The Best Tech Literacy Tools for Non-Technical Recruiters

February 3, 2016 at 12:29 PM by William Clarke

It’s a recruiting fact of life: Hiring for technical roles is a slog. Beyond the core difficult of finding enough talented candidates, you also must endlessly parse Stack Overflow and GitHub pages, and figure out what “code ninja” ever actually means. Once you’ve gotten through that rigmarole, how do you know if your candidates are the real deal or not? A recruiter who doesn’t know the difference between Ruby and Python is gonna get played. So, what is a non-technical recruiter recruiting for technical roles supposed to do? Learn some basic technical skills, of course. Here’s how.

Teach yourself coding basics with Codeacademy, Codewars, Code Avengers, Treehouse, or Code School

There’s no shortage of straightforward ways to do it. These platforms offer painless, and in some cases, fun tutorials to learn coding without a huge time commitment or cost. They are simple, affordable, user-friendly, require no prior experience but will quickly teach you the fundamentals. That means next time you’re emailing with a job candidate or trying to suss out the pretenders from the ballers, you’ll actually have a clue (and your hiring managers will thank you).

Learn practical skills from industry leading practitioners: Udacity, Alison, Khan Academy or Udemy

If you’re in the market for practical skills, Khan Academy and Udemy offer courses on virtually every topic under the sun (from Microsoft Excel to Product Design to Digital Branding). Khan Academy, in particular, also has loads of useful and free videos explaining concepts, like this video explaining what an algorithm is and why it matters. Pretty basic stuff, but also super useful if you’re diving into a new industry or skillset.

On the other hand, Udacity partners directly with companies like Google and Facebook to create courses on specific skillsets like Tech Entrepreneurship, Android development, Ruby for Beginners and even a How to Use GitHub. They are more intensive (and pricier) than others, but they also promise to train users in specific, useful skillsets currently in demand (i.e., the skillsets you’re constantly tasked with finding). Is there any better way to know how to dig up data scientists, iOS developers or deep learning than training yourself in the fundamentals of those particular skillsets? Hint: Nope.

Take actual college courses (on coding or something else): Coursera, EdX, or Academic Earth

As companies and institutions embrace online learning, actual courses from universities like MIT, Johns Hopkins, Stanford and others have been made available online. Designed by actual professors, courses vary in length from a couple of weeks to a few months, and range in cost from free to upwards of several hundred dollars. The upshot is that if you’re looking for a deep dive on a specific topic, you can’t do much better than an Intro to Programming Course taught by MIT professors or Johns Hopkins-designed Intro to Data Science.

Test a candidate's Coding Chops: HackerRank

So, once you’ve got them in the pipeline, how can you be certain they’ve got the goods? One word, three syllables: HackerRank. HackerRank removes much of the technical hiring process’ ambiguity with coding diagnostics that help engineers prove their skills to companies. You can even choose tests explicitly for what you need and then watch them code in real time. (It’s not as creepy as it sounds.) Bonus: Hackerrank also provides sourcing solutions via sponsored hackathons and their CodeSprint product.

So what now...

It’s become a cliche about the internet, but the present wealth of online learning platforms puts all the technical intel you need at your fingertips. Figure out what you need to know, and then find the right platform and tutorials to get the most bang for your buck and ROI. But make no mistake, gaining even a cursory knowledge of today’s most important technical languages will accelerate your ability to source strong candidates, separate rockstars from pretenders, and help you craft highly personalized, technically specific outreach. Faking it till you make it sometimes works, but actually knowing what you’re talking about is better. 

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