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What characterizes a unicorn?

Staffing IT projects with talented people is not an easy task. Companies depend on external specialists to manage and develop their critical IT projects as specialist resources are scarce.

Every tech recruiter faces several challenges in the process of finding the best candidates. All IT professionals, and especially the truly gifted ones, are in high demand and consequently have a short availability time between projects. Additionally, even though 63% of software developers state[i] that salary is the most important factor when looking for a new job, it’s not that simple. As an employer or tech recruiter you need to offer higher salary than the majority, obviously, but to stand out in the competition, you need to build meaningful relationships with the candidate and begin to understand what they look for besides money. Large scale surveys show, that factors such as work-life balance, company culture, quality of working colleagues as well as the possibility to build something significant and innovative are nearly equally important.

At 7N we specialized in finding the best-of-the-best. We call them 10’er specialists (on a scale of 1 to 10), others name them unicorns.  We dedicated our business to meet their requests by offering a handful of opportunities; social and professional events, networking with other 7N'ers, access to the largest customers and IT projects, discount on and access to certifications, conferences and trainings - and of course an above-average pay check. So - how do we find them?

What we look for when recruiting
10'er specialists are within the top 3% of their IT field. More than 25 years in the high-end IT market has taught us that there are a few tell-tale signs of a unicorn

    • They are known as the best among his or her peers
    • They have at least 10 years of relevant experience
    • They have a high level of soft skills and scores well on “The Secret Code”

Excellence
We never compromise on quality. Recruitment at 7N is primarily done by referral or is based on 7N’s proactive selective search. Less than 10% of the interested candidates make it through our tough qualification process. To become a true 7N unicorn, the candidate must be recognized as among the best within his or her area of expertise.

Experience
With only a few exceptions, all 7N specialists have at least 10 years of relevant experience. As a supplier of best-of-the-best, we need to make sure that our specialists have proved them self worthy more than once, and that they have faced different types of business sectors, projects and challenges. 

Exceptions to the 10+ year requirement include individuals who have specialised in demanded, and often brand new, technologies, tools and methods. We consider our clients’ needs and requests to be more important than to be in accordance with our guideline, as long as the persons’ professional background is relevant and he is among the best in his field.

Soft skills
Some years back, 7N conducted an internal study of our most successful consultants to answer the questions: What makes the successful consultants stand out? Why does the customer praise one consultant’s performance, while another might just be adequate – even if they on paper seem to be equal on qualifications?

The study showed that what makes a difference is the way the consultant uses his IT skills. We ended up defining six social and personal skills, which are present - at least to some degree - in all our top performers. Upon this finding, we developed a propriety methodology named ‘The Secret Code’ that has become our key tool when communicating with clients and consultants, both present and future.

The six skills are:

    • Insight into own strengths and weaknesses
    •  High performance under pressure
    • Holistic project understanding
    • Diplomatic authority
    • Social capacity
    • Empathy

Recruiting specialists who score high on ‘The Secret Code’ are a key reason behind our successful track record. For our clients, it means that they are guaranteed to engage a specialist who makes positive use of his abilities - and knows his own limitations. The specialist understands all the important aspects of a given project – including the non-technical parts, and who can use his professional overview in a considerate manner. The client will find him sociable, accommodating and helpful.

Our resistance to compromise on either excellence, experience or social skills explains our long-lasting client relationships. In our experience, once a client has engaged a 7N unicorn and thereby experienced what he or she can do for their organisation, they will return for more.

We did the math of staffing IT projects with unicorns. More precisely; how spending money will actually save you money.
Feel free to continue reading

 [i] http://stackoverflow.com/insights/survey/2016#work-job-priorities

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