CWS 3.0: July 18, 2012

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Pulling Out All the Stops to Find Difficult Skills

Even as the national unemployment rate hovers around 8 percent, companies are struggling to find contract software developers and engineers.

According to a survey from ManpowerGroup Inc., 52 percent of employers are having a hard time filling jobs, and the situation is so dire in the Silicon Valley, that CNNMoney called skilled developers the region’s scarcest resource. Instead of throwing in the towel, when recruiting gets tough, tough talent acquisition leaders go gaming.

Technical Competitions and Mashups
Mashups usually double as casting calls and technical auditions for new grads and passive full-time candidates. However, some of TopCoder’s 410,000 registered participants view freelancing as the optimal way to hone their skills and stay abreast of cutting edge technology. In fact, one participant decided to become a roving puzzle solver according to Jim McKeown, TopCoder's director of marketing communications, after earning $1 million in prize money over the last five years.

“Great talent is the key to innovation and a technical competition is a cost-effective way to create energy within the global talent pool,” says John Termotto, senior director of Talent Acquisition at Akamai.

Termotto notes that competitions also give managers an opportunity to see if a candidate is a good fit for a company’s innovation strategy.

Heavy-hitters like Google and Facebook have taken the war for talent directly to the battlefront by connecting with 2,000 to 2,500 coders during onsite competitions according to McKeown. The participants play games, solve riddles and bond with prospective teammates during social outings that have produced hundreds of new hires.

Gamification
 Hiring contract systems administrators was a constant challenge for a provider of outsourced networking services, since novices were unaccustomed to toggling multiple networks and navigating unfamiliar cultures.

So Stephen Stewart created an online game that he describes as a cross between the legendary Pac-Man and the hit television series “The Office.” The executive strategy director for Evviva Brands says players have a chance to sample life as a roving professional as they progress through various levels and encounter a spate of strong personalities and political issues. The game has been a boon to recruiting after going viral within the system administrator community.

“Everybody Tweets, everybody has a Facebook page,” notes Stewart. “But an online game creates separation by showcasing your company as a great place to work.”

Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer in Southern California who has 20 years’ experience in the staffing industry. She can be reached at lesliestevens@cox.net.

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