Where Have All The Good Candidates Gone… The “Shortage” Explained!

(Or do you want to know why you are losing the war for “IT” talent?)When I talk to senior HR people or to managers, the most common complaint I hear is that there are “no good IT people to be found.” Did they suddenly pass away or go off to Mars? What happened to them all? Well the answer of course is that there are actually the same number of IT people (or even a few more) as there ever were. There are plenty of IT people to be found, you are just looking in the wrong place! Instead of looking for them in the unemployment lines, recruiters must realize that they can be easily found…they are content, well paid, and working at your competitor across the street. For any single firm, there are an abundance of IT people available, you just have to “take them” away from other firms. Now, I also hear recruiters saying that it is somehow “unethical” to take employees from another firm. That’s silly. What I find is that recruiters that make that statement only know how to recruit the “easy way” (ads in the newspaper, job fairs, etc.) so they disparage those that use more sophisticated tools that convince people to leave one firm for another. Firms have been “stealing” customers and employees from each other for centuries. Those that complain about it are almost always the ones at the weaker firms that have done little to build their employment brand and to make their jobs the most desirable around. So don’t concern yourself about any “world wide shortage of talent,” instead focus on getting employed people to leave their well-paying job to come work for you. The only real shift that has occurred is that the low unemployment rate has made the task of convincing these IT people a bit more difficult. Where unemployed people actually seek out jobs and say yes rather easily, content well-paid “employed people” seldom actively look for jobs and they are quite picky about what jobs they accept! You see, it’s not that there is a shortage of talent, it’s just recruiters using “high unemployment strategies” and tools in a low unemployment world! It’s that simple. Why is Finding Them So Difficult?

Because They No Longer Find You!

Actually what used to occur in recruiting was that the candidates almost always found us. During the last few decades with all the layoffs and a high unemployment rate, resumes “flowed” into firms, almost on their own. A simple ad in the newspaper got a volume of responses. Recruiters got “lazy” because you could almost close your eyes and still attract people. However, with the economy booming, the “game” has changed. Unfortunately most employment functions haven’t changed their approach — therefore, they are losing candidates to the competition. In periods of almost zero IT unemployment, the game is different. Now, you must use multiple approaches to actively seek out people that are no longer “looking for you” and that may even be looking the other way. Why is Finding Them So Difficult?


Because the Old Tools No Longer Work

High unemployment tools and strategies no longer work in a low unemployment world. Recruiting tools that may have been quite successful in the old days no longer work. High unemployment tools such as newspaper ads and job fairs are ineffective when the best people are not actively looking for you. Why is Finding Them So Difficult?

Because the Proportion of “Also Ran’s” Has Increased!

When there were large scale layoffs, a significant portion of the labor force that was actively looking for work were very competent candidates. But as the best candidates from the unemployment pool get hired, all that remained in the pool of “active job seekers” were the weakest candidates. The result is that when you placed a newspaper ad now, you get few responses and those you do get are primarily weak candidates. If the candidates are easy to find and to convince, the odds are that they are not the kind of candidates you want. Why is Finding Them So Difficult?

Because You Use the Exact Same Tools as Everyone Else!

In the war for IT talent you can’t win if you use exactly the same tools as the competitor. By using the traditional tools (ads, applications/resumes, interviews, reference checks, etc.) your firm will struggle to gain a competitive advantage, as competing firms use the same tools. If you want to win the recruiting battle you need: (1) new and unique tools that are designed primarily to find and convince the content, employed top performer and (2) new tools to convince them to leave a pretty good job for your job. This means that recruiters must become “designers” of new tools that are unique to your organization. For example, if all firms use “behavioral interviewing,” no matter how affective it might be, you can’t gain a competitive vantage unless you redesign and improve upon it. Why is Finding Them So Difficult?

Because What It Takes to Get Them to Say “Yes to a Job Offer” Has Changed!

Today’s IT workers have different expectations for a job than those of a decade ago. If your standard offer is still the basic pay, benefits, and working conditions type, you are unlikely to get the best to leave their current jobs. The “new realities” of recruiting demand that you do extensive market research to identify what each applicant needs in order to make a job shift. This means that offers must now include flexibility, how they will be managed, and other individual needs. If you do not “mass personalize” your offers, you’ll lose the IT war! Why is Finding Them So Difficult?

Because You Have the Wrong Type of Recruiters!

Many of today’s corporate recruiters are what I call the passive type. Unfortunately, in a very competitive and aggressive recruiting world, the aggressive “headhunter” type of recruiter that seeks out employed top performers is what is needed. You can’t win the war for talent with “pacifists” recruiters. Why is Finding Them So Difficult?

Because You Are Only Looking in the U.S.

Many recruiters only know how to recruit the “U.S.” way. In fact there is a great deal of talent (that often speak English) in countries like India, Israel, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, and South Africa. The problem is that most recruiters don’t know how to recruit outside the borders of their own country. Why is Finding Them So Difficult?

Because Not Treating IT Employees Differently Than Other Employees is Deadly!

IT people have different expectations and are harder to recruit than most other types of employees. If you do not have unique tools and strategies for IT recruiting, you are bound to fail. Strategies designed to attract secretaries will not work for IT positions. In addition, IT positions need to be given a higher priority by HR. Because the best IT people are on the market for such a short period of time, “speed hiring” becomes essential for success. If you hire them all the same speed you’ll lose the best IT people. Why is Finding Them So Difficult?

Because Recruiters Are Trying to Do it Alone. Not Involving EE’s!

There are not enough recruiters in any company to talk to all of the possible employed candidates. The best firms “leverage” their recruiting resources by involving all employees in the process of recruiting. This means a great employee referral program and a good deal of PR to insure that all employees are aware of our needs. Conclusion

I often chuckle at the recruiters who whine about the shortage of IT talent. What I often find is that they use the “shortage argument” as an excuse to managers as to why they’re not successful. However, this is just an excuse to me. What it really says is that they have failed to adapt and grow as the unemployment rate and the expectations of candidates have changed. The very best have stepped forward and begun using new tools like the Internet, relationship recruiting, speed hiring, online assessment, passive events, and updated employee referral programs. These are the true stars of our profession. They have realized that the only shortage occurs when you use antiquated tools and you look in the unemployment line for top IT talent!

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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