Building happy teams


How to hire top engineering talent

6016 4016 Mita Mandawker

Over the years, as industries try to become more software-driven, the demand for engineers and developers has increased dramatically. Finding the right engineering talent is crucial for the growth of your company and its products. Even in 2020, amid the COVID-19 crisis, engineering has seen the best recovery in terms of jobs in the market though comparatively lower than last year. This field is showing great promise of recovery.

The key to business recovery from the pandemic is going to be innovation. Technology lies at the center of innovation. As Marissa Mayer, Co-Founder of Lumi Labs and former CEO of Yahoo, said, “In technology, it’s about the people. Getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment, and helping to find a way to innovate.”

The demand for engineers remains at an all-time high and expected to increase in months to come, with rapid digital transformation, brought on by COVID-19. Attracting the right talent can be a real challenge for companies, especially smaller companies. Engineers have a lot of options to choose from, and best engineers have the luxury of picking the projects and companies they will work for.

So how do companies appeal to top engineering candidates and stand out as a potential employer?

Based on our own experiences in hiring tech talent for our clients, we are sharing what the companies can do to attract best engineering talent, what engineers are looking for from a potential employer, and more.

Getting started

Every hiring process starts out with building a pipeline of candidates. To create a talent pipeline, it is essential to take stock of one’s branding and see that it positions you as a great place to work for the engineers.

For the tech giants of the world (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.) this is easy, their employer brand is already a big draw for the candidates but for smaller organizations it is important to focus on this aspect and build it actively. We have some great tips for building out your employer brand here, check them out and start today.

Show them the problem they will be solving for

The key to attracting the best engineering talent is to show them what opportunities they will have, at your company, to solve significant technological problems alongside other exceptional engineers on your team.

Engineers are problem solvers by nature, and not merely experts defined by their fields (technologies they work with, etc.). If you give them a glimpse into the kind of problems they will be solving for, they can build a better understanding of your challenges and understand precisely how they will be making a difference for.

Focus on communicating your organisation’s story, history and challenges you tackle.

Go beyond competitive salaries

Paychecks matter, but engineers place a lot of stock in, ‘What problems will I be solving along with this company?’, What new will I get to learn here, what technology will I work with, who will be my mentor, etc.

So if you have to compete with huge tech giants of the world for the engineering talent, it would be useful to have clarity on what engaging problems engineers are expected to solve and what will they learn and from whom.

Have your CTO write about interesting problems you solve at your organisation, share what the team does, your work culture, etc. It will go a long way in showcasing your values, problem-solving style, etc. and give you an edge when competing with more prominent companies.

Assess with your real-world challenges

As recruiters, we see an increasing preference among both companies and engineers, that job application processes have assessments which simulate the actual real-world problems the engineers will be working on.

This approach is useful for both employers and applicants. It gives candidates a glimpse of what problems they will be solving for (if they are to work for that organization), gives employers a thorough way to assess the candidates’ abilities, skills and approach towards problem-solving, especially in the company’s context.

Overall, this approach is a win-win for everyone.

Don’t remain stuck on 100% fit, go for other great candidates

Most employers are looking for the ideal candidate who ticks of all the boxes in their list of requirements. It ends up restricting the candidate pool they can interview and hire.

Instead, be flexible and go for candidates who have, e.g. 80% of the skills required to do the job, you can train them to learn the 20% which they don’t know presently, and be the ideal candidate with 100% skills that you were looking for.

You end up saving time, that you would otherwise, end up spending searching for that elusive purple squirrel (candidate with 100% of skills that you are looking for).

Stay in touch during the whole process process

We can’t stress enough about the importance of continuous communication during the entire interview and hiring process.

The number of drop-offs in tech hiring is pretty high compared to other fields. So every update that you share with the candidate matters, especially if it is going to increase your interview time (say the hiring manager is out on leave and can’t do interviews sooner). The continuous stream of communication keeps your candidates engaged, your talent pipeline warm and reduces the drop-off rate.

Close the hire asap

Once you have found your perfect engineering candidate, move fast and close the hire speedily. Don’t draw out salary negotiations, be clear and upfront on this count from the beginning.
Be responsive and keep continuous communication with the candidate, remind the candidate of your company’s story, and why they should be excited to be a part of it.

Invest in employer branding to show your presence and build a community

Remember what we said about building a talent pipeline, it is crucial to cultivate and engage with one, even when you are not actively hiring.

Focus on building a long term relationship with the engineering community, which helps you stay relevant, and positions you as ‘an organization as a place where new ideas and solutions are created and fostered’, even though they are not actively interviewing with you.

  • Here are some tips for investing in employer branding:
    Get your engineering or tech team to blog on technical topics.
  • Showcase your engineering team prominently on your company platforms, encourage them to share their experiences of working at your company.
  • Organize or sponsor hackathons with engineering colleges or other technical institutions. It will help you identify great entry-level talent producing best ideas and also bolster your reputation as a leader in new technology invested in innovation and creativity.

The key to hiring world-class engineers is to share your story and help them see where they fit in it. You’re not just offering them a job; you’re selling them on the next chapter of their life.

Check out this video from our CTO and GMI two-time winner Sudheer Bandaru on hiring and scaling your tech team.


Contact Shortlist Here

sourcing digital

Sourcing Digital Talent: Finding Digital All-Stars in Unlikely Places

5472 3648 Shortlist

With rapid digital transformation brought about this year by COVID-19, in months to come as businesses recover, the competition for hires with digital skills is going to become fiercer.

This competition is going to be tough not just for tech, but for all the sectors.

Many sectors like banking, financial services, insurance (particularly across SSA, etc) across emerging markets are undergoing rapid transformation. Companies from all these sectors have one thing in common – digital talent needs. They are rapidly hiring digital talent for software engineering, digital marketing, data analytics, etc. to drive their digital agendas.

They are competing for the same set of people and skills, given that all businesses are pursuing digital agendas of some sort ranging from added product offerings, operations, mobile apps, etc.

In some instances, the demand outranks the supply, which has led to a sourcing challenge. This is acute for fast-growing SMEs who do not have the budgets and infrastructure to engage in large scale recruitment drives, like MNCs. This requires a need for greater creativity.

So, where should these companies find digital talent? Are there any unlikely places that they are overlooking? We are here to share our own expertise with you on this.

Look beyond traditionally, digital sectors

We’re increasingly seeing great digital talent come from sectors beyond IT and the computer software giants you might think of first (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, etc.). A lot of these emerging sectors have not been digital historically, but are now going through digital transformations. For example, sectors like agriculture, energy, and distribution and logistics are not traditionally tech-forward sectors, but we have seen some great tech talent present there.

  • Let’s take the energy access sector, for example. Energy access is increasingly driven by data and finance, so we have found talent which excels at data analysis within energy access companies. Their solutions are driven by software, so they seek out and hire great engineers.
  • Agriculture is another sector where a range of companies are providing value-added services to farmers via technology, giving them access to information and data and driving greater market transparency. The digital transformations that are driving change in the agriculture sector are a great grooming environment for tech talent.

Look at locations beyond your own back-yard

Accelerated by COVID-19, digital talent has gone global. So instead of just thinking about what and who, you can find in your own backyard, think global.

Sourcing talent in your location or vicinity is the obvious first place most recruiters start, but the drawback is that you may end up missing out on places with great talent pools especially for digital skills.

Additionally, talent cost is a critical consideration for businesses especially SMEs and SMBs. By looking beyond your backyard (especially if you’re located in an expensive metro city), you can cut down costs and not compromise on talent quality.

There is great talent sitting at large, multinational tech companies no doubt, but hiring from them can prove more cost-prohibitive to most SMBs in the market. By looking at lesser-known talent pools, in less explored markets, your costs can go down significantly while ensuring the quality of candidates is not compromised.

Think of looking outside your city or even country to find high-quality, remote talent. We are increasingly working with large companies in East Africa who are looking for tech talent in India, to access a greater supply of talent at lower costs.

By looking beyond the obvious and closest places, you can better source talent from anywhere in the world.

Cultivate graduate talent pipelines

Cultivating graduate talent pipelines is a non-traditional way to think about sourcing digital talent, but building a strong bench of entry-level digital talent will help you build a sustainable, long-term pipeline of great digital talent. Play the long game.

Given the fierce competition for existing and emerging digital roles, companies should look at entry-level talent which can mature well in the role and technology.

Companies can build relationships with technical institutions known for honing a particular skill or technology, this way they have access to vetted talent, ensuring access to a cost-effective and renewable talent pipeline.

As digital transformation cannons forward and competition for talent grows more intense, companies have to explore unknown places to source talent. We hope these ideas give you some inspiration in your search for great talent.


At Shortlist, we’re experts in finding digital talent for companies that don’t have multinational budgets for tech talent, match our clients with talent that’s interested in rolling up their sleeves and contributing to high growth environments. Whether you need a new CTO or you’re building out a 50-person tech team, we have the experience and bench of talent to be able to help you grow your digital team. We are uniquely positioned to solve cross-border digital talent needs given our full-team presence across offices in East Africa and India. Beyond our physical presence, we can source talent globally from anywhere in the world and have worked across 25+ countries.

Hiring tech talent? Reach out to us today to see how we can help you.

Contact Shortlist Here

digital skills

Why should companies focus on digital skills more than ever in the post-pandemic world?

3906 2930 Mita Mandawker

So many companies are choosing to go remote to ensure business continuity and safety of their staff, digital skills have become vital for existing employees and new hires. It has become important for employers to upskill or re-skill their workforce so that they get the best of the digital transformation that’s taking place.
It has become important for employers to reflect on how to best equip their company, processes and their workforce for the post-pandemic world.

The digital transformation will require flexibility and acquiring additional skills for the employees if they want to grow and flourish in the new reality over the next 3-4 years.

For employees to continue working in their current job or to find a new job, to present oneself as the top talent, they need to focus on upskilling especially those skills which are going to be vital and in-demand in their chosen field.

Workplaces are definitely set to change in light of events of 2020 and with it, so will the skills that companies will need, with a pronounced focus on digital skills.

Based on our extensive conversations with employers across India and Kenya, here are some digital skills that employers should consider equipping their current workforce with and look for in prospective employees for ensuring success in the post COVID world.

Digital skills: What are they? Setting a baseline…

Digitization will heavily dominate the future of work. All companies will be digitally based to at least a certain extent if not a 100% thanks to COVID-19. Given that this new mode of operation is here to stay, digital skills will be gaining a lot of traction.

Whereas “digital skills” once meant knowing the latest coding languages or working in IT, now having a digital skillset is more inclusive. Companies are looking for employees who can succeed in digital environments, and for those who can communicate across platforms and technologies. People who can keep the digital business running and thriving despite any disruptions (calamities, pandemics, etc), will be highly sought after talent. We anticipate that having a digitally skilled talent pool is going to play a larger role in disaster preparedness planning for companies going forward.

Companies will also rely heavily on digital technologies and skills to improve the quality of the work environment and try and set up strong remote team culture aided by the right infrastructure to make work truly seamless and boundaryless.

Top Skills Employers Should Look Out For (Regardless of Role…)

(1) Tech-savvy

Businesses will be even more reliant on technology in the future, especially as certain organizations plan to have their employees working from home until the end of the year, or even into 2021 (and beyond). Over the course of the next few months and probably even for most of 2021, businesses will be even more reliant on technology, as organizations plan to have their employees work remotely. The best way to prepare for a post-pandemic world is to acquire technology skills.

COVID-19 has already fast-tracked digital transformation in organizations worldwide to become more resilient to future disruptions to business continuity. The 2020 pandemic has also set the stage for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Adoption of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), big data, Internet of Things (IoT), etc will serve to improve the resilience of the business. With the adoption of these technologies will come the demand for talent (from people working on the actual tech to people working in other departments like accounting, HR) to work with these advancements capably and effectively.

(2) Soft skills

Success in business and every day at the workplace hinges a lot on how well the team works together. And, turns out, working remotely is not the same as joining co-workers in the office. Though the best technology is available (from video conferencing and messaging through to project management) and it’s relatively easy to master, the way we work as teams has changed and will continue to change.

What’s required for success? Excellent, sound communication with new, requisite soft skills forms the bedrock. Apart from the domain-specific skills needed for the business to function, the pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the need for soft skills like communication, flexibility, self-motivation, and time management to be able for the employees to work well in tandem with others when everyone is not in the same space. These skills are especially important when it is not possible to meet fellow co-workers and clients face-to-face. Soft skills will serve to differentiate the top talent and showcase the inherent ability to work well in a remote setup.

(3) Learning mindset

35% of the skills deemed essential today will change. The only way to remain relevant and competitive in future is to invest in skilling and upskilling your workforce. Not only do the skilled employees bring additional value to the table, contributing to the growth and development of your company, it also serves to have an effect on employee engagement and retention for an organization.

There is going to be a definite race to grab the business in the post-pandemic environment where digital expertise will give the company a definite edge. By making re-skilling and upskilling the top priority, companies can avert or reduce redundancies and lay-offs in the future and protect business interests. This will help companies create a leaner and more agile team that will be able to perform multiple functions.

Reskilling and upskilling has attained new importance, particularly for start-ups & SMEs in this new economy. They will take longer to recuperate from the present crisis, so their experiments with different formats of virtual learning will continue as they seek to upskill and reskill their employees to fill up the gaps that are brought on by innovations in technology.


The pandemic will be introducing some great new opportunities and to adopt and embrace new technologies and digital skills is going to be the key to surviving and thriving in the future. Companies should optimize existing opportunities through planned growth strategies, investments and digital transformations.

The world is definitely going to witness a need for a stronger workforce with advanced skillset. The companies that will proactively invest in digital transformation and skilling of its current and prospective employees to benefit from this window of opportunity will unlock the best opportunities from this period.
It has become abundantly clear that possessing and investing in digital skills is the need of the hour. An agile workforce with the right technical skills and digital knowledge is going to help companies to stay relevant as they navigate the new world of work.

Are you hiring? Shortlist can help, we offer a wide range of recruitment solutions that help companies build great, diverse teams.

Need help building a team with digital talent? We can help

Contact Shortlist Here

mental health

How to prioritize your team’s mental health to avoid burnout

1000 667 Brenda Akinyi

Remote work has dominated a big part of our lives this year. Despite some real benefits we have come to enjoy working from home (no more formal wear for work, quicker walk to the kitchen, no commute), many people are struggling with their mental health and how to turn work off at the end of the day, which is leading to increased levels of stress and work-from-home burnout.

While normally, it’s largely up to employees to figure out their vacation time schedules while still ensuring they meet their client’s expectations, it’s now more important than ever for company leaders to step in to help their teams achieve a better work-life balance.

Based on our own experiences and tips from leaders in the market, we have put together a few strategies for how you and other leaders in your company can help fight work-from-home burnout.  Which strategy will work best for your team?  Are there others you’ve tried out?  Let us know!

You have a leadership that already sees the importance of work-life balance and your team hasn’t been taking much time off

At Shortlist, one of our values is being a whole person, all members of the team are encouraged to be more than your work. To ensure that we uphold this value especially in these challenging times, we had our first-ever company-wide mental health vacation.

Now that sounds like a lot to take in and nearly impossible, but with proper coordination, planning a company-wide vacation does not have to be an uphill task.  Here are a few tips we incorporated to make ours a success:

  • Check-ins with the team

Understand where everyone is mentally, emotionally and physically. You might have your HR take charge of all matters employee welfare or you might have respective team leaders do a pulse check to see what the general sentiment is around the team. Employees generally talk to each other and having one on one conversations can help identify what each individual needs. You may not meet everyone at a personal level but having a general consensus can help the team manage their schedules and prioritize their mental health.

  • Giving appropriate timelines and help your team do vacation the right way

Once you identify what the team needs at this time and decide to go down this route, give advance notice to the team to help your team plan and ensure they have a solid break during this time. Take into consideration the teams within your organization. Both internal facing and external facing as each would require a different timeline. Keep in mind that it’s easier for some people to plan out their vacation time from start to finish. Some people however may need a little help in ensuring they shut off work completely or at least as much as possible. One way we are doing this is by crowdsourcing holiday activities from the rest of the team. Anything from binge-worthy TV shows, entertaining youtube channels to subscribe to, book recommendations, workout programs, online courses and more.

P.S you’ll have some interesting topics to talk about when you all get back 😀

Your team needs a recharge and you’re looking for something that goes beyond a “team game night” or “Zoom Happy Hours”

  • Encouraging more activities that help your team get better:

Now might be a great time to encourage your team to focus on things that will help them in the future. Invest in or partner with an e-learning platform where they can take courses or work on projects that help them hone their skills. You can also crowdsource ideas from the larger group to encourage peer learning. You can also run virtual team activities or share any that individuals can do personally to help them disconnect.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Virtual games
  • 1:1 / Group coaching sessions
  • Podcast and book recommendations
  • Career assessments through one on one check-ins
  • Sending regular appreciation notes to your team for the work they do
  • Organizing a “biggest loser” program  – Not just on weight loss but on ditching bad habits as well
  • Leading some deskercise – People are sitting down for longer hours now. Get them moving while at it
  • Sending out Wellness Wednesday tips
  • Social media detoxing
  • Making an “A-Z wellness tool kit” for your team

You’re a leader who’s busy, but you do really care about your team’s mental health. You want them to know (but don’t know where or how to start)…

  • Having more shared experiences to encourage vulnerability

Your team will open up more if they see you take the initiative. When you share your own challenges and how you are coping with them, you help them feel that they are not alone. They also feel empowered to talk about their mental health and how you can help them.

  • Walking the talk

It’s one thing as a leader to tell your team to prioritize their mental health but when they don’t see you you turn the switch off it can be difficult for them to follow through. For instance, you may find it easier to respond to emails much later in the evenings. While you may not be expecting your team members to respond at the same time, it creates some internal pressure within the team to follow suit. Be mindful of this and overcommunicate on expectations. Set personal boundaries, and enforce them. Your team will often follow your lead.

At the end of the day, the difference between operating at full capacity and doing just okay is knowing when to take breaks.

remote teams

Remote, cross-border teams: Answer to business success post-pandemic

5000 4000 Mita Mandawker

With the advent of the pandemic, remote teams have become a reality. As the months passed by, with little signs of COVID-19 letting us return to normal, people have become used to working from home and better at juggling the nitty-gritty of blurred lines between home and work.

It was a tough introduction, no doubt to companies globally to get used to the new way of working, but leaders and organizations are admitting that they are managing better now than they did at the start of the pandemic.

What does this spell for the teams in future? Will we see a return of back -to-office, co-located teams with some employees working remotely now and then? Will this mean we see more remote teams – teams spread not only across our homes but across different countries? Will this be a tangible reality in the years to come – an unexpected and welcome outcome of the pandemic?

At Shortlist we are in the business of helping companies across India and Kenya build their teams. Based on what we have been seeing in markets we work in and speaking with our clients, we believe remote, cross-border teams are here to stay, and that these hybrid, global teams will be the key to business success in the future, especially the post-pandemic world.

Look around: we are in the midst of a fundamental shift in what work looks like. Here is our take on what’s changing (rapidly) around you:

(1) The pandemic proved everyone wrong about remote work.

The pandemic myth-busted everything we held true regarding remote working. Two of the biggest reasons most companies traditionally do not believe in remote work are 1) the trust factor – they don’t trust their people will work at home when they are not in front of them and 2) the belief that people need to congregate in physical spaces in order to partake in company culture. As of March 2020, when, however, when most white-collar organizations around the world were forced to work from home, and, therefore, suddenly be 100% remote due to external circumstances, they quickly realised that these assumptions did not hold up. Even though no one was in the office and people were left to their own devices in their homes, work was still getting done and companies continued functioning. Remote work unequivocally has proven to work.

(2) Companies now need to respond to business demands flexibly

Over the course of the pandemic, a lot of companies downsized, letting go of staff to make sure they got through the crisis. Initially, these decisions were made in the short term in “survival” mode.

Now, faced with the question of ongoing sustainability (amidst a still present pandemic), companies are rethinking their decisions for the long term. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Shopify and Slack have made the decision not to reopen offices…ever. Others have opted for a smaller office footprint and embracing optional remote work for a “hybrid” model.

In addition to being pandemic-friendly and flexible, embracing long-term remote work can provide huge cost savings and competitive advantage.

When companies begin to grow again, it will be easiest for those that have embraced remote work to scale. You can hire top talent across the globe to work for you while keeping your overheads light. You can hire them on a project basis to accomplish a particular purpose in a pre-decided timeframe. Remote workers allow companies to be flexible, adaptable, and nimble in a way that single-geo, in-person companies will never achieve.

(3) Did we mention that remote teams are lighter on budgets?

If your company is in a metropolitan city, when you hire locally you have to match the salary in terms of cost of living, leading to costlier local hires. When you open to the possibility of cross-border teams, the best talent across the globe is available to you, not just talent in your (possibly very expensive) back yard. For every remote hire, your overhead costs like office space, internet, utilities go down.

(4) Remote teams enable much broader diversity (it’s on you to ensure inclusion)

As the pandemic unfolded most companies shifted their teams into home offices (or bedrooms, or living rooms) and many employees were working remotely. While some companies have started returning to the office, some have given theirs up entirely. Many organizations will prefer a ‘hybrid’ approach – offering both remote and on-site work arrangements to their employees. This way of working has significant benefits – happier, satisfied employees to reduced overheads, and increased productivity.

However, to reap the benefits of this kind of arrangement, organizations will have to balance offices’ safety and digitally-enabled remote working and find ways to engage with their employees even when they are remote.

(5) Need for flexible, agile leadership

Diverse teams are more innovative, better at problem-solving and decision-making, better engaged and lead to increased profits. Diversity and Inclusion run the risk of becoming ‘buzzwords’ so it’s important to reiterate the impact of diverse teams:

  • A 2018 study of 1,000 companies across 12 countries by McKinsey & Co found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.
  • Meanwhile, ethnic and cultural diversity resulted in a 33% increase in performance.

With co-located teams based out of a single office, there is a greater risk of homogeneity, especially in geographies where the talent pools are not diverse. When you go remote, you suddenly get a dynamic, diverse, cross-border, global pool of talent to recruit from. Your team can look like the United Nations without much effort. And, your diverse, global team will potentially be more productive and drive better results, which is crucial for tomorrow’s business.

It’s important to note that if teams are only diverse, without efforts to be inclusive and build a genuine sense of belonging, the results will fall short.

So, what’s next for teams? We anticipate seeing a lot more remote, cross-border, distributed teams as companies lean into more flexible, sustainable, and productive options. Will your next hires be remote? Have you looked beyond your (virtual) backyard? As experts on matching companies with the very best talent from 70+ countries across the globe, we can help.

We will be exploring more on cross-border, remote teams in upcoming blogs. Stay tuned here for more.

Are you hiring? Shortlist can help, we offer a wide range of recruitment solutions that help companies build great, diverse teams.


Contact Shortlist Here