Recruiting IT specialists in France and Germany: 3 essential tips
Without them, the digital world would stop spinning: software developers, system administrators, online security experts, web developers and many others. Standards in the technological and digital fields are changing so rapidly that it has become difficult to base HR decisions on hard data. What is relatively constant, however, is the shortage of available IT professionals. In this context, let’s have a look at the three indispensable steps you need to consider to recruit efficiently.
In Germany or France, where unemployment is low and qualified workers are demanding and reluctant to change their situation, searching for IT experts at random, even on specialized job boards, won't yield many results. It is much easier to find the right people via specialized platforms, as IT experts are statistically not very present on generalist job sites.
So how do you avoid this scenario? In short: get active earlier. To attract skilled developers and programmers to your company, you need to start your recruiting process in time and not wait until it’s almost failing already before you familiarize yourself with these new channels. If you wait too long, you will only get the leftovers, at an excessive price. So you need to enter the game with sufficient advertising resources, spread over the right platforms.
Passive searching through job offers
Writing a job advertisement is of course the most common way to search for candidates. It allows you to recruit people who will generally be more grounded in terms of conditions than those who have been approached by ways of headhunting. But as stated above, the majority of IT professionals won’t be actively looking for a new opportunity. Whenever they are, it’s likely that they are forced to do so by layoffs, mergers and other such reasons. Those people tend to look for a position that is very similar to the one they occupied at their previous firm.
When it comes to the job description, the cultural differences between both countries absolutely need to be taken into account, because they will directly determine the applications you receive. You can’t simply translate the same job offer into French or German. You have to appeal to the people’s respective values.
Eurojob-Consulting specializes in dealing with these differences, but there are other experts, like Jochen Peter Breuer and Pierre de Bartha, who compared the fundamental French and German values in their book Managing Franco-German business relations successfully (ed. Springer Gabler). Here’s what you need to know.
Lead with a highly attractive presentation of the company, but what’s attractive to whom?
The reputation of your company won’t do the recruiting for you, and certainly not in Germany. Only a very small percentage of your candidates will be willing to take any risks when it comes to their career choices. So highlighting the challenges, responsibilities, status and compensation that come with the job is not necessarily the right choice. Instead, underline factors like team-spirit and material advantages.
While in France, a household name, an original strategy and ambitious challenges will be seen as attractive, the German employee favors stability over change, sometimes even for a lesser income. However, they won’t waste any time and ask for this number right away. This is not considered impolite, contrary to France, where talking about money is still a taboo to be quickly dealt with at the last minute.
According to Stack Overflow, the preferences of IT professionals with regard to the benefits of a position are as follows:
- 56 % prefer flexible working hours
- 55 % care most about the language and the technologies used
- 51 % seek a pleasant working environment and a good company culture
- Describing or selling the opportunity
If aiming for Germans, don’t idealize the prospects. Describe the role precisely, including the market and status of the position inside the larger team, the areas of cooperation between coworkers and the different systems, websites, programs and locations that will need to be supported.
For French candidates on the other hand, the task need not be so clearly outlined. Most importantly, try to spark curiosity. The promise of working on an ambitious project is a strong argument, even when that project is barely in the works yet. They will also be tempted by the prospect of high stakes (responsibility) and creative freedom. If you think the position you are offering is boring and has no strong selling arguments, why should someone else think differently? Find the aspects of the job you think are most exciting and stress them in the description.
Don't expect relocation
Whether in France or Germany, avoid making relocation a prerequisite for hiring: Your IT people may be sedentary or travel between sites, but in both cases, they could easily find enough work as freelancers, working from the comfort of their home. Opportunities to work from home, ideally more than one or two days a week, have become a key point for candidates. So think twice before you ask them to move their whole family to a new town or drive to work for more than an hour per day!
Some (especially Germans) will undervalue themselves and simply not apply at all, if you state the perfect mastery of two languages on your job offer; even if their level may have been sufficient. Others (mostly the French) may apply only for you to find out during the interview that what the candidate presented as a C1 level is actually closer to a B1.
Given the general scarcity of bilingual people, not to mention if you also desire a certain familiarity with the respective cultures, and considering that engineers seldom also specialize in languages and literature, bilingual IT professionals are the figurative needle in the haystack.
If, as a foreign company, you need someone who will be able to deal both with French and German co workers or clients, the best option might just be to hire regardless of this competence, and instead train the new employee in the necessary language. For this to be successful, the basic language level obtained in school can generally be enough, depending on the candidate’s age or readiness to learn.
IT recruiting is also special with regard to candidates’ ages, because unlike in other fields, you don’t necessarily want the candidate with most experience. The fact that, the older we get, the slower we learn, is neurologically determined and can hardly be avoided. As a consequence, it is increasingly difficult for experienced professionals to keep up with the constant evolution and complexification of IT tasks, to stay aware of all available tools and of the newest solutions. Be certain to know beforehand where your ideal candidate should stand on this learning curve.
Putting a team of headhunters to the ask allows you to identify the exact profiles you are looking for and to access French or German IT specialists at the exact level and sub-field of competence you are looking to fill. They will thus be operational immediately and are also likely to be good communicators, since they have already passed the headhunter’s pre-selection interviews.
This approach implies significant efforts to convince candidates, who, even if they were initially interested, may not sign your contract in the end. Negotiations can fail, because indeed, being approached by a headhunter tends to make candidates more demanding (+/- 20/30%), even in terms of status and guarantees. As previously mentioned, IT professionals, especially in Germany, are already accustomed to good compensation.
A downgrade will only ever be imaginable in the rarest of cases. But modern headhunters know how to present what you offer from its best side, and will individually adapt their arguments to what each candidate wants most. They should have experience and a clear understanding of what the right salary is for similar roles, so they will be able to intermediate and obtain the right balance between the candidate’s expectations, your budget, and the market reality.