Recruiters at Expedia, Microsoft, and elsewhere say LinkedIn reigns supreme for employee searches and new technology makes finding the right person easier than ever

Jonathan Kehoe, Expedia’s senior recruiting manager, remembers when recruiters would cold-call potential job candidates.

“Some of us older, crustier recruiters remember a time when picking up the phone was really the only way to connect with potential candidates,” he said. “Recruiters entering the field nowadays have many more options for engaging talent, thanks to the internet.”

Recruiting tech employees has, in theory, gotten a lot easier. Now, companies can get a feel for a person’s entire work history, and review portfolios and skills in one click. And more and more products are popping up to help recruiters and managers synthesize data to assess the hundreds of applicants many of them receive for each posted position. While the digital age of candidate searches seems like a double-edged sword — easily accessible candidate pools means hundreds of applicants to wade through — companies say they prefer it over the days described by Kehoe.

Putting the Word Out

By and large, social media — namely, LinkedIn — are the main avenues for seeking job candidates for many companies, said both Kehoe and Justin Thenutai, Microsoft’s senior director of global talent and acquisition. Each year, both mega-companies screen thousands of candidates globally to support growth demands in the insatiable tech market, and their job postings on LinkedIn get lots of traction, too.

Coding Dojo, a software-developer school with campuses nationwide, including one in Bellevue, is among the schools pumping out graduates to fill those jobs.

Stephany Faires, Coding Dojo’s director of career services, said 77 percent of graduates that go through the career-services program get a tech-related job within 90 days, 89 percent are hired in 120 days, and 94 percent are employed after six months.

Faires teaches students how to create LinkedIn profiles that are enticing, and that reveal a lot more than a paper résumé.

“I think (the digital age) gives more people an opportunity,” she said. “A résumé doesn’t tell you a whole lot, and when you apply for a job with just your résumé, we call it the résumé black hole. You don’t know if it’s going to be seen, and it can’t tell you much about a person. In the digital age, you can go onto LinkedIn and get more of a sense of a person. You can link to their portfolio. You have a lot more information right there at your fingertips.”

And though digital recruiting reigns supreme, that doesn’t mean in-person networking is dead. At Coding Dojo, Expedia, and Microsoft, it’s still a valued part of connecting with potential employees, and a unique way to show off company values.

On International Women’s Day in March, for example, Expedia hosted an event at its Seattle office geared toward female leaders in tech.

“Like many similar events we have hosted, this was an opportunity for us to showcase a lot of the exciting challenges found at Expedia, as well as a chance for folks from the tech community to get to know our employees and each other,” Kehoe said. “Recruiting isn’t all about trying to funnel people into an interview process. A large part of our job is to evangelize elements of Expedia’s culture, like our commitment to diversity, or to exhibit and discuss the cutting-edge technical challenges we are solving every day.”

Faires said in-person networking isn’t just in the interest of the employer. Recruiters and company representatives regularly visit Coding Dojo campuses, and they’re swarmed by students who want to engage with representatives and learn more about the employer.

The Hiring Conundrum

No matter the size of the company, most follow a similar path for finding candidates. Whittling down the candidate pool, or trying to find a place to start, is where most companies diverge.

Kehoe said Expedia uses behavioral-style interview techniques to assess how well candidates fit with the company.

“Often the best predictor of future performance is past performance,” he said. “To that end, we probe for specific examples of prior problem solving, working with team members, working through conflict, et cetera.”

Expedia also partners with Hirevue, which uses visual interviewing, assessment, and coaching to help “augment human decision-making” in the hiring process. Microsoft uses a similar approach, Thenutai said. The companies go beyond looking at technical skills, and instead try to find “common ground” with candidates, instead of ways they can rule them out. Microsoft wants to ensure the new employees are a good cultural fit, too.

But it’s difficult to do that in the first round of eliminations, or even the second. Kehoe said Expedia is looking for candidates who are “agile, self-sufficient, unflappable, and humble.” How do recruiters spot those qualities between the lines of a résumé or LinkedIn page?

Cue Vettd, a Bellevue startup created to solve that exact problem, which is among the many startups nationwide trying to ease the pain of hiring employees from a pool of hundreds of applicants.

Vettd founder Andrew Buhrmann said he wanted to eliminate opinion and get down to objective analysis when screening applicants in the early stages. The program his company developed searches application materials for language that supports what an employer is looking for. It’s nozt searching for key words, but rather that candidates are effectively describing their work experience and whether it relates to what a company is searching for.

For example, if a company is looking for someone who’s a strategic thinker, and a candidate explains that she consults with clients and recommends solutions, that’s a strategic thinker, Buhrmann said. The program then grades applicants on a curve and provides a short list of the best candidates, giving recruiters a place to start.

Buhrmann said he put the system to the test when hiring for his company. After putting an advertisement out for an engineer, he received 85 applications. The applicant they hired was the 50th person to apply.

“It’s really hard to go through all those résumés individually and figure out if they’re saying the right things,” Buhrmann said. “We never would have come across (her), and the way her résumé was structured, she had a lot of her core competencies at the bottom of her résumé. Our system was able to rank her at the top. (She) had articulated projects that she’d done and her direct work experience that was describing a job she had at school. The job wasn’t related to the work she is doing now, but the system discovered something about her.”

The system takes care of a lot of the grunt work, Buhrmann said, and clients have reported back that this has solved some of their hiring headaches.

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