Crack the Challenge of Recruiting Tech Talent in Today’s Tight Labor Market
Are you searching high and low for in-demand STEM grads, elusive H1-B workers or millennial tech talent? Recruiting IT workers requires stamina and know-how. These expert tips will get you started.
By: John Rossheim
The U.S. IT job market, which now comprises 3.4 million professionals, will grow by about 82,500 net new positions in 2018, according to data and projections by Janco Associates.
If you’re a tech hiring manager or IT recruiter, that figure may strike more than a little fear in your heart. Or it may simply confirm the recruiting agita you’re already feeling.
There’s no denying that the IT talent market is under ever greater strain in 2018. Demand is increasing while supply is static at best. And it’s causing a major log jam. “We’ve had jobs open for six months,” says Joe Kotlinski, manager of IT search at WinterWyman.
Whether you’re faced with finding STEM grads or your task is to recruit data scientists, it’s time to take a step back for some fresh perspective from some very knowledgeable folks in tech recruiting.
Your first sourcing priority? Find candidates conversant in both business and technology. An ever-greater proportion of IT professionals are called on to understand the nitty-gritty of the businesses that are their internal or external clients.
“It’s hard to find candidates with both the platform experience—such as Oracle Cloud—and knowledge of accounting and audit controls,” says Jessica Adebayo, assurance business recruiting manager at PwC.
As you look for the right hybrid candidate, consider qualifying your resume search with a set of questions that will help you assess IT candidate skills.
Recruiting for diversity may require more effort than ever. Your competitors are responding to both ethical and bottom-line imperatives to recruit a diverse tech workforce—are you doing the same?
One diverse sourcing tactic is to enter into an educational partnership. For example Northeastern University’s Align program takes people with a non-STEM background and trains them for computer science. Participation in the program is 60 percent female, says P.K. Agarwal, dean of Northeastern University’s Silicon Valley hub. “We are reaching out to more and more community colleges along diversity lines.”
STEM majors of many stripes can make brilliant computer scientists. Smart hiring managers know that complex work in computer science doesn’t necessarily require formal training in computer science.
Many graduates in technologies other than IT (think engineering and math) can learn on the job and excel in artificial intelligence, machine learning and so on.
“In financial technology, especially for trading strategy, there are lots of opportunities for masters of their trade, even if their degrees are in physics or math,” says Jared Butler, head of technology recruitment and a director at search firm Selby Jennings.
Hedge your bets with H1-Bs. The Trump administration and Congress have given mixed signals on the future of visas for highly-skilled workers. So it’s prudent to assume that fewer foreign nationals will be available to fill IT positions.
“We work with a ton of candidates form China, India, Russia,” says Butler. “Last year there was talk of slashing H-1B visas and some candidates put their searches on hold. Some visa applications that used to take a week or two are taking six to eight weeks. If the government does cut H-1B visas, the impact would be unbelievable.”
Offer Millennials more than just a life of coding. If you’re looking to woo younger IT workers, your jobs should offer more than programming piecework. “Millennials don’t want to just be a back-end C++ developer; they want to get into machine learning and site reliability engineering,” says Butler. “People want to be remembered for building something that’s been successful.”
Don’t underestimate the power of casual. Industries with a conservative image are wise to let their hair down a bit to win over IT talent accustomed to a more relaxed culture.
“Hedge funds and proprietary trading firms are relaxing their working environments,” says Butler. The ability to do some remote work and dress in their own clothes is so important for young folks that even investment banks are going down a similar route, Butler adds. These employer adaptations have made IT professionals more comfortable with bringing their skills to an unfamiliar industry.
Consider getting personal, within limits. Social media sourcing is a great way to get a fuller view of the candidate, especially with younger workers. “I portray myself for who I am. I’m a mom, I love music, and so on,” says Adebayo.
“I’ve had a couple of recruits start a conversation with me based on these interests on Twitter. On other platforms, I look at their profile and use that info—such as a recent promotion—to make a pitch to them.” Just be careful not to ask illegal questions in these informal interactions.
Leave no question unanswered. Many hiring managers and their executives often take so long to choose the successful candidate that their eventual first choice has taken another job offer. Often the only thing that recruiters can do to mitigate these losses is to assiduously complete the groundwork so that when an offer is made, it will stick.
“‘Candidate control’ means that when a client decides to move forward, there are no unanswered questions,” says Butler. “It means our firm and the client has done everything to address the needs and concerns of the candidate.”
Make passive candidates an incomparable offer. If an incumbent hasn’t surveyed the landscape of IT jobs in a few years, they may be surprised at the wealth of career opportunities. That can throw a wrench in your recruitment process.
“Passive candidates—when you reach out to them and they see the market--may launch a broader search,” says Kotlinski. Thus, “we have purple squirrels looking for purple squirrels.”
While hiring managers often remain picky, you’ll need to get ahead of the competition and make the best offer quickly.
If your company is racing to uncover hard to find IT talent, you’ll need to the right recruiting tools—tools that leave no stone unturned. A Premium Job Ad will reach talent wherever they are—on Monster, on social media sites, and across 500+ job and news sites.