"Career changers are diamonds in the rough"
Team lead software development Christopher from CHECK24 in an interview
The lack of skilled IT workers in Germany has reached a new all-time high, with around 42,000 positions currently unfilled. Particularly newcomers and lateral entrants have good chances of filling vacancies in IT professions. The comparison portal CHECK24 has been relying on a mix of experienced IT experts and career changers for over three years. "With a share of more than 10%, graduates of IT bootcamps now represent a very important pillar in our search for young talent," says Christopher Bischoff, Team Lead Software Development at CHECK24 in Hamburg and himself a former career changer. In an exclusive interview on the competitive recruiting market in the tech industry, he reports on his experiences and insights.
Christopher, the IT skills shortage has never been greater. Companies are challenged because job-seeking IT talents are almost non-existent. What is CHECK24's approach to solving this problem?
Christopher: „One thing is clear: every company must be aware that skilled workers do not simply fall from the sky at the moment. This includes university graduates. The challenge is not only to find people, but also to integrate them into the existing team in a meaningful way. This is also the reason for our approach: We employ several IT teams here at the Hamburg site. We have recruited more than 10 % of our IT colleagues directly from IT bootcamps. These are people who didn't take the traditional route. They are not only software developers, but also former bricklayers and cooks. And they are just as good as university graduates when it comes to programming.“
How long do you usually have to search at CHECK24 to fill your vacant IT positions with external people?
Christopher: „The recruiting market is so wild right now that we are actually looking for employees throughout. We have our own active sourcing, where our employees contact potential talent directly, but we also host events and invite people to the site. On top of that, we also have a partnership with the Hacker School, where we teach kids how to program, and all the lecture series you know. Those are some full-time jobs just doing that. And how much comes in there is impossible to plan. Sometimes you have a week where you can make three offers, and sometimes you have a dry spell of two months. If one of our teams were to say that they needed a programmer, I would say that they would probably have to wait three to four months. And that also only works with a constant search.“
That's why you've been working with neue fische for about three years in the search for lateral hires. How does that affect the recruiting process?
Christopher: „In recruiting, there's a golden rule that you always first have to assume that you'll have about 20% fluctuation. In other words, if you have ten IT employees, you can assume that two of them will leave at some point. And that means it takes about 20 percent rehiring over the same period to maintain the level. And depending on the growth, you hire additional people. In our case, there are about seven finished IT employees - regardless of their background - for every one trainee, dual-track student or career changer. And in order to maintain this ratio, we have to actively search.“
So that's why the collaboration with neue fische came about?
Christopher: „First of all, we ourselves have also invested a great deal in training young talent. But it always makes sense to take a broad approach in the search. It was our IT director who came up with the idea of working with neue fische. In the meantime, it has become a very important pillar in our search for young talent.“
Have you had any previous experience with lateral entrants?
Christopher: „In fact, we didn't initially plan to make lateral hires a permanent part of our recruiting strategy. Rather, we simply gained experience with people on an ongoing basis. In other words, the bootcamp graduates became a normal part of the process and we looked at: How do they behave, what are they good at, what are they not so good at? The performance in the subjects and the tasks that the trainees solve in the boot camps provide a good practical outlook. But it's more important to get to know the new recruits personally. To this end, we invite them to our company and exchange ideas with them. That's how we ended up with a candidate right at the start, and we said, "She's a perfect fit for the team: She's a perfect fit for the team, and we believe we can train her to become a full-fledged developer. That was the kick start.“
So if it's all about character traits like teamwork and a willingness to learn, have you ever thought about internally upskilling or reskilling existing employees?
Christopher: „That is rather unusual. There is no automatism, but of course there have been and still are people who change jobs. For example, a product manager who would like to train as an IT specialist and will soon be attending one of the part-time bootcamps in Hamburg. It depends first and foremost on how much the person in question wants to do this. We have managing directors who started out as programmers at CHECK24, and at least one managing director who then preferred to become a programmer.“
So what advice would you give to other companies that are still unsure about lateral hires?
Christopher: „It's simple: lateral hires are diamonds in the rough. You pick the person who fits well into your team, and the rest comes naturally. They come to the company with skills that you may not even have in the company yet. Some of them have already worked full time, and some of them in jobs with personnel responsibility. You don't have to worry about whether they have the most important soft skills, because you know they want them - and have taken the risk of quitting their old job to get them. These are people who know what they want. Then working together is easy. It's just a bit of expertise that's missing."