While the pressures of the Great Resignation and attendant labor shortage has wide implications for business in just about every industry, it’s even worse for companies looking to hire highly skilled tech workers.
Prior to the pandemic, it was tough to fill specialized technology roles. Now, it’s next to impossible. Nearly 50 percent of tech recruiters are currently struggling to fill jobs because they can’t find enough qualified candidates, according to a recent hiring survey conducted by technical talent analysis platform CoderPad and training platform CodinGame. This has led tech salaries to increase 7 percent on average between 2020 and 2021 alone, according to a report from tech recruiting platform Dice.
Because A.I. and machine learning skills are so specialized, companies have a hard time finding enough qualified candidates to fill roles that require them — and recruiting other engineers and developers still presents a challenge, as businesses face an overall tech worker shortage. “More recruiters are hiring for developers, and those recruiters are hiring more developers than ever,” says Amanda Richardson, CEO of CoderPad.
What’s more, demand for tech roles is only expected to increase. The artificial intelligence software market could more than double in size over the next three years, according to data from Statista. That means companies that want to ride the A.I. wave need to build up their teams, stat.
Here, a few recruiting experts in the tech field share their trade secrets.
Give candidates the power to pick
It’s an employee’s market, so why not let them do the interviewing? That’s the solution proposed by the recently launched San Francisco company Talent Service. When a recruiter reaches out to a candidate about a job, the candidate can send the recruiter a questionnaire, asking questions about the role and company, through Talent Service’s platform. If candidates send the questionnaire to multiple recruiters, then Talent Service uses an algorithm to rank the opportunities presented to them, based on the candidate’s input preferences. Recruiters don’t necessarily have to wait for candidates to send them a questionnaire, however. Employers can create a profile on the platform to gain access to a network of candidates that may be a potential fit for their roles.
Simplify your interview process
When you find a candidate you like, speed is of the essence, Richardson says, though it’s important to “give a bit of a warm up,” by introducing your company and explaining what the role you’re hiring for will entail. Then, Richardson recommends sending candidates a straightforward skills test, instead of a technical interview — which she says can ultimately work more as a tool for intimidation and less as an actual proficiency check. Skills tests can also help hiring managers fill roles more equitably, without having to judge a candidate based off a cover letter or a résumé, Richardson says.
Ideally, the whole recruitment process should take no more than about six to 10 business days, says Giovanni Lotti, vice president of people for the London-based financial services A.I. company Tractable. “We need to be very linear and very simple,” he says. Tractable’s interview process has just three stages: an initial screen, an interview, and a final assessment.
Amp up your benefits
To recruit highly skilled tech workers, you need to offer a competitive compensation package, and that often includes equity. But all equity offers aren’t made equally, says Evan Coopersmith, executive vice president of the Los Angeles-based custom software company AE Studio. Recently, AE Studio started offering employees and candidates equity not just in the company itself but in the business’s clients and its internal projects. By allowing employees to therefore diversify their equity, they have a greater chance of benefiting from it. “When you’re trying to appeal to math geeks, you show them the math,” he says.
Benefits should also meet or exceed industry standards — which is what led Tractable to recently start offering its U.S. employees 401(k) matching, Lotti says.
Expand your search internationally
The expanded adoption of remote work during the pandemic has made it a lot easier to attract tech talent, says Sergiu Matei, founder of the London-based hiring platform Index, which helps companies worldwide to recruit tech talent. “If you expand your search outside of a set of zip codes, you can find great talent with less competition,” he says. Index’s platform assists with this search by including an English language test and skills assessment in its recruiting process. Hiring employees in international locations with lower costs of living than tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York City can also make smaller companies’ compensation packages more appealing — within reason, of course.
“You can’t finish a program in statistics or data science and say you’re set for the next 20 years,” says Vijay Raghavan, executive vice president and CTO of the Alpharetta, Georgia-based analytics company LexisNexis Risk Solutions. “Even if you’re a freshly minted A.I. technologist, you’re going to have to upskill no matter what.” For this reason, he says that companies looking to fill A.I. jobs can find success by looking at the workers they already have.
The best way to do this is to have a person in a management role who has a strong knowledge of A.I., who can determine upskilling needs as technology advances, and who can work with human resources to find existing workers who may be interested in upskilling opportunities. At Tractable, about eight employees out of 100 have made lateral moves between tech teams in the past year, Lotti says.
Show real results
Here’s the good news: Many tech workers are more drawn to smaller companies, even if they offer less compensation or benefits than larger corporations. But there’s a catch — your company needs to have a compelling goal that workers will feel excited about.
“Purpose does matter,” says, Mahe Bayireddi, CEO and co-founder of the A.I.-powered HR software company Phenom. “If you’re using A.I. just so that your ad dollars increase, that’s not a compelling reason for somebody to want to work at your company.” What businesses need to do, he says, is provide candidates with a clear understanding of what impact their work will have and why it will be meaningful. That means being willing to show data, final products, and other proof points of a technologist’s importance to a company.
When you’re competing with much larger corporations, impact is key. “We try to offer people the opportunity to work at a company that has a mission they can believe in, which is increasing human agency with technology,” Coopersmith adds. “That’s something a lot of people who develop technology for a living feel strongly about.”