TechHire and HR: What It Means for YouPosted July 1, 2015 | By Tricia Hussung
The tech industry has been growing for decades, and it’s currently experiencing a significant boom. Employment in all computer-based applications is expected to rise a staggering 20 percent through the year 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technology is expanding into key industries as well, including both health care and finance. The link between technology and the marketplace has resulted in increased demand for software developers, computer programmers and other tech professionals. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that one of the largest and fastest-growing industries is computer systems design and related services. From 1994 to 2004, employment in these areas increased by 616,000 — an 8 percent growth rate per year. And those numbers have only grown: The projected increase for 2004 to 2014 was 453,000, or 1.6 million jobs total.
With encouraging data like this, many are surprised to hear that there is a shortage of trained tech professionals. Numbers released by the White House show more than 5 million job openings, half a million of which are described as openings in the IT field. Given the high demand for employees in tech roles, businesses and organizations of all kinds are struggling to find the talent they need to stay competitive. “It’s been very difficult to find folks with good development skills,” said Blake K. Holman, senior vice president and CIO at Ryan LLC, a Dallas-based tax services firm. He recently told Computerworld that he can find workers with some development aptitude, but landing programmers and developers with enough experience to handle the scale and complexity his company demands is challenging.
TechHire to Meet This Need
This shortage is one of the driving forces behind the federal government’s TechHire initiative, which President Obama announced to the National League of Cities in March. The program is a multisector initiative that seeks to empower Americans with the skills they need to secure a well-paying tech job. According to the White House, employers across the United States are in “critical need” of such talent. TechHire wants to meet this need in three central ways:
- Using data and innovative hiring practices to expand openness to nontraditional hiring
- Expanding models for training that prepare students in months, not years
- Working with active local leadership to connect people to jobs with hiring on-ramp programs
More than 20 communities are focusing on expanding access to tech jobs. More than 120,000 open technology jobs and more than 300 employer partners in need of this workforce are “announcing plans to work together to find new ways to recruit and place applicants based on their actual skills and to create more fast track tech training opportunities,” the White House said in a news release.
What It Means for Human Resources: Finding (and Keeping) Tech Talent
With the TechHire initiative deploying more and more qualified tech professionals into the job market, now is a critical time for HR professionals. The Harris Allied 2014 Tech Hiring and Retention Survey found that recruiting top technology talent was the biggest concern for 42 percent of the managers surveyed. Retaining this talent was the second biggest concern. Meanwhile, CareerBuilder’s annual jobs survey showed an estimated 31 percent of employers expected to add full-time, permanent STEM jobs in 2015, up from 25 percent in 2014.
Because individuals with tech talent will be entering the workforce at a much faster rate, the time is right to build a solid hiring strategy. But finding top-tier tech professionals can be a challenge. As anyone who has hired for an IT position recently knows, there is a “serious industry talent war,” Business News Daily reported. Companies and organizations of all types are competing to draw the best tech candidates, offering high salaries and extensive perks.
However, just because roles are hard to fill doesn’t mean the talent isn’t out there. Tony Martin, an executive vice president at Hudson RPO, explained that companies aren’t going about it the right way. “Finding the best person for a position goes beyond matching a skillset to a list of job requirements. In fact, smart companies are taking a look at what skills are available in market, and figuring how those skills can be applied to their particular needs,” he told Business News Daily.
Traditional recruiting methods are no longer enough. Industry insiders suggest the following five tactics.
Some companies rely on selection processes that narrow the criteria too much, journalist and author George Anders notes on Mashable.com. This can mean overlooking candidates with real potential but less experience. The better option is to open up criteria to include candidates with the creativity to succeed while keeping traditional skills in view as well. You can accomplish this by moving beyond the resume. Many top tech talents are much more concerned with improving their skills than they are with building their resume.
Recruit to train.
In general, don’t expect talent to come in a neat package. You should return to “the ancient way of doing things — focus on recruiting talented people, and train them to be the skilled employees you wanted all along,” advises Peter Cappelli, author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It . Although this is a longer process, it often results in loyal employees who are trained specifically for your context. Organizations are making mistakes from the get-go with impossible job descriptions, especially when using recruitment software. “The talent search is doomed from the start when there are precise words needed to alert the applicant-tracking software that a candidate should get through the gates and into an interview,” Cappelli added in the Mashable.com story. Put more emphasis on core abilities and foundational competencies. Then you’ll have a broader range of applicants and find talent that may have been overlooked by your competitors.
Find a niche.
Social communities dedicated to specific tech interests (like Dribbble and Stack Overflow) are an ideal place to attract talent. Because you reach your target audience directly rather than on a generic job posting board, you can build a contact list of potential candidates and better assess your options. Tech experts are often frequent contributors to online, peer-reviewed communities like these. This enables you to pre-screen and rank candidates based on what you read, saving time that is normally spent in screening interviews and allowing you to see actual examples of individuals’ expertise.
Know the industry and its motivators.
For tech recruiters, understanding different tech skill sets is key. Terms like .NET, CSS, PHP, OS, C#, Java and Python should be well-known to you. When you learn about the tech skills you’re recruiting for, you can better understand job descriptions and talk to candidates in their own language. And understanding the industry goes beyond just the skills involved. You’ll also need to know what to leverage to draw top talent. Though tech professionals are of all ages and demographics, Millennials are looking for specific benefits as part of their job. These workers value work-life balance, as well as culture. When you determine what is most important to your preferred candidate, you can position your job opening as an ideal option.
You know that hiring the right person is the ultimate goal of any HR department. However, while you shouldn’t hire the first applicant, you shouldn’t spend months (or even weeks) making a decision on a candidate after the interview. If you do, the candidate will be hired by another company and long gone, especially with the tech job market as competitive as it is. John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, told Business News Daily that speed is your biggest ally. “The companies that are winning and securing people are the ones who are moving quickly,” he explains. Because speed and decisiveness matter so much, it’s important to hire someone quickly if you like them (or don’t, if they aren’t a good fit). As one director of recruitment and placement puts it, “It’s better to hire [and fire] someone quickly than to wait two months and [find that] the person you wanted is off the market.”
Overall, it is important for HR departments to update their recruitment strategy. Tech professionals know what they are looking for — and that they are in demand. Talent is out there, but it is up to you to find it and give qualified individuals access to the jobs and opportunities they are seeking.
HR Management at Concordia University, St. Paul
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