Talent Wars

With unemployment rates still uncomfortably highacross the nation, there is a misperception that IT talent must be plentiful.However, for many technical skills, the opposite is true. The shortage is soacute that it has been attributed to a rise in offshoring and bidding wars. Tosecure the tech talent they need, hiring managers must adopt a competitivehiring strategy.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, theunemployment rate for technology pros has generally been half the rate of theU.S. labor market. Dice.com, a job board and recruiting network, reports thatoverall technology job postings on its site have grown 30 percent year overyear. In its spring 2011 report, Dice stated: ?This resurgence of full-timehiring amplifies the challenge of retaining top tech talent.?

Driving the demand for technology talent now is aninsatiable need for Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, Drupal and Salesforce.comdevelopers. And skills in Java/J2EE, Oracle and C languages are dominating technology job boards.

In the case of JavaScript, the boom in cloud-basedapplications is fueling demand. In other cases, demand can be credited to thefact that personal and venture capital investing has picked back up andstartups abound once again.

Meanwhile, the supply of technology talent needed to meetthe swelling demand isn?t there. Many of these skills?particularly ones thatrequire access to large amounts of data and analytics?can be acquired only at afew companies. Additionally, the new restrictions on the H-1B visa areshrinking the number of IT workers available to U.S. companies.

Most colleges have yet to incorporate some of the newerprogramming languages into their curricula. A recent Duke University studyfound that the U.S. software sector has the highest ratio of offshore todomestic employees, with nearly 13 offshore jobs per 100 domestic jobs.

This situation presents a major challenge for many hiringmanagers who don?t normally source IT professionals and don?t realize how thisprocess differs from hiring an administrative assistant or a marketingdirector. Here are five tips to help these managers regain a competitive edge:


1. Move quickly on the right candidate. If you find theright candidate, move swiftly. This may require flexibility with your usualinterview process. If you sense that you have found the right candidate,accelerate the pace or skip steps. For example, skip the phone interview and gostraight to an in-person meeting. Take advantage of videoconferencingtechnology, or fit several steps into one by doing a panel interview.

2. Be flexible on cultural fit/presentation skills. Whereasa polished appearance or a match in corporate culture may be important forother positions, technology workers are not known for striving in thiscategory, and the reality is that they don?t have to. It?s important to determinewhat?s really valuable: Moving a project ahead or nailing a perfect culturefit?

3. Be flexible on compensation. Google offers computerscience majors fresh out of college $90,000 to $105,000. In fact, Palo AltoStaffing Technology was working recently with a Fortune 500 company that lost acandidate to a counter-offer it couldn?t match. Another recent example includesa client who came in low on the billing rate for an engineering position. Theposition stayed open for two-and-a-half months. When the company finally movedthe billing rate up, it had lost the candidate. If you?re struggling to findthe right candidate, identify the reason: Is it the rate? In this job market,you must be prepared to offer a competitive salary.

4. Demonstrate your support of work-life balance. With thispopulation especially, flexible arrangements are a big draw. Often, a flexiblework environment can be more attractive than a higher salary. Especially within-demand skills such as the ability to work with Ruby on Rails andSalesforce.com, work-life balance amenities such as telecommuting can offer asignificant amount of leverage.

5. Be creative with perks. Perks that were once consideredextravagant are quickly becoming standard fare: In-house complimentary drycleaning, restaurants and gyms are common. Google has a garden. Aptly calledthe Google Garden, employees go home with fresh bags of kale, avocadoes andtomatoes. Concierge services are another trend we?ve noticed, particularly inthe startup community. When people are working around the clock, it?s smart tooffer support services such as dog walking. Some of our clients offer freehousecleaning. Purple Tie, a dry cleaning business in the Bay Area that offerscorporate services, is adding new companies every day.

Remember, too, that perks can go beyond freebies: Manytechnology professionals want to work on cool products with intelligent people.The potential to work on the next big thing can be an alluring selling point.

The reality for many technology skills is that demand hasnever been so strong. Talent will go to the companies that are ready to competefor it.


David Chie is chief operating officer of Palo Alto StaffingServices in Palo Alto, Calif.