Are you interested in a specialized recruitment strategy for attracting the right IT professionals for your business? On this episode of The Staffing Show, Michal Juhas, president and founder of Geek Recruiters, talks about the benefits of training staffing teams to recruit IT professionals with confidence. He shares his best practices from the field as well as his personal philosophy of learning and growing through adversity.
David Folwell: Hello everyone. And thank you again for joining us today for another episode of The Staffing Show. Super excited to be joined today by Michael Juhas, who is the president and founder of Geek Recruiters, with that Michal, why don’t you go ahead and give us a little bit of background about yourself and how you got into the staffing industry.
Michal Juhas: Hi David. Thanks a lot for having me. In fact, I used to be a technical person, an IT consultant, a software developer, a tech lead, and also a CTO back in Bangkok. And then while working on some of these e-commerce products, I decided to shift to something a little more meaningful. I figured out staffing and recruitment could be the thing just because while being the CTO, I was working firsthand with recruiters, external recruiters. I was always kind of annoyed that these recruiters I was working with, they didn’t know much about IT, right? Like I was in the role of the CTO with the IT director and I wanted those recruiters to help me fill my IT vacancies, but then quickly recognized that those recruiters couldn’t really understand much about IT and IT roles.
After I left the company, I had decided to change it, started the tech recruitment academy to actually help people who have never worked in IT to actually understand the IT terminology and the vocabulary and the IT roles. So then they can recruit IT professionals with confidence. Alongside, I have also started the recruitment agency just because some clients who are constantly asking me if I can also fill some vacancies for them, if apparently I have something to say about IT. So that was kind of an interesting journey that was kind of fun. And that actually brought me to where I am today.
Folwell: Awesome. And so tell me a little bit more about Geek Recruiters?
Juhas: We started, at first as Tech Recruitment Academy, and then we sort of split the brand. So we have another brand called Tech Recruitment Academy and the Geek Recruiters is solely focusing on recruitment as such. So recruitment of IT positions. We only focus on IT because as I mentioned, I’m the tech guy, the introverted person who doesn’t like talking in public. So here I am joining your podcast. Thanks a lot for having me.
Folwell: Thanks for joining. I know it’s late, where you are at right now is where we’re talking. It’s a Friday afternoon and 2:00 PM mountain time, but Michael, you’re joining from Slovakia. And I think you said, it said it was about 10:00 PM there. How big is your company? And what’s the growth look like over the last few years, for you guys?
Juhas: We have quite interesting models that I actually applied from IT. We have not just started employing people. I mean the recruiters full-time, but we started working a lot with the freelancers in IT. It’s very common to have these agile teams of IT professionals who work remotely. So even before COVID we started applying pretty much the same methodology, that agile methodology to recruitment. That’s how we run these recruitment teams. We work with recruiters with some of them part-time with some of them full-time the whole team is actually distributed even before COVID sometimes it’s really hard to answer such question because with some people we work on a project basis, probably five or seven people who work like really full-time and other 20 to 25 people who work commission-based or part-time, and then we can scale up or down the demand as needed.
Folwell: Awesome. And so when I was looking through kind of your materials and what you guys have built so far, you know, it looks like you have a lot of amazing content and kind of helping people understand IT, recruitment, training them up. My personal experience with IT recruiters when I was actually CMO years ago at a company called Hotel Engine and Travelers Haven that there were a few recruiters that felt like they actually understood what we were talking about and what we needed. And then there were quite a few recruiters who I don’t think had any kind of wherewithal when it came to actual tech. So is that the kind of core of what you’re solving is to help recruiters understand what they should be recruiting for and kind of understand the lingo and how to talk about IT recruiting?
Juhas: Yes. This is correct. Just because in IT it’s really difficult with all the IT terminology and programming languages and software frameworks and tools that these IT professionals use. It’s probably also harder because in IT there’s much more demand than supply. Also…IT specialists, they are sometimes a little too arrogant because they know they can find another job overnight. And that also puts some additional pressure on recruiters who need to be able to talk to these sometimes a little too arrogant IT professionals with confidence and ask for their questions. So they just need to know the IT terminology. That’s what we’ve been training in some organizations.
Folwell: Yeah. I mean, that’s one thing I think about just talking with people at IT recruiting or people who work in light industrial, all these different verticals. And one thing I see in IT is it’s much more specialized, higher touch, much more about the relationship, almost kind of like a talent agent where you’re kind of helping people move through their career and really focused on helping them and providing value to them as they move forward. But what are some of the kind of specific activities or tasks, techniques that you would suggest to somebody who’s getting into IT recruiting to make sure that they’re going to be successful?
Juhas: What I’ve seen in those staffing or recruitment agencies that I was consulting for in the last three years, they try to keep the onboarding process or they have some onboarding process, but it’s just not sufficient. So they get someone new to join the company. They train the person within two days, three days, and then they start calling the developers or recruiting for clients. And it just doesn’t work because I’ve seen so many IT recruiters eventually burn out just because they try to understand what is written in a JD, but they actually cannot because they don’t have the sufficient IT vocabulary. And they cannot really comprehend what the hiring manager needs.
My suggestion is always to take a step back and make sure that they lay down the strong foundation when it comes to the essential IT terminology, because then everything is just so much easier. They can analyze JDs or they can screen candidates and their resume is much easier and faster. They can talk to candidates because there is not much to surprise them, even though there are lots of keywords, lots of buzzwords, but it’s not rocket science at the end of the day. That’s usually what we start with, to ensure that foundation of IT vocabulary is there.
Folwell: Awesome. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And with that, and I know right now, and I know finding good developers, good engineers, it’s really, really difficult. How are you kind of seeing things change in recruiting and specifically in IT?
Juhas: Well, I would say it starts with the mindset. A lot of people say, “No developers on the market.” And obviously there is some truth to that, but at the same time, they already started with this kind of scarcity mindset, right? Like I look at it from the other angle, which is, there has never been as many software developers and IT professionals on the market as these days, right? Just because all the time, some new developers join the market from boot camps or universities. And by no means as many developers retire. Right? If we take this as granted, like there are more developers, obviously there is more demand at the same time, right? But a lot of developers want to change their job. I’m talking to developers every day and they are just open to new opportunities, especially if we find an angle which is compelling for them.
So for example, we know from experience that developers from Eastern Europe want to work for clients that are based in Western Europe, for example. At the same time developers who are based in Western Europe, want to work for U.S.-based companies. If you work with this, then you can always find an angle which speaks to the particular IT professional.
Folwell: That’s kind of general, in terms of geography? Do you have any specific ways of kind of uncovering their needs or identifying what their unique needs might be? Any tactics on that front?
Juhas: If we break down these personas, as you probably use in marketing, right? In marketing your personalized, and also in IT, we have some common personas or some standard stereotypes of these IT professionals. So there are some, for example, who are keen to work for startups because they have more decision-making power, they can wear multiple hats. So they don’t specialize as much as in corporations, they are much more challenged, right? So there are certain developers who want to pursue these kind of projects. While on the other hand, some other people just seek for security or stability and they are better fit for some corporate kind of an engagement, right? So if you try to understand where are these developers or potential candidates, and that can also evolve over time. Right?
I was talking just recently to one developer who was working for a startup. He was like excited about the work and everything for the past few years. But then he mentioned that his wife got pregnant. So suddenly you wanted to change from the crazy growth-driven environment to very stable, secure job. So it also changes over time. But as soon as we uncover it, we can present an opportunity in a more compelling way to the developer.
Folwell: That’s great. And it makes a lot of sense. How are you going about finding these developers? It sounds like you’re building personas out ahead of time to make sure that you, when you’re talking to them, you’re talking about what they actually care about, but do you have a way of kind of how you’re sourcing the developers are finding the developers and then also identifying or matching them to that persona?
Folwell: Awesome. One thing I’m going to have to kind of circle back on, as you were talking about how there’s more demand and, there’s also more developers than they’ve ever been, but the one stat, I don’t remember if it was an HBR a couple of years ago, but it was something around the lines that 85% of your LinkedIn network is open to a new job opportunity if the offer is right. Which I think that kind of comes down to figuring out what that offer is and how to match it. But that’s kind of amazing to think about the majority of your network, actually being willing to take a new role or actually shift. It’s interesting that you guys are using advertising. I don’t know if you’re open to sharing this or not, but what type of content offers or ad copy are you using to actually drive people through?
Juhas: We get inspired by marketing a lot in this sense, probably you see behind me, some of these copywriting books or Russell Brunson’s or here on the right, identify what do people want? What do they potentially desire, right? When it comes to the carrier change and then speak to that particular desire. As I mentioned, for example, when we target advertisements to Eastern European developers, then we present like, “Hey, would you like to work for a company from Berlin?”
Folwell: That’s great. So with that, are you kind of in how you’re like training and it sounds like you’re doing the IT staffing and recruiting yourself, but also you have the training modules and a lot of great content on your website. If you were to hire an IT recruiter, do you have kind of a certain set of characteristics that you look for or that you try to train into IT recruiters as you’re coaching people?
Juhas: I would not at this point hire a senior recruiter just because I know there are very few on the market who are available. And usually those more senior recruiters, they just want to work on their own as freelance recruiters. What do we do? We hire juniors, but we put extra effort in training them. So we have several milestones. We have dedicated training.
And that’s the training that I used also in other agencies to train their developers…not developers, but the recruiters. We also do some shadowing, online shadowing from Zoom. And especially if we break down these roles, it’s not rocket science, right, recruitment? But you need to have certain knowledge about those roles. But otherwise sourcing is not that difficult. Screening is not that difficult. If you understand the terminology and the vocabulary. Calling candidates, it’s not that difficult, right? Probably to do it all at the same time. If one person is supposed to lead, then it’s really challenging. But if you break down those roles, they are not that difficult. That’s where we are heading with these agile teams where we are able to cut these roles to pieces and identify individual strengths and match to these roles.
Folwell: Oh, that’s great. So it sounds like on the consulting side, you’re actually helping with kind of operational process improvement and efficiency and defining roles and kind of the strategy that we’re going to market and sourcing and all of that. Is that fair?
Juhas: Yes. Because even when I look at myself, right, I’ve been in IT for about 17 years. I’ve been recruiting I don’t know, probably for seven years out of those 17, but only last three years, like really professionally, as an for clients. I mean, so I know, a thing or two about recruitment, but it’s not like there are definitely more professional recruiters. We’ve just focused on recruitment for the last 10 years. But still even with my experience, there are parts of the recruitment that I just don’t like. I’m not good in, I know, following up with candidates. I’m not good in completing some sourcing sheets, right? Like I’m great in coming up with how to source, what to source what’s the strategy, but then I need someone else to actually follow up with the rest. And then I’m talking to some other senior recruiter and he’s also saying something similar just with slightly different angle.
He could be great in X, Y, and Z, but doesn’t like calling candidates. Or someone else is great in both sourcing and screening, but cannot run the campaigns on Facebook to drive more candidates to opt-in funnels. Recruitment message is very complex. That’s also the reason why we are setting up these agile teams where we are able to like really cut these rows to pieces and identify who is, for example, strong in calling and just let the person call if that’s his or her strength, instead of just having one senior recruiter to do, you know.
Folwell: That makes a lot of sense. And with that, you’ve mentioned Facebook…I know can have some of the content could be considered tools that you guys have on your site. Do you have any other software tools or anything like that, that you recommend, or that are kind of best practices for finding the right talent?
Juhas: So, for example, ContactOut, it’s software that works really well to get candidate’s details, but there are many more right, like Lusha? But ContactOut works really well where some sourcers in our team go through, GitHub or LinkedIn profiles and they get candidate’s profiles, and then someone else follows up with these candidates. And GitHub actually really works well for us for some very technical roles. It’s a tool I’ve been using for the last 10 years as a developer, but now we are really using it to source other developers. It also depends on the role. It does not work for managers, for example, because they just don’t use GitHub, but it works for developers because they just have to use GitHub. So they are there.
Folwell: That’s great. And one of the pieces of content I saw on your, I think it might actually be a book on your website, but I kind of wanted to learn a little bit more. I saw the title of How to Recruit IT Talent Without Sending Messages All Day. So could you give us a little summary of some best practices or what you’re going to get inside that book?
Juhas: Yeah, yeah. That was the one explaining how to use LinkedIn paid advertisements and not LinkedIn Jobs, that’s obvious, right? But LinkedIn paid advertisements, which is usually used to promote some B2B products, but it can also be used to promote job opportunities. If you go to LinkedIn, you can set up a campaign, a paid advertisement campaign and you have a few options how to deliver the message to the audience. You can, for example, display some video or image in their feed. But then there is another option which is to send messages to people who meet certain criteria. So for example, people who have a certain skill or certain title within some geographical area. So this is for example, what we use for the more senior positions for managers, CTOs, VP of engineering, where we could also send them individual messages, but it would really take days and days to just go through a list of profiles and send messages, but you can use LinkedIn to send those messages through their advertisement platform.
Folwell: And do you find that the paid messages each, kind of advertising on the wall or a video, or is that the most effective channel for kind of the higher-level positions?
Juhas: So what the good thing is that you can really see how many people click the message and open it, which is really cool when the pool is small, we are talking about, I don’t know, 2,000 or 3,000 people who may be a good fit in some geographical area for a selected position. So it gives you a sense of how many people actually saw the message just based on a few campaigns that we compared the performance of messages versus just showing images, the messages work better for your promotions.
Folwell: That’s great. And kind of zooming out a little bit. Do you have any specific use cases, case studies, or stories about kind of how you’ve worked with, specifically, with agencies or work to help find the right IT talent?
Juhas: For agencies or for clients?
Folwell: I’ll leave it up to you. Because you’ve got both avenues open.
Juhas: Oh, okay. Okay. Yes, yes. Yes. Well, in that case, we have both case studies for agencies or staffing agencies that we help to actually upscale their team. And we are working with teams of from five to 40, 40 recruiters. And that’s actually really crazy what’s going on in, for example, India. So there are U.S.-based companies that have recruitment teams in India and they just hire freshers from a university. They hire freshers in dozens, right? And every three quarters, we are just onboarding a new batch. Sometimes it’s 20, sometimes it’s 40 recruiters or so it’s just crazy. Now sometimes when you think about what’s going on, on the IT market, this is actually one of our best clients. They are just really going wild in tech recruitment. We usually take this fresh batch of recruiters, even though they are not recruiters yet, but another consulting company teaches them the recruitment soft skills. And we teach them the recruitment hard skills when it comes to IT recruitment. So after roughly six weeks, they become ready to start sourcing that offer.
Folwell: Awesome. And so that’s kind of what you guys are. It’s a six-week plan and to get people up to speed on the lingo?
Juhas: Yes. Yes, so our part is three weeks and at the other company that focuses on soft skills, it’s another three weeks. So in total six weeks.
Folwell: Awesome. That’s great. What are some of the other kind of major trends that you see going on? I mean, I know we’ve talked about the supply and demand. Are there any other kind of big trends that you see impacting IT recruiting?
Juhas: So when I think about with all these candidates in IT, I think we are getting closer to what we have been seeing in sports, right? When the sport professionals, they have some agents who take care of their professional career. And I’ve seen this for example, with senior managers in IT, but recently not just with managers, but even with senior for example, architects. So people who have been in IT for, I know, seven, eight, 10 years, they are getting tired of just applying for jobs, right? Like we, for example, have this career upgrade tools project that helps some of these more senior professionals get more and better opportunities. So they get this coaching, they get career rebranding, repositioning, and then some ongoing introductions to interesting companies. With their salaries increasing, I guess they just have more disposable income to pay for these additional services. So it’s really interesting to see these changes on the market and how people are willing to invest some money in more kinds of service.
Folwell: Yeah. I think that’s a trend I hear about as well. And I don’t know if I’ve actually heard about the actual candidates paying the recruiters or paying the agency for those services or do you see it more as the staffing agency kind of providing those for free in an effort to keep that talent as kind of there to be that agent for the talent.
Juhas: Yeah, well I’ve heard some other agencies provide it for free, we charge, but if they can provide it for free, great. It obviously depends. It could be, give some tips for free, do some short sessions with really good candidates to prepare them for the last rounds of interviews for free, of course. But then when we upsell, we upsell when the candidate is not hired, when the candidate is not hired, it’s a perfect time to just pitch him or her mentoring or coaching service. Like, “Hey, you know, it didn’t work out, but don’t worry. We can help you get another job. Here’s our coaching programs.” That’s the sweet spot.
Folwell: Awesome. That’s great. So with that, I’m going to kind of jump over to some of the, kind of more personal questions here to get a little background on you. What is some advice that you wish you were given before entering the staffing industry?
Juhas: Well, it always looks easy before you start doing it, and it could be applied to everything, I guess. It’s never as easy to start something in general, but business or an agency as it looks like, because if you just break it down, it’s like, well, you set up a new company, you get the one or two clients and you get some cashflow, you hire a few people. So it looks easy on a paper, but it’s not as easy in practice. Or at least it was not in our case. And also in those other agencies I was consulting for.
On the other hand, it’s also not rocket science. Probably it comes down to some mentors or people who know what they are doing and just bring them on board. So that’s what we are trying to do now, going forward in a more strategic way, just to identify people who have the knowledge and we bring them on board through consulting. But I didn’t do it this way because we didn’t have cash at the beginning, but that’s what I would do differently. Probably, sometimes you just need a few thousand dollars and you can save yourself months or a year or two of hard work.
Folwell: Awesome. And in the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
Juhas: I would say morning exercise. And the overall morning routine I started roughly five years ago, maybe four only. That was a game changer. I started back in Thailand. It is about five years. And prior to that, I was just waking up regularly at 7, 7:30ish. But now I wake up at five or even before five. And I go through a very structured morning routine with gratitude expression or a little meditation exercise, of course, cold shower, like all these things to set me up for a productive day. And that overall was a game changer. I wouldn’t say any of those individual activities contributed significantly, but overall together after, and especially if it accumulates over the course of two, three years, I feel so much better and stronger.
Folwell: That’s great. And I’m going to jump to the next question, because I think looking behind you, you’ve got a lot of great books and some that I would put as my top recommendations for a book, but what is the book or books you’ve given the most as a gift and why?
Juhas: Ego is the Enemy is the one that I keep thinking about it, not just about the book, just sometimes the title is all you need. That’s probably the one you also see behind me because there are so many examples of situations where ego was the enemy during meetings. And not just necessarily on my end, but probably also on my end, like everyone has ego it’s just like, probably I’m trying to fight it a little, but I know of people who don’t admit they have ego or they are not aware of the impact of their ego on their decisions. And then it’s just so annoying. So I just keep reminding this to myself and bring it as often as I can.
Folwell: That’s a fantastic read. And one I’ve also gifted and recommended that to many people as well. Though you have to be careful with who you give it to. So how has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Juhas: Oh, well the previous company that I have co-founded in Thailand, it went out of business and it was not an easy one because we fundraised over $11 million. We go up to 95 people overall, that was a crazy ride over five years. And then it crashed. Eventually, I would say it really helped me to understand that nothing is as hard or as harsh sometimes as it looks like, just because if you have these ups and downs in business, as you usually have, but then you get used to it. So now I just cannot get out of line as easily as I could five, six, seven years ago.
Folwell: Just out of curiosity will you also tell us a little bit about what that startup was and what you guys did?
Juhas: Yeah, yeah. It was a travel tech startup. So we created, and we started probably nine years ago, at least nine years ago. So it was back when there was this saying there is an app for everything. So we started a mobile-first product for last-minute hotel booking. And in the United States, you have HotelTonight. And around the time we started in Bangkok in Asia HotelQuickly, probably a year later, roughly, but the difference was marginal and we grew, they grew, it was crazy, but also the competition was killing us in Thailand and not just Thailand, like we were active in 16 different countries. So it was not an easy market. And we made several wrong strategic decisions, not just one, like one wrong decision cannot really kill you. We made like several, several ones. So that, was really annoying. And by the way, ego played a huge factor in this one.
Folwell: One of those things you learn over time.
Juhas: So that’s why the book, that’s why the book and now, you know, the full story behind the book over there.
Folwell: Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. So what are some of the bad recommendations you hear in IT recruiting?
Juhas: Oh yeah, there was one on Facebook that just popped in my mind. Like there was someone asking in the Facebook group, what IT course to study for recruiters. And I was obviously suggesting our tech recruitment academy, but there was someone who responded like, “Hey, you know, I’ve been recruiting IT positions for the last X years and I didn’t need any IT recruitment training or IT training. Like you guys don’t need it either.” And I’m like, that’s just ridiculous. Like, maybe you just don’t understand how much you know already after 10 years recruiting in IT. And you are suggesting to someone who has never been touching IT, you are suggesting is not necessary. So it’s like, wrong kind of suggestion based on probably, well, maybe there was something to it. Like it’s really hard to say, but I felt like that’s just ridiculous advice to someone who is just entering IT market and is willing to learn. And she was just stopping the person from learning.
Folwell: That does not sound like a smart approach. So with that, do you have any kind of closing comments or any additional thoughts that you’d like to share with our audience?
Juhas: Keep learning, keep growing. That worked for me personally, and that also works for my colleagues who are just keen to learn and grow. You never can go wrong with some new insights or new learning. And that’s really cool. Also the fact that you are recording this podcast and you are spreading the information and knowledge out there is totally cool.
Folwell: Awesome. Well, Michal, it’s really nice having you on. I love what you’re doing and you know, educating people so they can be better IT recruiters appreciate you having me on today. Thanks so much.
Juhas: This has been a pleasure. Thank you.