by Sharon Florentine

Project managers, tech sales pros are in high demand

Apr 07, 2016
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

After engineers, IT companies are struggling to keep up with demand for two other hard-to-fill roles: technical salespeople and IT project managers.

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Credit: Thinkstock

What are the hardest jobs to fill in tech? Not surprisingly, developers and engineers top the list. According to Edward Flynn, senior enterprise technical recruiter at technology recruiting and staffing firm Mondo. DevOps engineers, mobile developers, front-end developers, security engineers and cloud architects continue to be in huge demand. But after engineers, IT companies also are struggling to fill open roles for technical sales jobs and IT project managers.

A hard sell

According to a recent survey from sales platform ToutApp, which polled 300 HR managers from U.S.-based technology companies with at least 200 employees, 80 percent of respondents say their company plans to invest more in sales talent recruitment and hiring this year. When asked to identify the positions that present the most challenges finding “high-quality, experienced candidates,” 69 percent of respondents cited IT/engineers. The second most-challenging positions to fill were technical sales roles, with 17 percent saying filling these roles presented the most challenges.

“After IT and product engineering, sales has really become the key to competitive advantage within most technology companies today. From business development to deal closure, revenue is directly attributed to the success and effectiveness of your sales team. The more you invest in bringing in the best people, the better positioned you are against the competition,” says Tahweed Kader, CEO and founder of ToutApp.

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One of the major challenges in finding, recruiting and hiring sales people is that there’s often no formal education and training programs for sales pros; it’s something many people discover as a career by accident, says Kader. “No one goes to college and says, ‘I want to be in sales,’ — they’ll say, I want to be in marketing or communications or another field like that, but there’s no core ‘basic training’ for these sales skills. That’s part of what makes it so difficult to find talent, because those that have those skills naturally are hugely coveted and they have so many job options already,” he says.

When asked to state how competitive it is within the technology industry to find, recruit and hire experienced sales talent, 70 percent of those polled called it “very competitive.” Finding and hiring entry-level sales talent was also described as “very competitive” by 52 percent of respondents. It’s not just finding talent, either, says Kader, it’s keeping that talent. Like engineers and developers, successful sales talent often have multiple job offers and opportunities, so retention is a major challenge.

In fact, according to survey respondents, 26 percent say the average sales rep tenure in their technology organization is just two to three years; 28 percent say it’s only three to four years. That number drops to 21 percent for tenures of four to five years.

“You have to make sure you’re offering education, training and that your compensation plans for sales people are top rate. There’s so many companies looking, it’s not unheard of that you’ll hire a bunch of salespeople, get them trained and up to speed, and then they’ll leave for a better offer,” Kader says.

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A good PM is hard to find

Technical project manager roles are also increasingly hard to fill, according to research from Strayer University’s Strayer@Work Skills Index, which provides a real-time look at talent shortages across a number of industries, including IT. The index uses select skills data from the public domain, including LinkedIn profiles, to identify what skills are in highest demand and where companies are falling short.

The Skills Index identified performance management, IT audit and resource allocation and scheduling skills as those most in demand — and hardest to find, says Kelly Bozarth, CEO of Strayer@Work.

“Within IT, we expected to see skills gaps around hard technology skills, and there’s some of that, yes, around engineers and developers. But what was most interesting was that the biggest gap was around the skillset for project managers. That ability to take IT projects and deliver them on-time, under-budget and to use technology to help drive ROI — that’s huge,” says Bozarth.

Technical project management skills are necessary in all fields, and one challenge in finding and recruiting project managers is the increased competition for talent, says Bozarth. Regardless of industry, almost all companies today depend on technology to drive their business, which means IT project managers are in demand across the board, in every industry.

“Every company is an IT company nowadays, so every industry, not just IT, is going to need these people, so you have to think much more strategically when hiring. One solution is to hire at the entry-level and then institute learning and education programs to build the talent from within your organization,” Bozarth says.

Though they don’t get as much attention, project management and sales roles are just as important to your IT business — and hiring for them can be just as challenging.