How to attract great passive IT candidates

As a hirer, how do you best sell your roles to those passive, highly-desirable IT candidates? The basic idea is to think like the candidate. Enticing a comfortable, happy IT professional away from their current role will require some serious incentives. A passive job-seeker will tend to view every opportunity through the lens of ‘what’s in it for me?’; and to best answer that question, you need to know what motivates candidates to make their next professional move.

We asked our resident expert on the matter, SEEK's Senior Principal Developer, Jeremy Clough, for ways to sell your opportunity and attract the best candidates, whether you are a start-up or an established corporate enterprise.

SMEs and start-ups

Do you have a unique business offering or a worthy goal to share? Combine this with a sound business plan and demonstrated success in the field, and you’ll start to look interesting to that desirable IT candidate. But there are some definite caveats: you will also need to ensure you offer unfettered access to technology, an agile approach and a commitment to competitive remuneration.

If you want to hire that top IT professional into your small or start-up business, start by offering them the freedom to lead design and architecture, and confirm that they will be involved in deployment and hosting decisions.

Make sure you also offer an agile environment. To attract the best candidates, the company would have to be agile, promoting continuous delivery (if not already there), understand the need for testing and expect high-quality code.

And finally, to compete with other organisations, you need to offer a realistic salary. There’s no getting around this one. You need to demonstrate your investment in the candidate, if you want their investment in return.

Larger corporates

How interesting is your product? How big are your challenges? These are the professional dangled-carrots for IT candidates when it comes to big corporates. Here, autonomy and flexibility to tackle those challenges is also important. Your candidates want freedom of choice when it comes to development tools and the freedom to introduce new technologies where appropriate.

Once again, an agile environment is at the top of our list of essentials. Is your company agile? Personally, I’d want to see how this works within the business, if the team is agile and how successful have they been if the rest of the business hasn't fully accepted it.

Corporates also offer the benefits of working within larger teams, and this should be stressed to your ideal candidate. I'd want to know that I'd be working with a motivated, high-calibre, friendly team where ideas and debate were encouraged. I'd expect a place where the developers weren't the only ones expecting quality, but the leadership did too – a place that continually looked to improving itself.

Whether you are recruiting into a start-up or hiring for a well-known corporate, you need to understand the expectations of your candidate and match these expectations to what your business can offer.

By understanding what candidates want, you can tap into the desires of even the most passive job-seeker, and at the same time offer them a great opportunity to influence IT within your business that they may not otherwise have considered.
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Jeremy Clough


Senior Principal Developer

Jeremy Clough displays obsessive compulsive behaviour in regards to code quality, is a Flying Spaghetti Monster devotee with leanings to the IPU and is an occasional gym attendee.

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