Despite massive layoffs led by Meta, tech jobs are still hard to fill
Dmitri Otis | Stone | Getty Images
Recent tech layoff announcements, from Meta Platforms to Palantir and Eventbrite, are further evidence that tech companies continue to lay off workers. According to Crunchbase, the tech industry cut 234,000 workers last year and 94,000 since January.
Even so, it’s harder to find and retain tech talent, according to a survey of 1,000 human resources professionals by General Assembly, a career placement and talent recruiting firm.
The data backs it up: Although a January jobs report showed tech unemployment had slowed, a concurrent report from consulting firm Janco found 109,000 unfilled IT jobs due to a lack of “qualified candidates”.
“I think traditional hiring methods don’t work because they’re so reactive,” said Lupe Colangelo, acting head of talent and operations at GA. Nearly 90% of recruiting teams feared they wouldn’t be able to find talent, she said.
“One of the reasons employers struggle is because they don’t have the right approaches to recruiting,” Colangelo added.
She thinks the mismatch is two-fold: the time it takes to hire is too long, and hiring neglects underrepresented groups. For example, Colangelo said only half of GenZ workers plan to complete a four-year degree. Companies that continue to insist on four-year university degrees therefore reduce the pool of talent from which they can recruit.
“Hiring for technical positions takes an average of seven weeks, and by the time the position is posted, a company has needed that candidate for months,” she said.
“Every company is a technology company”
The picture gets complicated when you consider that the demand for tech talent comes from almost every sector of the economy. Colangelo said a company like John Deere, long known for agricultural equipment, has built a fair amount of software and other technology into its tractors and therefore needs to hire technical talent to discern the data it collects.
As a result, Colangelo said tech workers are filling positions in companies in sectors that aren’t traditionally “tech,” from food to fashion. The most competitive recruiters at these companies hold outreach events at industry conferences to find talent long before the need becomes acute.
“I think it’s better for tech talent because they’re not just looking for a job at a ‘tech company,'” she said. “That means every company is a technology company.”
Headhunters Without Borders
In the post-Covid era, employees may have moved far beyond commuting distance, but country borders and time zones remain an issue, said Louis Demetroulakos, head of partnerships at Playroll, a company specializing in cross-border hiring. He said there needed to be a major mindset shift towards opening up the talent pool.
“Companies don’t want to completely outsource because with sensitive information there are a lot of potential liabilities,” he said. “They want to hire people in another country cheaply but have full-time employees operationally and legally.”
Playroll can hire in 170 countries, respecting the legal obligations, social benefits and tax obligations of companies that want to take advantage of talent from all over the world.
For example, if a company wants to hire a software engineer in Brazil but has never done business there, Playroll can find that talent and onboard it on behalf of the company in need. The offshore employee is practically in-house, while payroll takes care of the administrative work.
Create a vision, not just a job
Especially when it comes to specialist talent, companies need to be intentional. Owen Healy, a recruiter who focuses on finding blockchain skills, says Web3 talent has always been used to working remotely and is constantly in demand. For top developers, salary expectations are the same around the world, Healy said.
When the whole industry is away, there’s little benefit to keeping developers on board. Healy said 80% of vacancies are highly technical, and recruiting teams are only vying for a few thousand highly experienced coders.
He said an inspirational mission is the only way to get them on the team.
“These developers are gurus in their space,” he said. “They want to buy into a vision. For the upper class of developers in particular, it’s about legacy.”
It’s about listening
Colangelo said success in hiring tech talent comes down to good listening. Finding out what the team needs leads to more accurate hiring. And attracting more diverse talent starts with revamping job descriptions, checking for biases in interviews, and listening to employees.
“For example, do some teams like the office culture, do they get valuable mentorship?” she says. “Is there great in-person networking or a culture for new non-traditional talent?”
Healy said retaining qualified remote talent means keeping them connected to other team members.
“It could be as simple as having a monthly meeting with your manager saying, ‘How are you, everything is fine,'” he said. “Companies are trying to scale their projects, but also have to scale the human capital elements.”
When it comes to the overall tech talent market, Colangelo said the supply and demand equation could get back into a better balance.
“We’ve seen companies get maybe a little too ambitious on hiring and growth, and they’ve gone for volume over strategy,” she said. “It’s not ‘you need 100 developers.’ It’s about figuring out what you actually need.”
Demetroulakos said many companies still believe they can only hire within their culture or geography, such as only hiring in the UK. Companies that have access to top talent hire across all time zones, but set working hours within a range to keep projects in order. with a team scattered thousands of miles away.
“Companies are allowing people to work remotely in the United States,” Demetroulakos said. “If it’s just as easy to get people to work remotely in Central and South America, why not?”