Most Irish employers will remember the dizzying heights of the tiger era, when the recruitment of developers and other IT specialists was a nigh-on impossible task.

It wasn’t that companies couldn’t find people with the right qualifications. It wasn’t that they couldn’t find people at the right price. It was simply that they couldn’t find any people. Ireland was awash with IT vacancies and not enough bodies to fill them.

During this period of ‘extreme employment’, many companies decided that the best way to out-bid the competition for talent was to offer people all sorts of stuff that money couldn’t buy. Pool tables and pinball machines. Friday evening beers on tap. Chill-out zones. Free snacks.

Around town, offices began to resemble indoor play-zones kitted out to satisfy the every whim of these highly sought-after workers. You want an egg-shaped pod for afternoon power snoozes? What colour would you like it in?!

Ireland a hot recruitment market

Fast forward a decade, and while the pool tables and Friday beers are still going strong, they’ve become so universal that nobody really talks about them anymore; certainly not in the context of attracting talent.

And, while Ireland has reclaimed its status as one of the hottest recruitment markets in the EU, the overflow of jobs is also a thing of the past. The balance of power has tilted back in favour of the job-seeker; it’s a buyer’s market once again.

This poses a familiar question: how to attract the right people? For IT employers and recruiters, a number of short- and longer-term measures can help to get the right people in the door – and keep them there.

Be the kind of company that people want to work for

Every smart employer knows that the best way to attract the best people is quite simply by being the best themselves – or being perceived as the best.

Around the world, talented people in their hundreds of thousands are throwing themselves at the likes of Apple, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft because they are (rightly) seen as the world’s best brands. Everyone likes to be on a winning team so if your company is consistently outperforming the competition then you’ll be seen as a more desirable place to work, period.

Of course, getting to the rarefied atmosphere where the Apples exist is not an overnight process but it can help if everyone is aware of the link between performance levels and recruitment quality.

Make every candidate experience a ‘successful’ one

Even if they don’t get the job, you want every candidate to come through the recruitment process with a positive impression of your company.

Whether that process is managed by a recruitment partner or your in-house team, it must be handled with professionalism and courtesy, and properly closed off every time. This is an important part of your brand-building strategy; making sure your reputation among potential employees matches up to your reputation in the business market. Because word gets around!

You’re aiming high, so set your bar high

As anyone who has ever had to wade through hundreds of resumés knows, it can sometimes be a little too easy to apply for a job. Top and tail the cover letter, attach the CV and press ‘send’ – that’s it.

To narrow the field down, it doesn’t hurt to raise the bar. Make your job criteria and requirements very specific – a little off-putting even – to eliminate ‘scattergun’ applicants who probably aren’t suited to the job anyway. Really talented people love a challenge, so if getting your job seems like a hard task then they might just be interested.

Be honest about potential downsides of job

This too falls into the category of whittling-down. If you are honest about both pros and cons of a job description you will most likely scare off those candidates who aren’t interested in hearing about tight deadlines, demanding workloads, difficult clients and the rest.

Fair enough. Let them go. Far better to address a candidate who isn’t scared by the harsh realities of modern IT, and who will potentially join your company with their eyes well and truly open. As mentioned in the previous point, top talent expects the bar to be set high.

Use the inbound model to grow your talent pool

These days, recruitment is not confined to the HR department. Everything a company says about itself should include at least one ‘reason to work here’, whether that’s a blog, a social post, media release or statement, even the quarterly staff e-zine.

The inbound marketing model is about getting relevant, educational content in front of people who are actively searching for answers and solutions. So the next time a software engineer or developer Googles ‘IT opportunities in Dublin’ your content will be there waiting for them. Inbound takes a little time to get working at full capacity but with the right strategy, it’s a winner.

Make your people want to stay

Another longer-term approach, this point recognises the value and cost-effectiveness of hanging onto the people you have. IT workers are no different to anyone else: they want to feel valued by their employer and valuable to the company for which they work.

In this respect, transparently recognising and rewarding hard work and achievement beats the pinball machines and free snacks every day of the week. In particular, explaining how an individual’s work is feeding into and supporting the company’s overall business objectives can help the wider group to feel that they can make a difference – a huge motivation.

Partner with a recruiter that understands tech inside-out

In a fiercely competitive market for technical talent, many companies delegate their recruitment strategy to an external partner. Here, it is vitally important that the recruiter understands your technology; what you specialise in.

Specialist recruiters with a genuine grasp of technology understand the scale and complexity of the challenges you face in trying to fill a position(s); they can also assess and filter candidates according to their suitability (experience, skillset) to those very challenges. Don’t waste your resources on a good all-rounder – if you are looking for tech talent, go to a specialist.

Dave Rountree is Information Technology Manager with Eden Recruitment.