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The Current State of Tech Hiring

While most of 2020 was spent rebuilding the workforce, 2021 is about charging ahead of your competition to not only survive but thrive.

Some companies have made a full comeback while others have shut down entirely, and still many hover somewhere in the middle. Regardless of the economy, hiring is always a challenge, especially in technology. Pre-pandemic, we were at the height of a candidate’s market in tech that’s never been seen before. Candidates had their pick of where they wanted to work and what offer they wanted to accept.

Then, the pandemic hit - jobs dried up, people got scared, and companies were the ones calling the shots. Companies with openings no longer had them, and “must-do projects” were put on hold.

Now, not only are the projects that were put on hold still needing to get done, but they need to get done immediately, now that they’ve been delayed for months. With 2021 officially in full swing, to find the talent for that, companies are willing to spend more to get it done quickly, and with most companies adopting at least a hybrid workforce (although most are fully remote), the pool of candidates is everywhere. #TopTechTalent can pick and choose what company they want to work for, what city and state they want to live in, how many hours a week they want to work, if they want to be on-site or remote, and if they want to work contract or full time. They’re dictating the term of their employment, not the company.

Now that companies have adapted to the changes, I’m seeing a rapid shift back to the way things were pre-pandemic. From what I see in the industry, not only will we get back to where we were before, we are well on the way to surpassing it.

Based on all these factors, I’m currently seeing patterns of activity that were prevalent pre-pandemic. Once a company and manager decide to make an offer, these are some of the concessions I already see them making that make me believe we’re on our way back to a candidate’s market.

  • Hiring managers are having to increase their budget to get the person that they wanted: salary offer, switching bonuses from performance-based to guaranteed, offering a signing bonus, offering equity/additional equity, and offering candidates full remote (when they didn’t want to originally).

  • Prospective employees have multiple offers and are delaying the interview process so they can interview at multiple organizations (meaning companies now have to work on the candidates’ timelines).

  • Companies are reaching out to previously laid off and furloughed employees to bring them back, and those employees are leaving their new, current job to return to their old organization.

  • People that took less money because they just “needed a job” during the pandemic are seeing that their value has gone back up. In addition, people that took a job that didn’t follow their traditional career path just to pay the bills are now interviewing for jobs that will get them back on that track (while working at their newer job until they can switch back).

The days of creating a job description with fifty “must-haves” are gone. Those managers will see their roles will go unfilled and the talent go to their competitors.

This means that you need to get ahead of the problems your competition is facing in order to get and retain the #TopTechTalent that will take your company to the next level. Ask yourself: How can I get my projects done on time and get the best people to do them?

What I’ve done here is listed a five step plan for things you need to do before you begin hiring. This will help you to head off some of the abovementioned things that I’ve been seeing.

How can you make sure that when you have a need, you’re able to fill it with #TopTechTalent? Let’s go back to the basics.

  1. Talk to your team and come up with a job description detailing exactly what it is that you realistically want in a new hire.

  2. Come up with a budget (all-in) that you feel comfortable paying for the ideal candidate. Make sure your budget includes any bonuses, equity, or anything else you might offer, but get yourself in the general ballpark of what you want to offer.

  3. Talk to an expert to determine if your expectations are realistic. This expert could be someone in your HR department, a colleague in a similar role, or a recruiter that knows your space. Ideally, this would be whoever your hiring partner is.

  4. Define an interview process that includes all stakeholders and make it as defined as possible. Decide who is doing the interviews and how they’ll be conducted. What is the main thing you’re interviewing for? How will you be making your decision? When would you like someone to start?

  5. Decide how you’re going to get your candidates and what you’re willing to leverage to work within your time frame. If you have one opening, interview 3-5 people to start and see if you can make a decision based on that. After each interview, decide if this is someone you would hire to fill this role or not. If one candidate falls through, move onto the next one you agreed you could hire, because you don’t know when you’ll get headcount again.

You need to overcommunicate with your team and your hiring partner no matter what your approach is. If you constantly have headcount and find yourself constantly hiring, you might want to take a different approach, but if this is for an immediate project, you need to make a plan and execute on it, and you need to be willing to put in the time that hiring takes. Mark it on your calendar and don’t cancel it. Even if you have to spend extra time on weeknights and weekends to get this done. It will be worth it in the long run. If you’re not willing to do that, is this truly a priority?

Below is a hypothetical example that will uncover the secret to the best strategy to get #TopTechTalent to work for you. Answer the three scenarios below and you should be able to figure out the best way to go:

Let’s say Claire was laid off due to COVID’s impact on her industry and not her skillset. She loved working at Company 123 and was sad but understood the situation and left on excellent terms with her boss as a reference. She has been out of work for two months and has been interviewing for a new job as a VP of Infrastructure with an all-in package of around $250k. She is currently a finalist at Company ABC and Company XYZ. From what she knows from her 3 interviews with each company, both roles are almost identical and she likes both of them about the same. Keep in mind they are both remote roles so her office will be in her house, she would use the same laptop, and she would drink the same coffee every morning. Based on this scenario, consider the following for Claire, and what would you recommend that she do?

Scenario 1:

Company ABC presents her an offer of $250k all-in. At the same time, Company XYZ presents her an offer of $265k all-in. She’s in a great position here. Which job should she take?

Option 1: Company ABC, $250k all-in

Option 2: Company XYZ, $265k all-in

Scenario 2:

Company ABC presents her with an offer of $250k all-in. She doesn’t hear back from Company XYZ. She accepts the job at Company ABC and has been there for two months. She loves her team, manager, and company, and she wouldn’t change anything. After two months of employment at Company ABC, she gets a call from Company XYZ where they say, “Sorry it took us so long, but we’ve decided to make you an offer for $265k all in.”

Should she stay at Company ABC, or should she quit her job for Company XYZ?

Option 1: Leave her current job at Company ABC for a new role at Company XYZ for more money.

Option 2: Stay at Company ABC, even though she makes less money, because she loves her job.

Scenario 3:

Company XYZ presents her with an offer for $265k all in, while at the same time, her old employer at Company 123 that had to let her go due to COVID is now back on track and wants to offer her job back exactly the way it was before at an all-in number of $250k.

Does she go back to Company 123 that she really loved for $250k, or should she go to this new opportunity at Company XYZ for $265k?

Option 1: Take the new opportunity at Company XYZ for more money.

Option 2: Go back to Company 123 for the same money as before with the company she knows and loves.

If you chose option 2 for each scenario, you’ve guessed correctly what most people in Claire’s position would do in each. The difference between $250k and $265k is only 5%. If two offers are essentially identical, of course you’ll follow the money. If you have a personal tie or connection to one of the companies, 5% more money isn’t going to sway you.

Based on this hypothetical, we learn that the size of the monetary package is important, but it isn’t the only thing. Every manager I talk to, regardless of where they work, honestly believes that their team and company is the best place to work. While that can’t be true for all of them, it is for some, and the candidate is going to hear that from all companies they interview with. You can’t rely on that to make someone accept your offer.

The big takeaway is time. We measure the time as the duration between the moment a candidate finds out about your job to their first day on the job, and we call this time frame from Application to Orientation (A2O). And the smaller you can make the A2O, the easier it will be to give your candidate an offer that fits into your budget. Conversely, the longer that timeframe is, the larger the offer is going to have to be based on all of the variables we spoke about earlier.

The value of your money becomes more crucial as time goes on. The longer your interview process is, the more money you’re going to have to spend on making an offer that your chosen candidate will accept. In addition, the more time you’re spending with you and your team interviewing, the less time you’re spending doing your actual job, which also incurs a significant cost.

It’s important to remember that with any big change comes a big period of adjustment afterward. As we all get used to what the working world looks like after the changes COVID-19 has made to the workforce, we have to understand that there will be new roadblocks when it comes to hiring and making our teams great. By making an extra effort to understand your candidates and get ahead of the game, you can make your company the one everyone wants to work for and avoid the troubles that others may be facing.

The most important thing is to have a plan, move quickly, and be fair. Make an honest decision about what you’re willing to sacrifice to get the job done. If you’re going to make a commitment to hire, you might as well get it done quickly and save yourself the effort of having to repeat the process when your top candidates get different offers in the interim and you have to move down the list of applicants. If you go slow and take your time with the process (not trying to rush, just making a plan that moves things along efficiently) and get it done in less time the first time, you’ll be much better off.

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