Companies looking to hire across the sector-wide shortage of senior technology team leaders need to be more honest and conversational in their recruitment, an industry executive has said.

Peter Dale, head of the Glasgow office of AND Digital that opened earlier this year, said firms looking to succeed in their digital transformation need people with both the rights skills and a correct cultural fit. Getting that mixture right is difficult across all pay grades, but is a particular challenge within the management ranks.

“It is fair to say that there are skills shortages across the board – at the associate level it is easier to recruit, but I would not say it is easy,” Mr Dale said.

“The higher up the pyramid you go to the more senior levels, that is where it becomes most acute, but it is at those levels where it is most important to get it right.”

Now with 14 offices across the UK and in Amsterdam, technology consultancy AND Digital announced in May that it was setting up in Glasgow with the creation of up to 100 jobs. Its so-called “club” in George Square is currently the base for 45 people on a hybrid home/office work schedule.

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With headcount set to hit 60 by the end of January, and then climbing to between 80 and 100 people by the middle of next year, AND’s Glasgow-based team is in “constant” recruitment mode. Mr Dale said this gives the firm insights into the advice it provides to clients.

“This is not just lip service, it is a core part of our business,” he said. “We are very focused on being transparent, and open about the things that we do, and why.”

Hiring junior recruits is predominantly traditional and structured, Mr Dale said, making it a quicker process. Whereas standard job advertisements can suffice at this level, more creativity is required to fill positions further up the ranks. This could include things such as arranging video interviews with members of staff who are already of a similar rank within the organisation.

Overall, Mr Dale said the conversation with recruits for senior jobs is more nuanced, and should include discussions about the types of clients applicants will be working with, and the nature of the work they’ll be undertaking.

“The senior roles are less about ‘I need a job’, and more about ‘is this the right job for me?’. You need to be open and honest about the challenges within your organisation, and the overall direction of the business,” he explained.

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“They need more information than just the glossy brochure version of the world – at that level, people know what they want. That is part of the reason why hiring at that level takes longer, and also why it is more difficult.”

Another useful strategy that firms can pursue is to build up their presence in the tech community. This not only increases awareness of their brand, but also provides access to a wider network of potential recruits that might otherwise go unnoticed.

And one of the best routes in terms of getting the right cultural fit and boosting retention, Mr Dale said, is internal referrals: “You already have ‘inside info’, if you like – you are not coming at it from a standing start.”

Set up in 2014 in London by chief executive Paramjit Uppal, AND Digital opened its first Scottish office in Edinburgh last year after securing an £11 million investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF). Having more recently landed £8m in follow-on funding from BGF, the company has ambitious growth targets amid the dash across all sectors toward digital transformation.

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This is being driven by the rapid shifts in consumer and business behaviour forced by the pandemic, with the digital tech industry in Scotland expected to grow at a substantially faster rate than the rest of the economy for the next several years. Mr Dale said this will put further pressure on the market for skilled team leaders, particularly in areas like machine learning and blockchain technology where it is “incredibly” difficult to recruit.

“The reality is when you get into those realms, you are in a really difficult marketplace,” he said. “You might get lucky, but really you have to ‘grow your own’, therefore you need to bring in people not just based on what they know, but also whether they are able to keep learning and grow with your business.”