by Jean Martin

The key to winning the war for tech talent: Look where others aren’t

Nov 08, 2016
CareersIT LeadershipIT Skills

By 2020, there will be 1 million more IT jobs than computer science students in the U.S. So, how can organizations hire the best technology talent?

Following years of higher-than-usual unemployment, hiring has been increasing. In fact, in 2015, the U.S. had as many open jobs as it did in 2001—a staggering 5 million.

While the number of openings might sound promising, in reality, top talent remains scarce, and organizations are once again finding themselves battling it out for the best people. In no function is this more apparent than IT—where over half a million of those 5 million open jobs are and a demand that continues to increase.

+ Also on Network World: IT hiring: 4 things you’re doing wrong (and how to fix them) +

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 1.3 million IT and cybersecurity jobs will have to be filled by 2022. Many of the open jobs are for roles that didn’t exist a decade ago, such as cloud integration specialists and mobile application developers. And we can’t keep pace. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 there will be 1 million more IT jobs than computer science students in the U.S.

And this isn’t exclusive to technology companies. Two-thirds of the demand for IT jobs today comes from non-tech industries such as healthcare, manufacturing and banking. The problem also spans geographies. In cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston and Seattle, for every eight IT job openings, there are only five qualified workers looking for jobs.

So, what should companies desperate for technology talent do?

Capturing nontraditional tech talent: 5 changes to the hiring process

To close the supply-demand gap for IT talent, organizations need to expand their hiring practices to include additional talent pools. The best companies are doing five things to do just that:

1. Change the definition of what it takes to succeed

Traditional technology recruiting focuses on sourcing candidates with technology degrees from four-year colleges. Recent CEB analysis, however, shows that nearly 40 percent of IT jobs can be done without a college degree. Yet, most employers and internal stakeholders often doubt that candidates without such degrees will be able to excel in technology roles.

IT leaders can begin securing buy-in from other stakeholders by making a compelling business case for creating opportunities for those who would otherwise be shut out of the IT job market. For instance, explaining the amount of time top performers spend on routine tasks that could be executed by someone without a degree, but with the proper training.

2. Change your tech talent sourcing strategy through new partnerships

A lack of critical IT talent is an imminent risk to companies’ ability to innovate and stay competitive. One way to overcome this is to build partnerships with organizations focused on helping individuals develop technology skills. For example, MasterCard has succeeded in building a successful partnership through a tech apprenticeship program with LaunchCode, a nonprofit, IT job placement program based in St. Louis.

3. Change your employment brand to attract nontraditional tech talent

To attract this type of talent from nontraditional sources, the typical approach of promoting an organization as a “great place to work” is not a differentiator in a world where candidates see most employers marketing themselves under a similar headline. Successful branding campaigns include more consultative messaging that gives potential applicants the guidance they need to decide whether to apply.

4. Objectively assess for tech skills and potential

One of recruiters’ main challenges is how to sort through an overwhelming number of applications efficiently. Traditional approaches, such as filtering using educational credentials (e.g. a four-year computer science degree), effectively reduces the number of applications but eliminates candidates who could be successful.

When it comes to IT jobs, assessing potential is more important than screening for a degree. Rather than looking at credentials, recruiters should look at more general and transferable skills, such as problem solving, and whether the candidate fits with the organization.

5. Redesign onboarding and development for the nontraditional tech employee

When they do hire candidates with nontraditional backgrounds into IT roles, companies often struggle to set them up for successful, long-term careers. In addition to screening for the right fit at the hiring stage, companies also need to emphasize the right skills and behaviors during onboarding and provide an engaging work climate conducive to employee success.

In today’s ultra-competitive, fast-changing and knowledge-based work environment, recruiting skilled IT talent will be crucial to every organization’s success. But with a limited supply of candidates with four-year IT degrees, pioneering organizations are investing in finding, hiring and developing IT candidates from nontraditional sources.