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Growth · 1 April '21

Tech talent: How to master hiring in a crowded post-pandemic market

The pandemic has been a disruptive force in almost every facet of businesses, but that doesn’t mean things have slowed down. Far from grinding business to a halt, the global health crisis has kickstarted a scramble to hire the best tech talent out there, from data scientists to DevOps specialists, all in the interests of automation, the rollout of new tech and pursuing life in the cloud. All businesses have had to rapidly accelerate their plans for digital change and those in the tech sector have had to propel their growth plans to meet unexpected demand. What were large-scale gradual strategies for transformation and growth have now become rapid-fire manoeuvres, and businesses have had to step up their hiring game to compete for the best talent.

If there was any doubt at all about how strong this demand for tech candidates was or how long it might last, a recent report from Gartner suggested that the pandemic has fast-forwarded digital skills adoption by at least five years. In fact, nearly 60% of all workforces reported a shift in required skills since the beginning of the pandemic, making 2021 very much a tech candidate’s market.

While some jobs have sadly been lost or at least put on ice due to the impact of the pandemic, it’s clear that tech roles are moving in the opposite direction. Businesses need data engineers and digital experts to ramp up automation of laborious processes and to create data models that can offer insight and drive better decision-making. Many businesses see the pandemic as a rare opportunity to streamline their operations further, making them lean and competitive, but in order to do that they need to find the best candidates. The problem is that there are currently more roles than candidates, and those worth hiring are usually taken by international corporations before smaller businesses can even get a look in. So how can smaller companies master tech hiring in a crowded, post-pandemic landscape?

Approach candidates on their turf

If you’re looking for the best data scientists or DevOps specialists, you’re hardly likely to find them at the jobcentre or signing up for job-seeking websites. These candidates are digital-natives, so they’re not hard to find and target if you know where to look and find a way to approach them on their own terms. That means peeling back the layers and going beyond simple job titles. If you’re looking for a DevOps specialist, don’t just run recruitment activities around DevOps and leave it at that. Include key industry phrases and platforms like Azure, Redshift or Kubernetes in your targeting criteria when casting your net to make sure you attract the best talent.

The days of ‘build it and they will come’ are over

In the good old days, a business would simply post a job and wait for candidates to apply. Those days are well and truly gone, particularly when you want to attract the very best talent in what is very much a candidate’s market. But not all hope is lost when it comes to attracting the best of the best. If a candidate is worth hiring, they’ll no doubt have a digital presence and they’re bound to be discussing things that interest them online. At the very least, they’ll have joined some groups and forums or hit the ‘like’ button on enough things to give their social platform of a choice a good idea of what they do for a living and what their professional interests are. Try orchestrating a recruitment campaign on social media to get your job posts seen by the right candidates. In 2021, you can’t just present a job opening and expect the best talent to pour in, you have to meet them halfway and make yourself present in the places that they’re spending time.

Don’t hold out for the next polymath

There’s talent and then there’s talent. Naturally, all companies want to attract the absolute best candidates, but it’s important to maintain an open mind when it comes to planning a new recruitment drive. Remember, a lot of these roles are still relatively new and are evolving as you read this article. A data scientist at one company might have a role that looks very different from a data scientist at another company. So be flexible in your approach and hire against your own internal standards. If you already have a department that you expect a new hire to slot into, use your current employees and their skills levels as a benchmark. Crucially, remember that education is no substitute for experience, and someone self-taught or who has been in the industry for a while might be just as effective as an Oxbridge graduate, if not more so.

It should be clear by now that in order for businesses to acquire and retain the best talent, they need to keep an open mind and run recruitment campaigns that are outside of the traditional box. There are countless extraordinarily talented individuals out there who would rather work with a start-up or small businesses than join a Silicon Valley giant, but that doesn’t mean those smaller businesses can rest on their laurels. Engage candidates and interact with them, be specific about what you’re looking for, and make sure your recruitment process has more depth than a simple CV and an interview.

In this way, businesses can open their digital doors to potential candidates and make them think differently about the prospect of working with them. As they say, first impressions are everything.