In 2016, recruiters grappled with an evolving job market, an incredibly competitive hiring landscape, a shortage of IT talent and sky-high salaries for in-demand roles. Those trends are likely to continue into 2017 as recruiters continue to adapt to the this high-demand, low supply hiring landscape, says Dave Morgan, president of IT and engineering for professional recruiting and staffing services firm Addison Group.
"We're very optimistic about what 2017 will hold. We don't see the IT market slowing down at all -- we saw a slight tick downward in the fall [of 2016], but that demand has picked back up along with the urgency from clients around that demand," Morgan says.
The three hottest areas of demand are around security, big data and cloud technologies, Morgan says, as incidents like December 2016's Yahoo breach dominate headlines, organizations struggle to manage and make sense of a tsunami of data and leverage the cloud for more efficient, cost-effective computing power.
User interface and user experience critical
"We're also seeing that anything having to do with user interface and user experience is really critical. Our customers and clients need to make sure they can communicate with their customers and users anytime, anywhere, and that they are delivering an incredible experience when they do. That reflects back on their company and their employer brand," Morgan says.
That emphasis on user experience is, in part, driven by a revolt against complexity, says Leela Srinivasan, CMO at ATS software company Lever. As millennials and Generation Z dominate the workplace, their "digital native" status means they won't accept anything less than seamless, intuitive and easy-to-use technology tools, and they're bringing those demands to the workplace. That trend will continue to escalate in 2017, she says.
"We've all been spoiled by companies like Apple and Google as far as technology that's easy to use and provides a great user experience. I think this is finally the point where there are enough high-quality, enterprise-class technologies out there in the consumer space; people's patience has worn thin with the clunky, unwieldy technologies they are forced to use at work, and they're not going to put up with it anymore," Srinivasan says.
[ Related story: How to improve your odds of landing great talent ]
Video goes mainstream
Recruiting, screening and hiring are more interactive through the use of video, live chat and interactive whiteboarding technologies, says Addison Group's Morgan, though these tools won't yet replace in-person interviews however.
"Video interviewing is increasing in popularity and our IT clients are requiring whiteboard sessions during in-person interviews, making for a more interactive interview process. It will mature further, and I think it's going to continue to be big, but I don't think it will yet replace face-to-face," Morgan says.
Younger workers, again, will drive further adoption of these trends, as will the necessity to source candidates from far-flung geographies and to enable a greater remote workforce, Morgan says.
"The amount of competition by candidates for IT roles is just incredible. The IT unemployment rate is something like 2.2 percent, which is technically zero unemployment. That means companies can't just look in their immediate area, they are looking for remote candidates or people who are willing to relocate for work -- that means using video interviewing and other technologies," he says.
[ Related story: IT pros happy, but open to new opportunities ]
IT hiring will continue to focus on candidates with specialized experience, Morgan says, rather than generalists who can wear multiple hats. He says clients also are looking for talent with hands-on, been-there-done-that experience that can be productive almost from day one.
"Clients across all industries are wanting to see more specialized experience in candidates, and in IT, I would say our clients absolutely want specialists. There are very few roles that require someone to wear, say, three different hats across multiple roles. They want someone who's gone through this, who can integrate that specific technology, for instance," Morgan says.
For candidates, the gig economy will continue to be appealing, especially for those with specialized skills that command premium pay, Morgan says.
"There's a very specific demographic we see a lot of within IT that wants the freedom and the flexibility of gig economy work. They want to use that specialization they have to do their jobs, get paid and then move on to the next client. We believe the gig economy is here to stay, and it's going to strengthen in 2017," he says.
[ Related story: The future looks bright for IT workers ]
Every candidate is an IT candidate
Regardless of industry, candidates for almost every available role must have at least some technology skills and include those on their resume to be in consideration for a role, Morgan says. It's the logical evolution of the 'every company is an IT company' mantra that's permeating the employment landscape and will continue to do so in 2017, he says.
"I focus in the IT area, but we have multiple divisions; what I'm hearing from my colleagues in areas like engineering, administrative, finance and accounting and non-clinical healthcare practices is that IT skills are absolutely necessary. Every single one of those jobs available has some sort of technology component necessary somewhere in the job description," he says.
These technology skills will continue to command premium pay rates, whether salaried or through contingent work, Morgan says. While many of his clients understand this and are raising their salaries and pay rates to better attract talent, some others are slow to come around to the need for competitive pay.
"We're seeing is that pay rates are increasing at a slightly faster rate for candidates than we are bill rates for our clients. I think we're going to continue to see smart companies keeping up with those increases in order to win talent, and those who don't won't fare as well. What we try to help our clients understand is that you have to pay the going rates or you're going to risk losing out on these skills," he says.
Domo arigato, Mr. Recruiter
Though AI and bots can significantly improve the practice of recruiting and make recruiters and hiring managers' lives easier, there's no need to worry that they'll eliminate the need for a human touch anytime soon, says Srinivasan.
"I don't think recruiting is dead, by any means; I think it's more important than it's ever been. Yes, proactive sourcing has reached its zenith at this point, and AI and bots can help automate search and some general screening responsibilities. So, I do think there are areas where technology can shine in optimizing and accelerating the process, but recruiting is still enough of an art and an emotional, personal, human pursuit, that it's not going away," she says.
Srinivasan says that savvy recruiters can harness the power of AI and bots to streamline much of the administrative, tedious aspects of their job to free up time for developing relationships and forming better bonds with candidates and clients.
"The good news is that this will lead to better performance from recruiters. Their time will free up so that they can really get to know the intricacies of clients and candidates and focus on the human side of recruiting," Srinivasan says.