The labor shortage in America is forcing companies in every industry to reassess how they identify, attract, and keep top talent. A 2017 PwC survey of CEOs found that most viewed a lack of skilled workers as the primary threat to their business, and in 2019, hiring and retaining smart, capable people remains the chief internal concern of the entire executive suite, according to a global Conference Board survey.
For many leaders in the tech industry, this concern has transformed into overwhelming anxiety as the talent gap continues to widen. When it comes to hiring in the modern business world, and particularly in the world of tech, speed wins. Yet the North American IT industry is home to some of the longest hiring cycles of any industry — 51 days on average.
In cities where the talent shortage is especially acute, tech companies that can’t quickly identify and hire qualified candidates can’t compete. So why does the problem only seem to be getting worse? “Tech is risk-averse in its hiring practices, as evidenced by the industry’s adoption of both deeply technical and time-consuming skills testing, as well as soft-skill interviewing practices designed to find the ever-elusive ‘cultural fit,’” explains Jeff Mazur, executive director for LaunchCode, a nonprofit that provides programming training and matches individuals with companies.
Time is not your friend
The “hire slow, fire fast” mentality endemic in the sector has helped industry leaders maintain a stranglehold on top talent, and it works well in markets that already have a surplus of skilled workers. But for fast-growing companies or those located in areas without an established talent pipeline, subjecting qualified candidates to an arduous and lengthy interview process is a recipe for disaster. Those same candidates won’t wait around while you think about whether or not they’d be a good cultural fit, and they shouldn’t have to.
If your company seems to be missing out on people who could most likely add real value, it’s time to reexamine your hiring practices. Here are three strategies that will help you recruit and hire faster.
1. Automate some recruitment tasks
Many talent acquisition professionals spend about one-third of their workweek manually sourcing talent. But that’s changing. AI-powered recruiting technologies can now help hiring managers and recruiters optimize every stage of the hiring process. Automation makes your hiring personnel more productive, not obsolete. When software handles the more mundane aspects of hiring, human resources professionals have more time to focus on the responsibilities that require a human touch.
For instance, you can use screening questions and automation in the application process to highlight candidates who meet your preferred criteria. Then you can filter and view applicants with certain certifications or other qualifications. When taking this approach, though, be judicious about the criteria you use in order to avoid bias that could hide potential superstars from your view. For example, Amazon got in trouble after discovering that its AI hiring tool was downgrading résumés that included the word “women’s.” The program had taught itself to prefer male candidates because the company’s résumés reflected the male dominance of the tech industry.
Amazon edited the program to address the issue. The lesson there is to test your automation before relying on it. Once you and your systems have identified a promising applicant, you can use scheduling software to send the candidate a calendar link that shows your availability and asks the candidate to choose a time that works for him or her. By eliminating the back-and-forth emails that are typically required to schedule interviews, you’ll save your HR team precious time.
2. Expand your recruitment reach
Companies should always be looking for qualified candidates, even if those candidates aren’t necessarily looking for them. Identify roles you need most in your pipeline — such as those that experience high turnover or require a hard-to-find set of skills — and then go after the people you need to fill them.
About 51% of employees are seeking out a new job or at least watching for openings, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce report. That means you could see success from expanding your pool of candidates to include those who aren’t necessarily looking for an immediate opening. Attract more “passive” candidates by first engaging with them online. LinkedIn is an obvious starting point, but other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook make it easy to search for and identify potential targets, using AI, based on the types of content individuals share.
These word-of-mouth networks offer an opportunity to flush out nontraditional applicants. The Chicago-based group Chi Tech Diversity, for instance, operates a Slack channel dedicated to connecting tech professionals from diverse backgrounds that is open to local companies looking for qualified candidates. Seek out platforms like this and make your presence there known.
3. Upskill your team and hire from within
Some of the people most qualified to fill your open positions probably already work for you. Internal job boards became popular during the dot-com era to help facilitate employee mobility, but they gradually disappeared during the Great Recession, when fewer employees were willing to leave their current positions to look for better opportunities. It’s time these boards made a comeback. In today’s tight labor market, employees are once again in the driver’s seat, and the vast majority of workers, according to Pew Research Center, seek out companies that offer opportunities for training and learning new skills.
Encouraging a culture of continued learning is crucial to keeping employees around and to keeping up with the competition. This is especially true in the tech industry where it can be difficult to keep up with rapid changes. Avoid losing your top talent and groom your employees for new positions in your company by becoming a partner in their career development.
You can do this by offering on-the-job training, providing access to educational programming like conferences, workshops, and seminars, or even subsidizing continued education. For example, Procore Technologies, which provides cloud-based software that aims to improve efficiency, focuses on employee growth through classes, programs, and internal tracks for career advancement. When you actively play a role in preparing your employees for the future, you increase the odds that they’ll stick around when that future arrives.
To paraphrase Einstein, today’s problems won’t be solved with yesterday’s solutions. Some tech companies will continue to flourish by maintaining the status quo, but most will have to take a hard look at the way they hire and develop the people who are integral to their success. If you think that your hiring processes need improving, don’t wait to make a change. You simply don’t have the time.