial services position was serving as the school captain for our recruiting relationship with MIT. I went into the assignment naively assuming that it would be easy -- after all, we were a large, global financial services firm with a sterling reputation for the quality of our IT architecture and systems.

This notion was quickly dispelled in the first conversation I had with MIT's placement office: "One third of our students go on to graduate school. One third start their own businesses. And the rest want to work for Google or Facebook, not you."

What matters most in recruiting top talent is not what you think about your own firm; it is what the talent thinks about your firm. And lately, there are more opportunities than ever for developers, data scientists and innovators in other industries. In 2012 alone, New York City's tech/information sector (PDF) (not including financial services) added almost 11,000 jobs and $2 billion in additional wages.

[For more on the challenges financial firms face when it comes to finding technology talent, read: Good Luck Finding A Data Scientist.]

Beyond the statistics, these technologists and the new, innovative startups are all deeply imbedded in a creative culture that you are no really part of. Meetups offer free warm beer, cold pizza and deep technical talks to anyone who is interested. Speakers passionately describe the things they have delivered. The CTOs in these meetups recruit with the pitch "we need coders." And it works: the monthly Google meetup gets over 300 registrants within minutes of the announcement; the New York Tech meetup gets 800 registrants in even less time.

This new tech community is part of a larger fabric of urban innovators who believe they have the power to drive change across the political, cultural and economic fabric of our society. They express little interest in the traditional perks of a financial services career -- quick promotions, good bonuses and "masters of the universe” status. (So maybe it doesn't matter that those perks are themselves no longer guaranteed.)

So what can you do about it? Probably not a lot, but here are 7 suggestions for your next recruiting event:

1. Open your event to the community; don't assume you know where the talent is.
2. Emphasize your technology, not your company. Be humble.
3. Talk about what you have done, not what you plan to do.
4. Let the folks who deliver speak for you.
5. Come bearing food (and beer).
6. Lose the suits.
7. Useful swag counts.

At the end of the day, you are not going to win all of the great candidates. Nor are your competitors on Wall Street. But at least, you will be in the game. Jennifer L. Costley, Ph.D. is a scientifically-trained technologist with broad multidisciplinary experience in enterprise architecture, software development, line management and infrastructure operations, primarily (although not exclusively) in capital markets. She is also a ... View Full Bio

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Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
12/4/2013 | 3:06:57 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
Oh it's true! http://www.businessinsider.com... They also have scooters to travel from one end of the office to the other. Scooters! http://www.businessinsider.com... Wouldn't it be fantastic if CitiGroup, sponsor of the CitiBikes, had CitiScooters in their offices? Hard to imagine, isn't it?
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2013 | 9:49:45 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
Good point Jennifer. The competition for young IT talent is tough and this is pretty much the new normal. But financial institutions have been investing in IT for a long time and many of them have a lot to show for it. They just need to go out there and show it.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2013 | 9:48:01 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
If you think about how much thought is given to aesthetics in today's digital products it's not surprising that tech people would be picky about the design of the place they work in.
IvySchmerken
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IvySchmerken,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2013 | 5:18:49 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
So it's not just perks like free candy and pizza, but structural design can contribute to the sense of an innovative culture that is inviting to technologists.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2013 | 3:06:53 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
From what I've heard about Google's offices, I'd be happy to take a walking tour of the place. Rumor has it they have slides to get from floor to floor
IvySchmerken
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IvySchmerken,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2013 | 2:23:48 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
I heard recently that Google's New York building has a free candy machine for employees in the lobby, another sign of what financial services is up against.
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
12/3/2013 | 1:20:20 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
I think it is true that financial services is starting to do more to recruit younger IT talent, the problem is one of perception, as many of these younger workers may feel it's not "cool" to work for a bank. Only time will tell if that perception changes.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
12/2/2013 | 9:43:01 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
I hadn't heard of the FinTech Innovation Lab, but after checking out the site I think this is a good way to bring more fresh talent to financial services. Since it provides an opportunity for innovating and developing startups, it could easily appeal to the creative tech minds that aspire to work at Google or Facebook.
Jennifer Costley
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Jennifer Costley,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/2/2013 | 8:44:27 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
To respond to the comments that have been made, perhaps I painted too bleak a picture. There are some great efforts underway to bring together the industry and the startup community, for example the FinTech Innovation Lab (http://www.fintechinnovationla..., There is more innovation and opportunity in Financial Services than most candidates see in our recruiting process.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
12/2/2013 | 2:29:59 PM
re: 7 Tech Talent Recruitment Tips
You have some great ideas here, Jennifer. I agree with Ivy and Becca, it will be tough for financial services to compete for candidates while maintaining their traditional highbrow reputation. I think your 7 recruiting tips are useful, but firms may want to consider their overall culture if they want to keep talent. Free food and relaxed recruitment meetings may encourage more applicants for FS, but what will new hires do when they find out that corporate culture is so different from what it seemed?
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