How to Win the Tech Hiring Race? Forget the Conventional Wisdom and Start Solving for the Real Problem
The race for tech talent is on, and too many businesses are still looking for their running shoes.
The tech industry is on a hiring spree that shows no signs of slowing down. Over the past five years, demand for tech talent has surged 190 percent, according to a CompTIA CyberStates 2021 report.1 The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up digital transformation across industries—from e-commerce to telehealth—further fueling the hunger for web and software developers, IT specialists, data scientists, and other employees in computer-related fields.
Given the state of the job market, tech-oriented companies can expect major challenges related to recruitment, appropriately compensating coveted talent, and retaining employees, even after substantial investments in training and onboarding. Yet too many businesses are on their back foot when it comes to tech hiring, allowing jobs to sit unfilled for months, resulting in project delays, slumping morale among thinly stretched employees, and stalled growth opportunities.
There’s endless talk about the tech skills gap—a supposedly Grand Canyon-wide chasm between an employer’s needs and that elusive, ideal candidate. But take a minute and ask yourself, does this thesis make sense? Are the skills required for entry-level tech jobs so arcane that a giant talent pool, filled yearly with millions of job-seeking college graduates, is not enough to fill those roles with able, eager, and loyal people? Could the conventional wisdom about the tech skills gap possibly be…wrong?
The answers, in order, are “no,” “no,” and a resounding “yes.” The vaunted skills shortage every hiring manager loves to blame for missing their targets is illusory, and, further, it masks an all-too-real problem—a vast opportunity gap that carries with it profound economic and societal consequences. If employers take up this challenge by bringing opportunity to talent, they’ll see the results in improved efficiency, productivity, growth, and, ultimately, a better bottom line.
Human resources and technology leaders can start by taking three key steps:
1. Hire for skills, not schools: Companies waste lots of time wooing computer science or engineering grads from the most prestigious schools. But these grads typically have their sights set on Silicon Valley, not working on a retailer’s e-commerce site or a bank’s back office. Lesser-known schools turn out hundreds of thousands of capable graduates who would jump at the chance to build a career working on such projects.
2. Look for aptitude plus attitude: Many hiring managers assess a candidate’s value based on the skills and knowledge they possess before they are even hired. The reality is that any hire is going to require training in the real-world skills they don’t learn at school. Businesses would do much better to hire for what we at Revature call aptitude plus attitude. Look for quick and curious learners who are interested not only in the job’s technical aspects, but have a curiosity in the organization’s larger mission, a desire to grow into a leader, and a commitment to the corporate culture.
3. Seek out nontraditional candidates: Companies have a big pool of talent in their own backyards, yet too often it goes overlooked. Community colleges are incredibly rich sources of job candidates—young people straight from high school, moms or dads returning to the workforce after taking time off to raise children, second- or third-career switchers—who want to invest in a company that invests in them. Community colleges also help fuel a diverse pipeline: at two-year colleges, more than half of students are people of color and 57% are women.
The key to solving the perceived skills gap is by closing the opportunity gap.