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On the job

Keeping on top of evolving tech skills

WinterWyman recruiter John VanderSande often helps startups find workers.
WinterWyman recruiter John VanderSande often helps startups find workers.Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

When a software engineering job opens up, recruiter John VanderSande has a database of almost 2,000 names that he can turn to help fill the position, whether java architect or big data processor.

“Competition for talented coders, programmers, and developers is fierce, and there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work in finding and hiring the best tech talent,” said VanderSande, who has worked for WinterWyman, the Waltham staffing firm, for more than a decade.

You recruit for Massachusetts tech companies, especially startups. What are the hot skills that companies are looking for?

Believe it or not, 10 years ago there was no such thing as an app developer or data miner. Even five years ago, there wasn’t a lot of demand for cloud service specialists, big data architects, iOS or Android developers. Today, UI (user interface) engineers are among the employees with the toughest skill sets to find.


What does your day as a recruiter look like?

I work on a “blended desk,” which means I am working with roughly 12-20 different companies to fill openings while also helping qualified candidates advance their careers. A software company might be going through a big push to hire. They’ll give us details and then we need to find talent that fits.

Are recruiters threatened by LinkedIn?

No, we use LinkedIn as one of our many tools. But LinkedIn is a little oversaturated. Qualified engineers are now getting five to 10 “in-mails” a week — that’s LinkedIn’s version of an internal e-mail — so it’s a lot of noise to them and they’re just hitting “delete, delete, delete.”

How much can a recruiter like yourself earn?

Someone just starting out will make salary plus commission, and total compensation in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. A more experienced recruiter working on commission only — someone in the top 20 percent — can make in the $150,000 to $250,000 range, and an exceptional recruiter in the top 5 percent will make $350,000 to $550,000 or even more.


What’s your recruiting success story?

I started working with an early-stage startup in July of 2013. They had just raised a round of funding. Over the next nine months, we helped place 40 percent of their engineering team. Last spring, they were acquired for a huge sum of money by one of the most recognizable and prominent tech companies in the world. A few days after the news became public, I had an unexpected visitor at my office. One of the engineers I had placed there showed up with a very generous thank-you gift.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.