Technical Expertise of IT Recruiters

About the term “Speaking Developish”

Let me start by saying, that we created the term “Speaking Developish” and also have some keen observations on the “technical literacy” of IT recruiters.

We defined “Speaking Developish” here:

Speaking Developish  – … … is a recruiter’s ability to read resumes and vacancies, understand developers and talk to them. We are deeply convinced, that it requires both technical knowledge and an understanding of IT business and the IT industry (global and regional markets).

By using this term we have set a broad range of IT-knowledge, referring to different areas of IT-industry. We summarized our observations, and experience of IT recruiters’ expertise, and outlined the stages of learning Developish in a pyramid structure:

Technical Expertise of IT Recruiters

Level 1 – Elementary

Basic IT-vocabulary, naturally mastered by beginners (during the first few months of work). Namely:

  • a large number of anglicisms in non-English language;
  • professional vocabulary (“CV”, “review/screening”, “long list”, “offer”, etc.);
  • terms and concepts, related to IT business and IT industry (types of companies, technical and non-technical roles and positions, job levels, etc.);

During this period, the recruiter gets their first dose of unfamiliar technical terms in resumes and job descriptions. However, since he is focused on basic IT-vocabulary and adaptation, mastering technical vocabulary is limited by memorizing new words. Pronunciation of technical terms can be difficult, and their spelling – nearly impossible.

Technical Expertise of IT Recruiters

Level 2 – Pre-Intermediate

Here the understanding of software development is added. The “Smokescreen” is fading away. The recruiter slowly starts understanding elements of software development and the role of each “cog” inside it. A separate area of IT projects’ knowledge is formed (subject area, development methodology, project stage, the concept of technical stack, management, team structure, product development, and project outsourcing specifics, etc.).

The recruiter works on lots of job openings and learns new technical terms. Key terms and bundles become structured and the recruiter classifies them according to the development area, building simple schemes of interconnection. He knows, that web and mobile are different areas of development. If it’s a web, then there should be a front end and a back end.

At this stage you can hear from the recruiter: “We have classic front – CSS, HTML, JavaScript”. He’s confidently using terms such as a library, framework, CMS, engine, etc. Though, not always understanding the difference. And without asking at all, how front end and back end really work and what exactly is hidden behind these abstractions (most recruiters on this level are unable to explain, what is “HTTP server”, “REST” or “API”).

Due to this superficial approach, the recruiter doesn’t have a “synonymous base” of technical terms – and doesn’t see any deeper linkage, than “programming language – framework”. He can persistently scan resumes of Unix admin for evidence that he knows Linux. He can ask candidates with deep ASP.NET expertise about his web experience. And he can even get upset because the candidate has some LAMP in his resume and no experience in PHP and MySQL.

This level is quite enough to compare a vacancy to a candidate’s profile (though, one wrong step could be a failure). Apparently, many recruiters stop at this level. Just because business and IT-teams don’t want more. Naturally assimilated information is enough to do the job at a certain level. And extra efforts to systematize knowledge and understand technologies in greater detail have no chance to appear.

However, there are those, who go further. Those who acquire knowledge and skills, that distinguish themselves from hundreds of other recruiters and give a serious competitive advantage.

Level 3 – Intermediate

This is the stage of streamlining and systematization of IT-knowledge. As well as discovering the true meaning of words, that just yesterday were lightly thrown around in presence of Honorable Senior Developers.

The key difference between Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate is not in learning new words, but, first of all, in a new understanding of already mastered technical vocabulary.

In our opinion, Middle-Senior recruiters are able to master a large amount of technical vocabulary at the level “Why is it necessary?” and “What technologies is it connected with?”. And this is quite enough to achieve the main goal of Speaking Developish: to talk to techies (candidates, customers, team leads, project teams) in a uniform manner and to understand technical concepts, terms, and their interrelations. It allows recruiters to communicate with candidates and internal customers, as well as to maintain high-level recruiting processes.

This stage clarifies basic concepts and principles of software development, universal for programming as a whole and also universal for its specific areas (web, mobile, desktop, embedded). The task is to rebuild the picture of software development based on a new understanding of technical terms classification. Before this stage, the recruiter had 2 dimensions of understanding: the term and the name of the development field where it belongs. Accordingly, the prospect was only two-dimensional.

For example, Nginx and Tomcat used to lie “on different shelves” in a recruiter’s mind, because they are always bundled with different programming languages. On the contrary, Mongo and PostgreSQL lay “on one shelf” – because both are databases.

With an understanding of terms’, purpose and functions, a recruiter starts organizing them in accordance with the newly discovered properties.

A recruiter understands, how microservice architecture differs from monolithic, why programmers should know, what OS is used on the project, what is cross-platform scripting and “nativeness”, how the framework differs from OS, engine and CMS, what development paradigm and interpreted languages are, etc.

Although a developer may hardly distinguish between level 2 and 3 recruiters (at the second level a recruiter can confidently recite the technical details of the project).

Is it worth the effort? Sure. For a recruiter, it means passing the milestone from “Seems” to “Be”. From “pretend” to “understand”.

Level 4 – Upper-Intermediate

The level of technical erudition. It is achieved when the following options are imposed on the fundamental base of the third level:

  • linguistic and instrumental diversity (awareness of new platforms, programming languages and related technologies, various development tools and DevOps practices);
  • – historical prism (knowing the evolution of development tools and the ability to recognize old/modern technologies regardless of the stack);
  • knowledge of hyping technologies and development trends – AI, ML, BigData, Microservices, etc.
  • understanding what technically complex project means, which algorithms are needed there, whether a mathematical background is needed, and where you cannot do without a Ph.D. in Computer Vision;

A recruiter is able to do an HR interview, that feels like a natural conversation, with questions on projects, experience, preferences and a candidate’s assessment of their past tasks and plans for the future. Here you can talk about “common language.”

At this level of training, candidates are not bored with you, they don’t treat the interview as a waste of time. And they see your value: you are able to understand, why the project was boring and slowed down development, what really fascinated the candidate, what projects they would like to engage in, and in what environment they would prefer to develop themselves.

Ideally, you can immediately promote your project to a candidate in their perspective – that won’t happen, and this is perfect, and in the future, they are planning to do the following…

The interview becomes a substantive dialogue. The recruiter is no longer trying to separate the candidate’s experience from his personality and conduct “soft skills” conversation, avoiding technical experience.

Level 5 – Advanced

The logical crown of Developish proficiency is the practice of coding. It is a deeper level of immersion, that opens up a new dimension of programming and adds another plane of understanding. Perhaps – the best consolidation of programming theory. After all, if you don’t work with concepts and constructions adopted in the process of your technical upgrading, they are simplified, lose consistency and trivialized… As in any other language. A recruiter needs constant practice to support it. Literally – to code, figuratively – to renew knowledge, continuing to increase his technical power.

When we talk about a minimal technical basis, we mean that the person has mastered the knowledge of the first two levels in our pyramid. Do we believe that it’s enough for a Middle+ IT recruiter, who strives to be professional? No. We believe that you can speak about IT literacy if the understanding of technical vocabulary is not lower than Intermediate. If everyone were to strive for that, the quality of Ukrainian recruiting could improve within this century. Okay, this decade 🙂

By the way, we’ve prepared a test of 10 short questions, that meet the Intermediate level. If you want to check your knowledge, the link is here.

We believe in you ❤

Julia Venger
Founder & Managing Partner at GUID