How CIOs Can Solve Their Crushing Talent Deficit

Rather than doubling down on recruitment advertising, here are five other ways that IT leaders can mitigate their tech talent shortage.

Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary

November 18, 2019

3 Min Read
Image: Pixabay

We all live it daily: the relentless battle to find and hold onto talent.

I thought it was hard, and I now believe it is getting even harder. We’ve analyzed more than 25 million tech applicants in the U.S. and found that there were more net-new hires in technology than all other hires in 2018.

Over the last three years, companies hired only 60% of their required tech talent. And even then, it takes twice as long (66 days) to hire for technical roles than all other positions (43 days). For example, when you’re looking for a software application developer, by far the most sought-after position, time-to-fill jumps to 81 days.

Despite some of the more clickable headlines, there is no shortage of applicants. Year after year, more people are pursuing opportunities in technology, attracted to the increasing number of job openings, salaries and career opportunities. In fact, last year there were twice as many applicants per hire for technical positions than all other roles.

The problem is that we, as tech employers, can’t find qualified candidates.

Demand is outstripping the supply of qualified candidates by nearly 50%, illustrated by Amazon’s disclosure in September that it had more than 15,000 unfilled tech positions in the U.S. This chronic shortage of technical talent will dampen future growth and competitiveness. Whether you’re an auto manufacturer transforming to deliver autonomous vehicles and cars-as-a-service, or a farmer using drones, smart sensors and weeding robots to increase yields and reduce costs, the future will be won by organizations with the best tech talent.

So, what do we do? How can we find our much-needed quality talent?

Instead of doubling down on recruitment advertising, here are five key ways that chief information officers and IT leaders can mitigate their talent deficit:

Invest in technical training for current employees: This is exactly why Amazon is investing $700 million in technical training for its corporate and non-technical employees. Begin by training your own help desk team members in more specialized tech roles because user support is one role that is relatively easy to fill. In my team, we train help desk staffers as network administrators, and then as cloud administrators, to narrow our skills gap.

Use a nurture program to attract more qualified candidates: Instead of waiting for the perfect candidate to apply, it is more effective to proactively identify and engage top targets and invite them to stay in touch by joining your IT talent pools. Stay connected by sharing your latest news, insights and job recommendations based on their specific skills and interests.

Attract technology candidates with skill-based qualifications: Nearly half of technology roles didn’t even exist in employer’s organizations just two years ago. Skills requirements are evolving so rapidly that traditional four-year technology-degree programs are struggling to keep up. Change your screening requirements to focus on candidates’ skills rather than their education level, including coding boot camps and certification courses from online (MOOC) programs, led by organizations like Lambda who have emerged to fill the technical skills gap.

Engage candidates more effectively through mobile devices: In the first five months of 2019, 39% of all applications came from mobile devices, up from 20% just three years ago. To engage candidates effectively, provide mobile-optimized career portals and job applications, and use text messaging, which has an 87% open rate versus 18% for email.

Build SEO into your recruitment strategy: Major search engines are quickly becoming one of the top sources of high-quality candidates. This is an important change in how candidates find jobs. The more information you provide (including salary range), the better your job post will rank within major search engine results.

In short, to mitigate your talent shortage, provide training for your workforce, reward employee referrals, proactively identify and engage top targets, and implement a recruitment process built expressly for the way candidates communicate today.


Keyur Ajmera oversees iCIMS’ Infrastructure and Shared Services. He has more than 16 years of experience leading technology teams for companies including AppDynamics, Deutsche Bank and PwC.


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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary

The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT professionals in a meaningful way. We publish Guest Commentaries from IT practitioners, industry analysts, technology evangelists, and researchers in the field. We are focusing on four main topics: cloud computing; DevOps; data and analytics; and IT leadership and career development. We aim to offer objective, practical advice to our audience on those topics from people who have deep experience in these topics and know the ropes. Guest Commentaries must be vendor neutral. We don't publish articles that promote the writer's company or product.

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