The role of a subject matter expert is slowly becoming central to the recruitment process. Traditionally, recruiters are tasked with understanding the client’s requirement and conducting a search for individuals who have the skills they have specified. The process usually looks something like this:

While this process has been working for Compunnel as a staffing supplier for over two decades, we have come to realize that is it is becoming more and more affected by the exponential growth of technology in almost every sector. As the level of technical skills required by clients becomes more complex, the opinion of subject matter experts who have an even better understanding of requirements as compared to technical recruiters, becomes necessary.

Recently one of our clients presented us with a particularly difficult challenge in trying to fulfill their ongoing staffing requirements. The client, one of the biggest electronic brokerage firms in the United States, has an open-ended order for three highly technical roles, each rare and required on a large scale.

Capital market brokers use proprietary technology that processes data in milliseconds. These systems must be up and running at all times with zero redundancies and thus the demand for top notch software engineers that build and deploy such platforms on the job is high at such companies. The roles they require are:

– Security Systems Programmer
– Senior Java Software Engineer
– Software Engineer: C++

Not only is each of these roles difficult to source because of the high demand for engineers, but because these positions are full time, the client also needs to ensure that the hires are best-in-class. To ensure this, the client has put in a stringent pre-interview process that requires candidates to take two tests before passing on to the interview stage. This, combined with the fact that they are trying to hire 200 people in these roles within the year, means that the engagement is critical to their business growth.

When the order first came in, Compunnel’s technical recruitment team was assigned to search for talent with the right skills for their location in Greenwich, Connecticut. The client is willing to consider people in the New York tri state area as long as commute is not an issue for them.

The technical recruiter that the project was assigned to, started by submitting a group of seven candidates that his team deemed likely to succeed. When none of them passed both tests to make it to the interview stage, the team realized that there was a disconnect between the client’s expectations and our understanding of their requirement.

The next step taken by Compunnel was to set up a meeting with the client’s Director of Talent Acquisition to gain a better understanding of their requirements. The team discovered that the client’s specifications were more exacting than they realized:

– The company has a lateral structure without hierarchy. This means that even hires with many years of experience are still required to code and are never simply managers.

– The client had a preference for engineers who had experience in building internal proprietary systems from scratch, they needed people who would be able to code on the job.

– The client would only consider those with less than three years of experience if they had a Computer Science degree from one of the top schools.

– The client would not consider candidates that had a history of quitting in less than 12 months.

– The client had no salary constraints because they were looking to hire at every level and had a great benefits package for employees

Upon clarifying these requirements, Compunnel’s internal team changed their strategy immediately. The project was passed on to one of one of our experienced subject matter experts (SMEs) who had experience with coding C++ and Java for other electronic brokerage firms like TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab. The experienced SME recalibrated the team and adjusted the specifications the team was going after. After making the changes recommended by the SME, Compunnel was able to submit a total of 16 candidates with five moving forward to the interview stage. This means that we were able to double the number of submissions and dramatically improve the Submission: Interview ratio.

Bringing in a subject matter expert to the recruitment process can have several benefits:

Better quality vetting: As the roles in question were highly technical, the SME was much better at concluding whether or not a given candidate had both the technical and soft skills required to perform well in a given role. Their education and experience gives them unique insight into what a given candidate’s exact skills are and what kind of personality they should have in order to be a good cultural fit with a given client.

Can train the recruitment team: Once the SME clarified the specifications, they were also able to educate other recruiters on the team about what would be the best way to go about looking for people with the required skill set. Once the other recruiters got it, they were able to aid in accelerating the search for qualified candidates while keeping the client’s other criteria in mind.

Recommend candidates from their professional network: Because SMEs are very much in touch with the latest in technology due to their day jobs, they often know people who have experience working with it. They are able to even directly recommend people they know have the required skills and are looking for a job or know those with access to such candidates to ask if they know someone who might be right for it.

Compunnel has seen a dramatic improvement in our sourcing methodology by involving an SME when our technical recruitment team is unsure about how to proceed. Slowly we find ourselves making the shift towards involving SMEs at the very beginning of the recruitment process to make sure that the candidate search is starting off with all the right information. By keeping a group of highly specialized SMEs on retainer in the form of consultants, and at times even hiring them in a full time capacity to work with us as recruiters, has helped to make our entire process much more efficient from beginning to end.

Sailee Sarangdhar

Sailee Sarangdhar

Sailee Sarangdhar is a creative and data-driven Senior Content Manager with a passion for writing high-impact copy. She is deeply interested in the future of work and how technology can be leveraged to improve current recruitment practices.


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