As the Managing Partner of Vaco in Wisconsin, Brian Herczeg is a tech hiring expert, on both a local level (in one of the fastest-growing technology hubs in the country) and a national level. As a result, Herczeg has a constant pulse on regional and nationwide labor market trends—and he works with companies every day that are facing once-in-a-generation hiring challenges.
The current tech labor market is especially tight, as thousands of companies aggressively prioritized digital and technology initiatives in response to the impact of COVID-19.
The pandemic accelerated digital adoption among businesses and consumers. In fact, some reports estimate that digital adoption advanced by five years over the span of just a few months in 2020. Recent statistics project that global spending on digital transformation technology and service will reach $1.8 trillion in 2022, up from $1.3 trillion in 2021. Additionally, the rise of widespread remote work has increased the demand for cloud architecture and data security specialists across industries.
Some tech fields, like software development, are in such high demand that many companies anticipated needing to hire at least 50 developers in 2021 alone. Job data from the first three quarters of 2021 illustrate just how difficult it’s been for companies to hire the tech and IT talent they need.
Herczeg is highly in tune with these struggles, and he knows there is no magic bullet that will suddenly make tech recruiting and hiring easy.
What he does know, however, is that the current environment demands a different strategy from hiring companies.
Herczeg uses the phrase “surgically effective” to describe his own firm’s approach to helping clients find and hire in-demand tech professionals, many of whom aren’t actively in the job hunt. Herczeg and his team maintain relationships with the professionals in their network; they’ve developed a high level of trust with their candidates, serving intermittently as recruiters, career advisors, and labor market experts through the years. This level of engagement is not commonplace for talent solutions firms, but from Herczeg’s perspective, it makes all the difference in pinpointing the right talent resources for his clients—quickly and efficiently.
Tech hiring snapshot: the current landscape
When he’s asked about the current tech labor market, Herczeg sums it up in simple terms:
“The bottom line is that companies everywhere are looking to hire. And they’re looking to hire people who are hard to find.”
The most recent jobs data from The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) mirrors Herczeg’s observations.
According to the BLS, jobs for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers are expected to grow by 22% by 2030. For cybersecurity occupations, like information security analysts, job growth is even higher: 33% by 2030. For comparison, total employment in the U.S. is projected to grow by just 7.7% over the same time period.
Recent data from CompTIA showed 318,000 new job postings in the tech sector in July 2021. In the same month, the unemployment rate for tech occupations dropped to 1.5%, among the lowest of all industries. This translates to hundreds of thousands of open positions, but very few tech professionals who are actively seeking new opportunities.
Clearly, companies are feeling the tech talent squeeze.
In a 2021 survey from McKinsey and Co., 54% of respondents listed skills gaps/cultural differences on their teams as their organizations’ biggest tech transformation challenge. 37% of respondents said it had been difficult to find talent to fill new tech and digital roles.
Key #1: Passive recruiting is vital to finding qualified candidates
Herczeg calls the current tech candidate market “ultra-passive,” meaning that professionals who have in-demand skills aren’t looking for new jobs. In essence, hiring companies are looking for these candidates but the candidates aren’t looking for them. This is an environment that many organizations have never experienced before, and it’s a much different hiring landscape than Herczeg remembers just a couple of years ago.
“We aren’t being inundated with messages from candidates looking for jobs. We are being inundated with messages from clients looking for people to join their teams. This is a complete paradigm shift from where the market used to be, even as recently as 2019,” Herczeg says.
Unemployment in the tech industry is well below the national level, so the majority of qualified candidates already have jobs. They aren’t scouring job boards and sending in multiple applications per day. They aren’t researching companies with job openings or checking their social media inboxes for messages from hiring managers.
To adjust to this new reality, companies must engage passive tech candidates to have any success filling critical open roles. This is especially true in the current environment, where tech professionals know their skills are in demand and that they have more options than ever—especially if they want higher pay or more remote flexibility.
Unfortunately, successful passive recruiting is easier said than done. Most organizations’ hiring departments don’t maintain a large professional network. If they do, they may not know how to leverage it when the hiring market is tight.
This is where experienced tech recruiting firms can provide the lift a hiring manager needs.
Herczeg illustrates this point by relaying a recent experience he and his team had with a client:
“We had a client contact us three weeks ago needing to build out two development teams, one with software developers and one with quality assurance testers. Both teams consisted of one lead and two accompanying team members. Six total positions. We’ve already filled all of those roles with local candidates,” Herczeg says.
“We were able to do that because we have a stable of reliable contractors who know other reliable contractors. And because we have a track record of coming through for candidates, they trust us and will recommend us to their own network.”
Key #2: Hiring companies have to tell candidates their story
Because the candidate market is ultra-passive, Herczeg says, companies have to adjust the way they approach the hiring process.
“Everyone in this industry is already working. So in order to attract these professionals to a new opportunity, you have to approach them with a reason to engage with you and consider you,” Herczeg says.
To do this, companies need to know their story and know how to tell that story to candidates.
“I was in a meeting the other day with a hiring company, and one of my recruiters said, ‘We need to be able to tell candidates your story to get them to consider working with you. So tell us about your company, tell us your story.’ That’s the information that differentiates a company and gives candidates a reason to consider pursuing a new opportunity with them.”
Every hiring company has a job description, a salary range, and a list of expected job duties. But not every company can give candidates a comprehensive view of their brand, their future growth strategy, and what they stand for in their market. Even more rare is a company that can connect their story to a candidate’s skill set and role within the organization. This is a powerful value proposition and differentiator for candidates who may need more than salary and perks to consider new opportunities.
Key #3: Be open to interim resources while searching for long-term fit
In a recent survey from LinkedIn, information technology positions were among the slowest roles to fill, taking an average of 44 days. For companies that need to hire multiple tech professionals, such a long process can become a real drain on resources. And the longer these jobs go unfilled, the longer critical work isn’t getting done.
This doesn’t have to be the reality. Engaging interim resources to fill those talent gaps can keep high-priority projects moving—even as you recruit for long-term employees. Plus, a position may be more attractive to potential long-term hires if they know the work has been getting done.
Key #4: Find talent solutions that emphasize true alignment, not short-term transactions
One of the biggest potential pitfalls in a tight labor market is the temptation to get bodies into roles as quickly as possible. Properly vetting a candidate is time-consuming, and companies that are desperate to fill roles may not have the time to perform proper due diligence before offering a contract or offer letter.
Talent solutions and recruiting firms can help mitigate these risks by performing the legwork on a company’s behalf. But it’s important for organizations to choose a recruiting partner that emphasizes problem solving and finding solutions over completing transactions.
This solutions-based approach is at the heart of “surgically effective” hiring:
- Tap into passive candidates to find outstanding tech talent
- Develop your company’s story and integrate that story into candidate interactions
- Fill talent gaps with interim resources while searching for long-term hires
- Choose talent solutions that prioritize long-term alignment over short-term transactions
“When I say ‘surgically effective,’ it doesn’t happen immediately. It happens over time, through relationship building, coming through for candidates, coming through for clients. So when a client needs all of the resources we can bring to the table for them, we’re able to deliver. And it’s because we care about what the person on the other end of the line is saying to us.”
Interested in learning more about hiring in today’s tech labor market?
Click on the image below to register for our Conquer the Digital Skills Gap webinar with the author of this blog, Brian Herczeg, and a panel of tech labor leaders and decision makers! Join us as we discuss the most in-demand tech roles for 2022 and how companies are strategically planning for an increasingly competitive candidate market.
Brian Herczeg is Managing Partner of Vaco in Milwaukee, a global talent solutions and business consulting firm that serves over 12,000 clients with over 10,000 employees around the globe. Vaco in Milwaukee is a proud member of the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition, a non-profit organization that works with companies, entrepreneurs, educators, community organizations, and other area stakeholders to grow tech talent and innovation in the Milwaukee area.