How to Find and Hire Qualified IT Talent In Chicago

People are undoubtedly the key asset of any modern organization. People drive change, people build solutions that bring corporations millions in revenue, people manage other people, etc, etc. Bottomline is - if you don't have qualified and motivated people on staff, your entire business success is at risk to fail and pass into oblivion.

Yet, hiring skilled and competent human resources is tough because hunt for brains has never been more fierce! Every single business is going digital and is in need of technology consultants and executors to bring their ideas to life and in-source innovation.

As a Chicago-based IT staffing solutions provider, Intersog took time to explore various options of sourcing and hiring software developers and other IT specialists in Chicagoland and would like to share some tips with a broader audience.

Why is it hard to find senior developers in Chicago?

Hundreds of businesses are creating tech jobs in Chicagoland: in particular, there're over 3,200 digital companies employing more than 54,000 people as of 2015, up from 33,000 in 2012. Not to mention, Chicago ranks the 7th best tech hub in the world, according to StartupCompass.

However, many experts point out that finding great developers in Chicago is not easy at all. While there's no shortage of opportunities for great developers (i.e. with appropriate skill sets and many years of experience working on diverse projects, self-managed and able to mentor juniors), many local companies fail to find and attract them unless they have a pile of cash to use as a hook. Of course, businesses still have an option to hire interns and junior (read inexperienced) developers, but they need strong and highly competent nerds to ensure project's success and sustainability. In most cases, project success depends on processes put in place and PM initiatives and methodologies applied. The more experienced your project team members, the higher the chance they'll choose proper tools, methods and workarounds, and make your project rock. Juniors are OK for doing simple and routine tasks, which helps them boost their skills and mature, but seniors are critical for your core project development!

Another reason why it's hard to find experienced IT talent in Chicago is migration. As noted by UIUC College of Engineering Dean Andreas Cangellaris, "Top talent is a free agent, they will go wherever the opportunity is best for them." In fact, many Chicago developers move to these major IT hubs in pursuit of better opportunities and more challenging projects: Seattle, Denver, San Fransisco, Los Angeles and Houston.

So, how to land a great software developer in Chicago?

Meetups and local events

Chicago features a great variety of meetup groups that have regular offline (face-to-face) events to share knowledge and network with peers. Meetup groups cover all of the mainstream technologies including some innovative ones. Meet ups are a great way to meet and source IT candidates because a lot of your direct targets can be found here.

Here's a simple plan of how to find Top IT talent at meetups:

  1. Find a meetup that addresses your current skills needs. For instance, you need to hire middle and senior Ruby on Rails developers in Chicago. Do consider joining a ChicagoRuby meetup that currently counts nearly 4,000 members.
  2. Take a look at all past meetups by this group, see the images and get a picture of how they generally go.
  3. Sign up to attend the upcoming event (you can use Google or Facebook sign-in).
  4. View the list of confirmed attendees on the right and select those who as you believe best match your current job opening requirements.
  5. Invite your selected attendees to connect and shoot them a brief message about why you think they should connect with you.
  6. Since many meetups are planned several weeks or even months ahead, keep monitoring the list of attendees (that will most likely grow each day/week) and connecting with more new targets.
  7. Note that recruitment / hiring consultants / managers are not really welcome in meetup groups, so it may make sense to offer a speaker from your company to add more credibility to your participation. In fact, if you're having a good relationship with your in-house Ruby developers (and you should if you're good at what you do!), you can ask one of them to join a meetup as a professional and cast a net for you to catch fresh fish. All you have to do is to follow up on those new connections after the meetup and refer to your Ruby guy (read infiltrator) as their first point of contact and referral.
  8. If you can't offer a speaker from your company, explore meetup sponsorship opportunities to put your brand in front of target developers. Note that many meetups have no fixed space to host their events and usually post a call for a host on their page. Consider this option, too, as it'll help you bring the entire caboodle of your targets right to your place. In any case, it'll work great for your overall PR and image as an employer.
  9. After the meetup, do network with the attendees to get more insights into their most burning questions and issues, life style, workplace preferences, etc.
  10. Don't pursue your targets aggressively; rather, do proper follow-ups afterwards.

The same strategy actually applies to other events. The only difference is that many event providers don't disclose lists of signups with any 3rd parties, nor do they publish them on their sites. However, if it's a job fair, make sure to bring a booth and relevant collateral and plan some inbound tactic on how to pitch your current vacancies to potential candidates and attract them with your value proposition.

Are you looking to hire qualified IT Talent for your in-house / onsite project in Chicago?
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Some of the re-occuring events to attend in Chicago for headhunting are:  Chicago Software Craftsmanship, monthly Bootstrapped’s breakfastChicago Geek Breakfast,  JellyChicago, etc.

Another great way of increasing visibility of your job opening is to attend or host own Hackathon.

Tech communities and associations

There're dozens of tech communities in Chicago that are worth joining for headhunting. They include, but aren't limited to Built In Chicago (over 4,000 digital professionals), the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) (over 250 collaboration, acceleration and visibility/talent events throughout the year), TiE Midwest (many students and mentors), Chicago Code Camp and many others.

Job Portals

Explore local job portals prior to expanding your search beyond Chicagoland, as it can save you from making extra efforts. Some local sites to look at are Chicago Jobs, Built In Chicago, City of Chicago Job Opportunities, etc.

IT Staffing agency

If none of the above methods worked for you, you should consider bringing in 3rd party consultancy to assist with your search for IT specialists. The key benefit of engaging a professional IT staffing agency is that you automatically get access to a broader IT talent pool to source from (you can barely cover internally).

Many IT recruitment companies in Chicago keep huge databases of potential candidates. For instance, at Intersog we have access to both national and international IT professionals of all seniority levels, which allows us to diversity our offering and tailor each candidate to our client's budget, timeframes, specific preferences and other expectations. Experienced and professional recruiters are apt at pitching your project to candidates so that developers get interested and become willing to at least have an interview with your brand.

Also, using external IT staffing services, you can test developers for some time to see whether / how they match your overall corporate culture, team and initiatives. Intersog offers all IT resources with a one-week guarantee for you to try them on your real project before making an investment. If you don't like the candidate, we'll replace him/her for free after one week of trial!

In addition, we segment all of our developers in the database by skill sets, seniority level and specialty. So, if you're looking to hire talent for your eHealth development project, we'll make sure to deliver candidates with the previous experience building Health IT solutions. As a result, you can significantly shorten your time to hire and, thus, accelerate time to market, which is oftentimes a critical milestone for any organization.

However, prior to your candidates search and choosing your own method of sourcing talent, remember what Dale Tauten said in his book "The gifted boss":

"The best people want to work on exciting projects that are bigger than what they could do as an individual. Yes, good people expect to be paid well. But high pay won’t keep a developer engaged in a project unless the project is meaningful."

Come back soon for more upcoming tips about how to pick developer's interest with your software development project!

Vik is our Brand Journalist and Head of Online Marketing / PR with 11+ years of international experience in IT B2B. He's also a guest blog contributor to Business2community, SitePoint, Journal of mHealth, Wearable Valley and other IT portals. You can contact him directly on LinkedIn.

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