The Usual Perks Will No Longer Lure Tech Talent

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May 14, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

The Class of 2020 was walking into the best job market ever — until it wasn’t.

Back in the fall, employers had to show their best hand to bring in top tech talent. They flashed their company headquarters, big benefits, better-than-average perks, social events, and all-expenses-paid relocation plans. Such “anything is possible” offers stemmed from several years of a tech talent shortage. 

Students welcomed the call, with a 10% increased interest in IT jobs this year compared to the 2019 graduating class, according to iCIMS’ recent survey of new grads. Candidates negotiated for competitive salaries, accelerated promotion timelines, and assignments that would fuel their passions. Many of them successfully secured job offers more than seven months before graduation. 

And then the “Great Pause” changed everything. Hiring in software and IT was hit hard in April, dropping 25% over the prior month, according to LinkedIn. Some new grads that were ready to work saw their offers rescinded. And moving into summer, tech grads will continue to feel the impact as companies begin to break their routine of hiring X number of coders or Y number of customer service reps.

The balance of power has shifted once again to the employers, and that means that there’s an opportunity to pave a new path in how we engage and secure sought-after tech talent. Let me share with you three priorities to guide your hiring perspective in the coming months that will better your company for the long haul.

1. Lean Into Your Core Values

Every organization is in the spotlight right now. When has there been a time where you’ve been bombarded by brands about how they’re taking care of their employees? From a candidate’s perspective, your corporate brand and employer brand are one and the same. 

Maintaining your culture and brand in times of crisis takes work, and it starts with communication. Be transparent and direct with talent on where you stand in your hiring, and take time to explain your evolving business priorities, such as how you might be creating an inclusive workplace and exploring options for permanent remote work — especially since people are now more likely to value flexibility more than traditional office-centric perks.

2. Re-Think How Work Is Done

“Career paths are never linear,” my colleague Amy Warner, director of talent acquisition at iCIMS, always says. Recruiters play a critical role in guiding entry-level candidates to consider all open opportunities across an organization.

With certain digital transformation initiatives on hold, companies are shifting resources to support cloud IT infrastructure projects, according to IDC. Consequently, this can present a different path for candidates when launching their careers. For example, at iCIMS, we see talent start their careers in technical support as a means to launch into a career within product development.

When not in a position to bring on full-time hires, many companies are pivoting to temporary, project-based work. The graduating class is already participating in the gig economy, and with most technical talent self-taught, people welcome the challenge. We found that 1 in 5 Gen X employees already have a “side hustle” in addition to their main job.

And while project-based work for entry-level hires can be successful, it should be managed properly. That is, it needs to come with a detailed scope of work, documented milestones, and a culture of inclusivity for all types of workers.

3. Invest in Talent in New Ways 

Tech hiring thrives on internships and training programs. As you figure out the new normal for these programs going remote, you can get creative on keeping tech talent engaged. Consider a mentor network, where current employees can connect with the talent you thought you were going to bring on board this year. For instance, our own tech leaders are working with Warner’s TA team to plan projects, hackathons, and training certifications to help students secure meaningful milestones to add to their resumes. It will be a different pace from our original program, but it’s close in spirit.  

Lastly, if we learned anything in recent “war for talent” times, it was that the employers with strong cultures and brand appeal win over candidates. It’s in your best interest to remain true to this so when the power shifts again, you can still attract the best talent.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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