Empowering IT Recruiters With Free Training

By Mark Knowlton

TechScreen was first launched in 2016 as a way to give IT recruiters a more reliable means of engaging with hiring managers and candidates. We are proud of our track record of helping clients qualify IT candidates and requisitions over the last 5 years, but today’s extraordinary times are artificially impacting employment levels among recruiters.

We recently rolled out a formal training program: TechScreen Certified, a 12-module course intended to help recruiters understand complex technical concepts in a way that helps them use the information to more effectively qualify candidates and requirements.

We are about to release a new program meant to help recruiters who have been impacted by current conditions. We are offering up to 20 recruiters a chance to get a free pass to join the certification program, which comes with the free use of our screening platform for a year.

“Almost every day, I see a post on social media of some recruiter with significant experience looking for a gig,” TechScreen CEO Mark Knowlton said. “It is heartbreaking to see it happen with such regularity, especially when it is someone with a family. I saw one this week that was short, but I am sure it is something many people feel”:

‘I don’t know if it’s just the effect of the pandemic or is it really me who’s incompetent? It’s frustrating and makes me wanna question my worth.’

Ugh. The only thing more upsetting about seeing a post like that is wondering how many other hundreds (or thousands) of experienced recruiters feel the same way but just didn’t post it.

Veteran recruiters — many of whom seldom or ever have had gaps in their employment — are staring at sustained joblessness. Since today’s cycle is not being driven by factors that are easy to predict, it adds an element of anxiety as to how long conditions may persist.

We are offering our Certification training program for free for up to 20 recruiters as a way to give recruiters a boost — professionally and emotionally — to help them to compete and thrive in a difficult market. One of the common knocks the IT talent community has for recruiters is that they don’t understand technology. Recruiters are not engineers, but it is pure rubbish that they can’t be trusted to do an initial technical screen if they are armed with the right information and approach.

I was a career-changing Journalism major who was allergic to Math. The first time I heard the term “TCP/IP” at my first agency gig in the mid-90s, I thought my head was going to explode. I began a journey down the tech path 2 years into my recruiting career, learning by painful, piecemeal repetition and memorization. I may not write code for a living, but ask any developer I have screened in the last 15+ years if I understand things like Garbage Collection in Java, Copy Constructors in C++ or Code Access Security in C#. This Glass Door post makes the point, but suffice to say that I have taken 25 years of painfully acquired knowledge and insight and baked it into 3 months’ worth of focused training specifically for IT recruiters.

The problem with current recruiter training is that it is put together by technologists, who have not spent 10 seconds in the shoes of a recruiter. We start by taking a complex core subject and helping you envision what it is and how it works. We explain the OSI Model by comparing it to ordering pizza delivery, TCP/IP by comparing it the USPS, and 3-tier Application Architecture to parts of a car.

Recruiters who want to qualify for this free program can visit this page on our site and fill out the web form. You will see a button to “Sign Me Up”, so tell us why you would like to be able to do a true deep dive technical screen on an IT candidate. Show us your passion and vision, because the best 20 replies are going to get enrolled in training that will change the trajectory of your career.

That comment may seem a bit bold, but our clients have been piling up ironclad evidence in the form of actual outcomes with their customers:

  • Our biggest client has screened over 5,000 candidates since 2016 and they have knocked out 66% of them on technical merit.
  • The manager for one of our clients extended a contract offer without speaking to the candidate. Our client followed our manager engagement approach and the offer was made after reviewing the TechScreen interview report our system generates.
  • We had a client produce a 70% Interview-to-offer ratio with two junior recruiters. They screened 155 software engineers over 2 months, which led to managers doing 40 formal interviews and making 28 FTE offers.
  • The key to our training is distilling technical information in a way that makes it easy for a non-technical recruiter to grasp the essence of a complex technical concept. If a recruiter can visualize a concept, they can follow a candidate’s explanation of it in a qualifying question. We prepare them to give the candidate guidance as to what they are expecting in an answer to keep the conversation from going off the rails.

“A recruiter could easily go down a rat hole if they tried to go toe-to-toe with a software engineer without a plan. Too often a recruiter will Google some interview questions and just get on the phone,” Knowlton said. “Even if they ask the question in the perfect context, a developer just has to inject a clarification question and then the recruiter gets the Wile E. Coyote look in their eyes. We all know how that movie ends.

“We educate them on a technical concept so they could explain it to another non-technical person. I don’t care of it is TCP/IP in networking or Polymorphism in object-oriented design and development. Once a recruiter has their own internal ownership of a concept, they can ask a candidate, ‘Hey, walk me through a TCP handshake’ or ‘How would you explain Polymorphism to your Aunt Betty?’

The TechScreen Certification program comes with 3 pillars that reinforce the active learning that accelerates a recruiter’s ability to cope with this new verbal currency being thrust upon them:

  1. A free annual license of TechScreen, which comes with a library of about 120 IT skills with questions and answers. It also has the ability to add custom questions, so having the questions with answers removes the burden of forced memorization that much of the industry Recruiter training imposes. The tool lets you conduct a detailed interview of the candidate and generate a report they can share with a manager.
  2. A deep dive exploration of 12 modules covering topics like Application Architecture and Design, Networking, Databases, Web Services, DevOps, The Cloud, InfoSec, QA and Testing and the Internet of Things.
  3. Twice weekly live QA calls so users can bring their active issues to the team for support. This lets recruiters bring deal-dependent bottlenecks to our team so we can help them break through and turn them into placements.

“One of the main problems in recruiter training and development — especially in the Staffing world — is that recruiters are expected to ‘figure it out’ on their own,” Knowlton said. “I can’t think of another knowledge worker role that has these two common traits: 1. The ability to earn a significant 6-figure income; 2. No formal training, certification or degree being a requirement before performing the role.”

Imagine another knowledge worker realm — Medicine, Biotech, Engineering, Legal, Accounting or Financial Services — and the pathway to working was based on unsupervised self-training. That meets the definition of insanity, but this model is perhaps the most common scenario that plays out in the development of a majority of IT recruiters. The Staffing industry readily takes a flyer on eager rookies despite knowing that this approach leads to the mind-boggling attrition rates they accept like time, daylight and gravity.

“We have validated a different path for IT recruiters and we want to help up to 20 recruiters get this ground-breaking training on us,” Knowlton continued. “Recruiters who go through our program will have tools, knowledge, and an approach they can use to more effectively engage with managers and candidates. We give our users a completely unfair competitive edge.”

It is astonishing that this kind of de-centralized madness has unfolded and has been accepted for decades in the Recruiting space. I have had a foot in each of the Recruiting and IT realms for over two decades and I am putting them both down hard on this industry problem.

It is time to rewrite the industry reputation of IT recruiters. It won’t be a journey for the faint of heart, but for those out there who take pride in their profession and bristle at the R-rated rants IT talent post about ALL of us, it is time we did something about it that moves the needle. Who’s in?

Mark Knowlton is the CEO and Founder of TechScreen, the world’s only SaaS solution that elevates IT recruiter engagement with hiring managers and talent