The IT Talent Shortage Debate - InformationWeek

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11/3/2014
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The IT Talent Shortage Debate

Tech employers say good people are hard to find. Job hunters see a broken hiring process. Both sides need to shake their frustration and find new ways to connect.

cited missed revenue opportunities. That last point should grab IT leaders' attention; it's sure to grab the CEO's.

The only category where Cashman sees IT groups regularly willing to bring in people and train them for the job is help desk positions, which are among the lowest-paying, least-training-intensive positions.

Some employers must experience serious pain -- a missed revenue target, a delayed product launch, or a customer service blow-up -- before taking off the hiring perfection goggles. "Even then," Cashman says, "contractors often are brought in to fix the pain. It's wait, wait, hurry."

Holes in the screens
That scenario sounds familiar to IT veteran Stuart Lathrop, now a marketing enterprise solution architect for ESAB, a welding and automation equipment supply company.

Midcareer IT pros know Lathrop's recent job hunt story all too well. Job hunters struggle to make it through the first electronic filters of resumés, and when they do, the follow-up phone screenings prove frustrating. Interviewers show little willingness to bend on specific technical requirements or to consider transferable skills.

In 2012, Lathrop voluntarily left a full-time IT job (at a time of change within the company), did independent consulting for about a year, then started to look for a new full-time role in the fall of 2013.

"The only people I could have a conversation with were headhunters and recruiters," he says. "The on-site interview would be the first time I would talk to anyone who had IT experience."

He cast a wide net online and generated an application-response rate of 12% to 15%. But the callbacks were mostly for junior roles, for which he knew he was overqualified. "If I'm hiring, I don't want someone to undersell themselves to fill a role," Lathrop says. "They're going to be bored and won't be with you long."

Lathrop won his current role after a contact recommended him to come in and solve a thorny problem. He solved the problem and worked as a contractor for about eight months, at which point ESAB created a position for him. "That's a trend, bringing someone in as a contractor," he says. "Frankly I've used it myself."

What concerns Lathrop is the disconnect between HR and IT. He cites trust and language issues. For instance, if he's looking at the resumé of someone who says he has run an Oracle shop, using versions X through Y of a system, he would realize why that experience is a good match, even for a role keyed to a different software system. "I know what's involved in running an Oracle shop and having that kind of longevity," he says. "HR doesn't understand our side of the business well enough to make those interpretations."

A better approach, Lathrop says, would be for HR to sort candidates into an A pile and a B pile and let IT see all of them, before people are green- or red-lighted for in-person interviews. But that, of course, takes time. [ Editor's note: As this story was publishing, Lathrop learned his full-time job at ESAB is going away as part of a reorganization. In November, he will once again be a contractor with the company. ]

Adrianne McDonald had 17 years of IT experience and was working in a director-level infrastructure service delivery position for Time Warner Cable, running back-office disaster recovery efforts, when she began hunting for a new job in the fall of 2013 because of a reorganization.

"I was surprised when I came out at the difference in job hunting versus 2002," McDonald says. "About a third of the time, people contacted me for positions that were completely inappropriate." Although she was seeking a senior infrastructure position, she got calls for everything from entry-level business analyst to data mining roles. Whatever the recruiters were using to match job openings with candidates, it wasn't working. "I wanted to ask about the algorithm," she says.

McDonald was careful to apply only for positions in her wheelhouse, so she got a call back from an outside recruiter or HR pro about 70% of the time, she estimates. But to no avail. "When I got on the phone it was painful," she says.

The recruiters were always in a rush, McDonald says, but they weren't asking the questions that would have matched her or ruled her out in an informed way. "It's one of those pay now or pay later situations," she says.

McDonald didn't find the right position, and in December 2013 set up her own consulting firm, Transformation Leadership, where she does IT transformation and leadership development projects. Her decision to go solo -- the same route Lathrop took earlier in his career -- isn't unusual among midlevel IT pros. Some move back and forth several times between solo and company jobs. The most common reason to do contracting or consulting work is higher pay, our InformationWeek Salary Survey finds. Just 10% of managers and 28% of staffers who went that route say it's because they couldn't find full-time employment.

The only piece of good employment news I heard consistently -- and I heard it from almost every single recruiter and employer I spoke with -- is that it has become easier for IT pros to switch between industries, if you have deep experience in a desired skill. "Almost no one in our engineering team had travel experience," says Kayak's Zacharia. "We believe good technical skills easily transfer."

Especially when it comes to red-hot skills such as big data, companies have had to become more flexible on industry knowledge. "I tell them if they're looking for consumer packaged goods experience, they'll be looking a very long time," says Linda Burtch, founder and managing director of executive recruiting firm Burtch Works, which specializes in data analysis roles. Are companies now wise to that reality? "They tend not to be at the beginning of the process," she says, "but then they get there."

Companies innovate to draw talent
Some companies are getting creative about marketing themselves to and courting top tech talent.

Online retailer Gilt hired Lauri Apple as its technology evangelist about two years ago. Her job: to promote the cool projects and technologies that power Gilt.

"Really great talent will find a job," Apple says. "They're working already. You have to think of getting those folks as a long-term strategy, so you can get them when they're ready."

For example, Gilt offers day-long courses on hot skills such as Scala and Hadoop, taught by experts, and has tech gurus such as former Netflix cloud architect Adrian Cockcroft come in to speak. Gilt invites the local tech community to attend and builds in time for networking.

"What I'm set up to do is raise awareness of what's going on here, … and hopefully that will inspire people to apply," Apple says. Does she know anyone else in a similar role? No -- but she's getting more calls to discuss it. "I think you're going to see more of this competitive culture develop," she says.

Another best practice is to get involved with the informal networks that IT pros develop within their specialty areas. (You've experienced one if you've been to a cloud computing conference.) "We've seen companies be successful networking into those groups," says Yoh's Rivera, referring to events, user groups, and associations. "Get to know those groups … and then be respectful when you have openings." It's a give and take -- companies need to offer up their time and expertise to the community in order to connect with potential hires.

Meantime, don't just recycle old job descriptions, Cashman warns. IT and HR need to talk about the status of the project they're hiring for and the specific project challenges. And don't overload job descriptions with a dream list of skills. "If you miss the passive job seeker who thinks, 'They won't go for me because I don't have three of the 10 things required,' you do yourself a disservice," Cashman says.

Think of your job description as a place to sell your organization's culture. Gilt sells the fact that its tech people "get to work with a CTO who still codes," Apple says. Best Doctors touts its culture of tinkering.

When we asked in our survey about top obstacles to IT hiring, 50% of respondents at large companies cited low salaries. A significant 41% cited unrealistic expectations about skills and experience -- expectations that feed job descriptions.

Both IT pros and hiring managers must adapt to the fact that tech skills are changing faster than ever before. In the past, a networking or security pro could confidently craft a three-, five-, and maybe 10-year career plan. Those long paths aren't clear anymore.

Your next job hunt will be different, as McDonald found. Your technology niche may start hot and turn cool. Personal networking and project portfolios are as important as ever, even for entry-level roles. For more job hunt tips for new IT pros, see our related article: 9 IT Job Hunt Tips For Beginners.) Leaders like Bill Martin, CIO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., say that's just how IT careers work in the age of digital business.

"I've been the CIO at Royal Caribbean for seven years," says Martin, "and I like to tell people I'm in my third generation of IT, because it cycles about every three years, and the toolsets are completely different. How you approach problems is different. How the business looks at technology changes. If you want a career in IT, you need to be ready to change."

Read the new digital issue of InformationWeek.
 
Laurianne McLaughlin currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Editor-in-Chief, overseeing daily online editorial operations. Prior to joining InformationWeek in May, 2011, she was managing editor at CIO.com. Her writing and editing work has won multiple ASBPE (American ... View Full Bio

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williame8191
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williame8191,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2014 | 9:04:42 AM
Misdefined Talent Shortage
As an educator (35 years), I see no talent shortage.  Indeed, technical graduates in Computer Science, Database Analytics, and similar fields (some bachelor's degrees, some master's degrees) cannot find work (except as restuarant servers).  There certainly IS a shortage of these graduates willing to work in IT for $11/hour.
$28018109
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$28018109,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2014 | 9:39:02 AM
Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
"IT leaders must staff projects quickly"
Only if they're poor managers who haven't been doing any PLANNING.

"often requiring specialized skills that most job hunters -- especially generalists or those looking to change tech tracks -- don't have."
Only under poor management who haven't been doing any internal TRAINING.

"As a result, hiring organizations see an IT talent shortage"
In my neighborhood there's a shortage of kids who can mow my lawn perfectly in less than 15 minutes. For $10.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/3/2014 | 10:09:00 AM
Re: Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
Salary of course plays a large role here. Are companies unrealistic? We asked our survey respondents: "What factors other than an IT talent shortage create significant obstacles to hiring at your organization?" About 50% said "Our salaries are too low." That's telling.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
11/3/2014 | 4:45:17 PM
Re: Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
The reason why companies are often so stringent on hiring is because they have been burned in the past by not-so-great hires. Those cost companies a lot of money, and as a result risk has to be reduced.

It does make one wonder whether or not the shortages being reported are actually real or just a risk-reducing tactic by companies. It is hard to tell. 
JakeL642
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JakeL642,
User Rank: Strategist
11/4/2014 | 9:59:46 AM
Re: Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
Indeed, too low a salary offered, that's certainly one smoking gun.

In the Bay Area many non-tech jobs are paying around six figures.  Police officer in San Fran, starts at 90k + Pension + (best benefits in the world) + Job Security, education requirement (only a 2-year degree).

Engineer - (6-year Masters typically required (for reasons elaborated below)), no-pension, no help-with 401k, no benefits, no job security.

So companies fill the lower-payed jobs with contractors on an H-1b.  It's easy, companies are bringing in benched workers all the time in the Bay Area.  In India, people will pay the recruiter to get them an H-1b visa and a chance to look for a job in the U.S.

And that's the reason for the bloated requirements on jobs, and the reason for the huge demand for H-1b workers.  Companies are unwilling to pay mid-level salaries that are around 100k, when they can get a contractor in for less than 30$/hour basically a person on an H-1b (who will pay them for a job).

The problem is that with all mid-level (and starting) jobs going to people who are tethered to a recruiter, Outsourcing companies, or Body-shop.  Is that these companies don't sponsor people for Green Cards, and the workers must leave at some point, and they take their 6 years of on-the-job-training with them.

The biggest users of H-1b visas are companies with huge offshore worker contingents.  Managers are tempted by their own existing stock of workers, and have no interest in hiring U.S. citizens.  Those temptations do include bribes and payola.  HR is given the easy excuse of cheaper, indentured labor, and the avid insider sell of the applicant.

And more than half of all H-1b visas are used by Offshore Outsourcing companies.  Companies that don't sponsor employees for Green Cards.  Companies whose sole business is to remove jobs from the United States.

It is documented, in court papers, that Senior management at InfoSys told a recruiter that "Americans don't know (expletive)".  When the recruiter was about to present the resumes of several qualified American candidates.  The recruiter was then directed to only look people of Indian descent for jobs on U.S. soil.

InfoSys is the 2nd biggest user of H-1b visas.

If Offshore Outsourcing companies were barred from using the H-1b Federal Government program, we would never have seen a year, since inception where we ran out of H-1b visas.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:25:10 AM
Re: Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
You heard the recruiter in this story tell me that the industry is still fighting the worry among college students that they will train for IT careers only to see jobs move to India. No wonder they worry about it; many of them saw their parents live through it. The reality is H-1B is not going away, like it or not.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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11/8/2014 | 5:02:50 AM
Re: Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
"In the Bay Area many non-tech jobs are paying around six figures.  Police officer in San Fran, starts at 90k + Pension + (best benefits in the world) + Job Security, education requirement (only a 2-year degree)."

I agree with some of your points, but I think the quoted passage is a bit misleading. With your example, you're talking about government jobs, though, which aren't representative of the "non-tech" jobs in the Bay Area. The statistics are pretty clear that tech workers (and engineers in particular) make way more money relative to people outside tech. I have no problem with tech workers making a lot-- in fact, in some cases, I think many of them should be even better compensated. But I don't think you can point to "non-tech" workers, who generally earn much less, if you're trying to demonstrate how tech employees are getting hosed. 

The median annual salary, including all tech workers, in SF is something like $63k, according to at least one source I've seen. Meanwhile, I've seen several surveys that peg average engineering salaries in the region at 50-100% more than this median. If we go back to that median figure and consider that many, many tech jobs in SF are in the upper 50%, and that many government workers are also in the upper 50%, we'll have to conclude that many, many public sector non-tech workers are in the bottom 50%. Suppose you make $50k in SF. Sounds okay, right, even if it's below the median? It might be a workable amount, if you don't have kids-- but in a city in which renting a new apartment will set you back around $25k annually, that $50k salary (which comes in closer to $35k after taxes) doesn't go very far. If you also consider that many young non-tech workers have huge student loans (just like most young tech workers do), that $50k starts to look really meager. Certainly, it becomes meager enough that you can't use such an employee to demonstrate how a highly-paid engineer is getting screwed. I realize that you said you were talking about people earning six figures-- but my point is, these people are far rarer among non-tech workers than you seem to indicate.

The engineering averages (and other measures of local tech salaries) are often inflated by the presence of a few extreme outliers (e.g. I saw one that included people like Mark Zuckerberg in the "tech employees" category, which has to have had a significant effect on the overall average). But nevertheless, even without job security, tech works in the bay area are better enabled than many "non-tech" workers to accrue wealth, and to have some sort of nest egg if they lose their jobs. I don't mean to belittle that tech workers sometimes get a raw deal-- they do. As some of my other posts demonstrate, I think many complaints about hiring practices and wages in the tech industry are valid. But I don't think the Bay Area's non-tech workers are a good example for the way tech workers are getting screwed, at least not if you paint with a broad brush.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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11/3/2014 | 3:47:33 PM
Re: Poor IT Management, Lazy HR
I want to echo the notion that poor management is part of the problem. My personal observations don't encompass IT hiring in general, of course, but talking to people I know who work at some very big tech companies, I've heard several chronic managerial products that much up hiring, including

-- Too little communication. Marketing wants to change something at the last minute and doesn't appreciate what this entails for engineering. Engineering is stretched too thin because its budget was established under the assumption that marketing won't change its schedule every other day. Brand starts to get angry because Engineering makes a change that Marketing requested but that Brand wasn't included on. Engineering makes a mistake but doesn't want to own up to it because Engineering is already catching heat from Marketing and Brand. And so on. There's this quixotic notion that the hiring budgets established at the beginning of the quarter will be adequate for all of the managerial disarray that follows.

-- Quarterly goals. Too often, a manager realizes that everything is going to hell because he (or his bosses or collaborator) hasn't planned adequately. That person might realize a need to hire more people. But that manager's bonus (or perhaps his boss's) depends in some way on projects getting rolled out on budget-- so no hires are made. Sometimes, the manager plans to switch jobs soon anyway, because his job is a nightmare. In this scenario, achieving that bonus, even if it screws up long-term company plans, is a way to pad the transition. Because of the aforementioned communication problems, this sort of self-serving management goes undetected by superiors who are actually invested in the company's success, and so on.


-- S--- rolls downhill. People work ridiculous hours because their bosses aren't communicating, are protecting quarterly budget goals, aren't listening, etc. Some people get burned out, some of them very talented. More money is spent on recruiting efforts-- money that might have been better spent just hiring another person to begin with and retaining a valued employee. And so on.

-- Contract workers get abused. Because of all the disarray, people contracts for specific jobs get pressured into broader roles. Sometimes this results in contracts being illegally denied OT and health benefits (because they shouldn't be classified as contract workers anymore), but the employee, hopeful he'll be given a full-time position, never challenges anything.

Again, I know not all companies are like this. Many of my friend who work in IT have very satisfying jobs, with great pay, benefits, bosses and co-workers. But more than a few other friends and acquaintances have relayed horror stories along the lines of what I described above. Perhaps a talent shortage is one of the problems facing IT, but good old corporate bureaucracy and poor management play roles too. 
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
11/3/2014 | 10:32:52 AM
Oddly specific
I've always been puzzled by the over-emphasis on checklists of different tools or even programming languages the ideal candidate is supposed to have experience with. IT is a learning profession, and what companies should prize above all is the ability to adapt to a different tool set or programming language as needed to solve specific business problems.

Harder to make that into a list of bullet points for a job description, I suppose.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/3/2014 | 11:06:58 AM
Re: Oddly specific
I agree that the job descriptions seems to be for people with multiple skills and experience.  It seems they are really looking for a purple mouse.  Right now, I have notice it is about who you know?  In order for job candidates to pass the resume filter.  For me, it seems like trying to climb the Great Wall of china. 
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
11/3/2014 | 12:57:22 PM
Re: Oddly specific
I think companies worry about hiring smart people and spending a chunk of cash on training, only to have that person then jump to a higher-paying job elsewhere. However, I don't think the answer is "don't train," I think it's "Train, then treat and pay people well so they want to stay." It's not all about money.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 4:51:56 AM
Re: Oddly specific
@David: Often, what contributes to this extreme specification is overly by-the-numbers HR people pressuring supervisors/executives for clearly defined, to-the-digit specifications.  (Non-recruiters usually just want "someone who can do the job" and with whom they can get along.)

And then, of course, there is the issue of overreliance on keyword-scanning HR software.
BobC513
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BobC513,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/3/2014 | 1:02:12 PM
Specialist or generalist?
Seems like the wrong question to me. What happens when the coder with guru Python skills isn't "relevant" anymore because some new hot thing has come along and all the IT herds start chasing THAT?  Suddenly the specialist is on the out. On the other hand, the generalist can't do the very specific tasks that are in the queue.

HR should not be looking for either, They should be looking for candidates that are adaaptable, are quick to learn and have a foundation of good work habits. Companies would do better stop looking at developers, admins, architects - anyone in the IT services stack - as fungible resources to plug in and out of projects as needed. Instead they should be building teams that can work together over the long haul. This grates against the acolytes of The Bottom Line because employees are expenses to be minimized, not assets to utlized at their greatest potential. 
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/3/2014 | 2:03:30 PM
Re: Specialist or generalist?
The specialization has gotten out of control in IT. There are so many technologies now and companies seem to want to match up exactly with what you have done. It used to be if you were a programmer, it didn't matter what language because it was assumed you could program in any language, whether you'd ever done it before or not. Now, as @Bob says, a Python programmer can't possibly code in PHP or Ext JS, at least in minds of HR.

That started to change, slowly at first, when Object Oriented Programming came into existence. Some of the old guys like myself from COBOL/RPG on mainframe days just couldn't adjust to that style. When Java use exploded that really came to a head. Now there are dozens of other languages like Java, knowing java doesn't necessarily get you any of those jobs.

Then Touch/mobile exploded on the scene, requiring a completely different paradigm on how you write the UI and programs, regardless of programming language. Now a Java programmer can't get a Java programming job because he never wrote Touch/smartphone apps before.

You can't keep up as an IT person anymore, it is not possible. I just laugh when I see all these self professed experts on security, mobile development and (my favorite) cloud. You're an expert? Really? And exactly how did you become an "expert"? Schools don't have experts teaching in very many places. You didn't read yourself into becoming an expert. The only true experts were just poor saps like ourselves who found themsleves thrust into the bleeding edge of one of these technologies and learned enough to complete a project. But most are hardly "experts", not like they have worked on same technology for 20-30 years like most of old timers used to do.

I have no idea what the fix is for this mindset. What is a new person entering IT supposed to focus on these days? Because chances are extremely high what they learn won't be used 5 years from now.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
11/3/2014 | 1:38:32 PM
Seriously?
Industry is whining about a talent shortage - really?  Hello and welcome to 1999.  LOL I guess when you toss away the employment applications of anyone over age 30 and/or rule out the other half of the population that is female, then it can be called a talent "shortage," but the reality is that this has been the mantra of the IT industry since qualified applicants could demand over $10.00/hr. for a job in tech.  Now it's just all about bringing in the cheaper foreign workers on an H1B visa instead of hiring qualified Americans regardless of gender.  
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
11/3/2014 | 2:16:37 PM
More survey details?
@Laurianne: Great post, excellent questions and points raised here. One question. Can you elaborate on this:

InformationWeek asked the IT community: Do you see an IT talent shortage today in one or more technology areas important to your business? Yes, said 73% of respondents at companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, and a whopping 88% of respondents at larger companies.

Was this a flash poll? A survey conducted by Information Week? How many respondents did you receive in each of these company-size categories? was this just in U.S. or worldwide?

 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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11/3/2014 | 2:27:33 PM
Re: More survey details?
Hi Susan. This was not a flash poll but an InformationWeek Research report. It reflects US respondents. (Readers, see our full lineup of research here: http://reports.informationweek.com/. ) We will post the full research report from the IT skills crunch survey soon. Meanwhile, the article includes some of the key statistics that US IT leaders shared with us about the state of the talent market.

 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
11/4/2014 | 6:02:43 PM
Re: More survey details?
@Laurianne: Thank you! Wealth of info in that link, appreciate your sharing it and look forward to more on this topic.
jries921
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jries921,
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11/3/2014 | 4:36:13 PM
I hear you, but...
...the IT shortage rhetoric sounds like a blatant appeal for corporate welfare (via artificial inflation of the supply; thus depressing salaries and making it harder for those laid off or fired to get new jobs in the field).  Even if those making such claims were absolutely right, it's not the job of government to alleviate it by either pushing people into the field not otherwise so inclined; or by importing guest workers.   Indeed, the classical economic theory generally espoused by "pro-business" commentators (except when it's inconvenient) is that if there is a shortage, wages/salaries will rise and people will be financially motivated to do what they have to to qualify; or it will be financially worthwhile for employers to train people to do those jobs (it's called "supply and demand").  Adam Smith made the argument that artificially inflating the supply of workers trained in a particular occupation was counterproductive, as the inevitible result is a lot more people in the occupation than could reasonably be accomodated; and I think he was right.  And if there were a shortage, it would certainly not be the case that older, experienced computer professionals would have a hard time finding employment if they lose their jobs (I know someone going through that now); indeed, they'd be in high demand.

Overspecification of qualifications has been a problem for a very long time and was a major part of the reason why I didn't land my first programming job until five years after I got my degree.  Artificially increasing the supply of people meeting them won't help matters; economic pressure on employers to abandon the practice will.

 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/3/2014 | 5:02:05 PM
Re: I hear you, but...
You're not alone in that opinion re. salaries and talent supply/demand. The point that wages should be rising if there is a "shortage" is a point that both Ron Hira and Norman Matloff point to in their analysis of the shortage as "imaginary."
fullstackdavid
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fullstackdavid,
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11/4/2014 | 1:03:08 AM
Talent's out there for companies that are looking
 

Hi Laurianne - really enjoyed your article, I like the wide swath of companies you talked to (I've worked previously at Gilt and really admire their IT hiring practices) and the fair opinions you got from both sides.  As a founder of a coding bootcamp, Fullstack Academy, I get to work with lots of great companies who hire our students.  The companies that are out there doing the hard work of connecting their engineers with the engineering community are getting great returns on their work.  The company doesn't have to be innovative - just do basic events like hackathons, meetups, talks, big speakers.  These things connect engineers to engineers and that's where you'll really find good talent that matches well with your company's needs.

The problem comes from when a company no longer views hiring as the role of the engineering manager and outsources it to HR.  I've worked with great HR people, but it's hard for them to filter out technical things and so they rely on heuristics that give both false positives and false negatives.  I believe companies get to some scale and they believe this to be a fact of life - from what I've seen of really well run engineering organizations, those that continue interacting with outside engineers are those that continue to find, recruit, retain and grow great talent.

Finally, schools like ours are working as hard as we can to get more talent onto the market.  We've had students from all walks of life come and in three months learn CS fundamentals and enough practical skills to get great engineering roles.  
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:38:39 AM
Re: Talent's out there for companies that are looking
Thanks, @fullstackdavid. You raise a point I heard from many of the recruiters and HR pros: More and more, the companies who win at the talent game do it through the strength of their IT pros' own networks. Companies really love to hire people who are going to bring a rock star personal network to the party. If you have this, flaunt it. And as you point out, if you're a student or a new IT pro, work your way into those personal networks via hackathons and events. Glad your students are getting good results.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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11/4/2014 | 4:45:49 AM
Purple Squirrel
I'm really glad you pointed out the "Purple Squirrel Hunt" tactic.  This is directly tied to the shortage of women in IT.  Studies indicate that women are far less likely than their male counterparts to "stretch" to submit themselves for job listings that seek qualifications exceeding what they possess.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:42:33 AM
Re: Purple Squirrel
That is true Joe, that women and men react to job descriptions differently. Female CIOs tell me they teach their rising stars to apply when they have say 75% of what the descrip asks for -- because the men will roll the dice at this point, and if women don't, they fall behind.
@B52Junebug
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@B52Junebug,
User Rank: Strategist
11/4/2014 | 12:22:58 PM
Re: Purple Squirrel
@Laurianne Even with us Women rolling the dice at 75% apptitude for the position doesnt mean we will get through the screening process.

Women generally have a hard time selling themselves when it comes to putting in for new jobs. We arent usually cut throat enough to take that leap. When we do, it can be seen as character flaw.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 12:35:08 PM
Re: Purple Squirrel
@B52Junebug, you're right, women can face backlash about ambition in some companies and interview situations. Check out this interesting advice from negotiation expert Joan C. Williams, on how women can employ "gender judo" strategies: http://www.informationweek.com/strategic-cio/team-building-and-staffing/gender-judo-salary-negotiation-tactics-for-women-/a/d-id/1297532
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/9/2014 | 7:40:26 AM
Re: Purple Squirrel
Indeed, I was granted a job interview a couple of years ago where I had less than half the "requisite" experience posted.

I was not ultimately hired, but I was the finalist who just barely got beaten out.  Many of the people who didn't get hired had well over 20-25 years of experience.
JDUBOW201
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JDUBOW201,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 6:33:49 AM
Self-Serving nature of IT shortage allegations.
Saying there is a shortage serves a corporate interest in hiring younger, cheaper programmers, especially on h1-b visas, the modern equivalent of indentured servitude. In an era of "lowest cost, technically acceptable" government contracting policy there is no premium put on quality. What is clear is that programmers and developers are hurting and having lots of trouble finding work. 

If the Administration can go into Defcon 5 with full deployment of an army of lawyers every time a woman or minority feels aggreived or insulted,  they ought to be responsible enough to investigate the labor practices for the vitally important IT programmers and developers. I'm not holding my breath. 
CliffBerg
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CliffBerg,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 7:05:01 AM
The disconnect is between IT leadership and project leadershp
I agree with many of the posters here that HR managers look for the wrong things, and project managers are too anxious to have people "up to speed" from day one.

Recently there was a discussion on this topic in the LinkedIn group "Chief Information Officer (CIO) Network - The Group for CIOs". The discussion was titled "IT Skills Gap". The overwhelming consensus seemed to be that IT leaders want to hire "natural learners" rather than hire for specific skills. Yet, project managers are too anxious to do that: they want people to have zero learning curve.

Thus, I think the disconnect is between IT leadership and project level leadership. Agile projects in particular: there is so much pressure to start producing immediately (team "velocity" is measured continuously).

The reality is - as many here have stated - that no one can stay on top of the changes in IT anymore. Change is constant. If a project is using tools X, Y, Z today, odds are that a year from now they will be using tools X, Q, R. And that means that the last thing you should do is hire a cheap college grad with recent practice in tools X, Y, Z, because next year, much of what they created will be "legacy". Instead, if you hire seasoned programmers who know how to create maintainable systems, they will know better than to wire everything so that it depends on tools X, Y, Z. Young college grads don't know that.

 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:30:52 AM
Re: The disconnect is between IT leadership and project leadershp
Good point re Agile and the continuous measurement of velocity. Agile doesn't have to mean constant personnel turnover, but it may turn into that if IT leadership and project managers get out of sync.
shawn.anderson
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shawn.anderson,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 9:20:30 AM
We finally learned how to hire awesome developers
Loved the article. A lot of truth. After weeding through countless unqualified resumes for wannabe IT (developers and sys admins) we finally found the solution.
  1. Web form to start the process (eliminates bots and the merely curious)
  2. Code assignment done from home (their choice of language). Takes 1-2 hrs. (eliminates 95% of the unqualified and the somewhat curious)
  3. If passed the code submission, ask for resume. 
  4. Schedule 4-6 hr. interview whcih includes coding, round-table interview, lunch, and mingling with every person in the company.

Using this method we would review 5 or so resumes instead of the 70+ that would come in from job post submissions. 

Conclusion: every person we've hired was already working. All were intriqued by our process. All are awesome in IT (different fields). We no longer waste time on candidates who can't even string together a simple if/then statement.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:16:40 AM
Re: We finally learned how to hire awesome developers
@Shawn, thanks for the feedback and sharing your lessons learned. So are you using an outside recruiter to weed through through the initial submissions and decide who gets to take the coding test, or doing that yourself? Your interview process sounds quite practical. I bet the candidates like how the in-person day goes, as well.
shawn.anderson
IW Pick
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shawn.anderson,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 11:55:31 AM
Re: We finally learned how to hire awesome developers
@Laurianne, we use both recruiter and our own methods. We look first to our customer base and any employee referrals, then we do job postings, and then we bring in the recruiter. We've had successful finds from all three sources. And yes, our candidates all mention how intrigued they are with our long interview. Too bad I can't post URL to a Business of Software (BOS) 2013 talk from Mikey Trafton where we got these awesome ideas. Message me @ShawnAnderson and I'll shoot the link to you. 
mpochan156
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mpochan156,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:05:54 AM
on the IT Talent shortage, I vote for "botched Hiring Process"
I know there are multiple factors with complex interdepencies in all this, but other than 25 years of anti-STEM activity ( pushing the arts, 'do what feels good' and 'follow your passion' ) in our K-12 schools, I believe that #1 problem is the Hiring Process. 

And I believe that entrusting most of the process to Human Resources ( HR ) is part of the problem. Most techies I know hate that standardized pyscho crap. 

Forge a new collaborative process by partnering IT and HR and customize it to the unique techie mindset.

Ike

 

p.s. I did live this problem in our software company
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 11:18:27 AM
Re: on the IT Talent shortage, I vote for "botched Hiring Process"
To your point , HR and IT may be different tribes, but they must partner, or the situation will get worse.
@B52Junebug
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@B52Junebug,
User Rank: Strategist
11/4/2014 | 12:16:16 PM
The age of Digital Screening
Just recently I moved for a job, the new company offered a great benefit of allowing your significant other to find a new job.

However, in the conversations that he has had with the Talent firm, they are all about the fact that your resume doesnt really matter. Social networking must be used. Linkedin, Facebook etc.

And if your resume doesnt have the new buzz words in the appropriate places within the resume the new screening software will rank you right of an opportunity.

I get that there are a ton of folks out there today looking for work in IT and some fluff their resume, but with tools like the automated screeners, dont you have to?

My significant other is a mid career Lan Admin or in new buzz words, Wintel. Because he has been out of the IT field for a year, he is willing to take an entry level position to get his feet wet. With everything I have seen and heard, he might as well retire.

Its very hard to be defeatist in this whole process, but really, if the HR folks dont understand what they are actually hiring for, how can they even bring in the right candidate?

My last job we were looking for a mobility engineer with two experiences, one App development and some VDI or at least the knowledge of VDI and could be taught. 65 resumes later, the manager still didnt have any one close to being qualified for either requirement all due to the screening process.

Its sad really.

 
Laurianne
IW Pick
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/4/2014 | 12:28:01 PM
Re: The age of Digital Screening
Here is a related article with tips on navigating the screening software -- another unpleasant IT job hunt reality that won't change soon: http://www.informationweek.com/software/information-management/it-jobs-how-to-master-applicant-tracking-systems/d/d-id/1316232
tnguyengp
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tnguyengp,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/4/2014 | 1:08:30 PM
IT Staffing
Identifying and attracting candidates is only half the battle. It is a critical component of business success to have a quality screening process because a right hire can increase productivity and success while a bad hire can lead to losses in time, money and employee morale. Develop a quality screening process and make sure you paint an accurate picture of a position.

Than Nguyen

The InSource Group

IT Staffing Company

 
Birchbark
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Birchbark,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/5/2014 | 9:47:02 AM
Why no reference to the Bureau of Labor Statistics?
If one goes to bls.gov and looks up the estimated job growth for IT and related occupations one does not get the idea there is much of a shortage.

These jobs are all under "Computer and Information Technology"

For example, one occupation that would seem to be covered by this article is "Computer Programmers".

The BLS has computer programmers in the USA employing 28,400 more people in 2022 than in 2012 or adding 2,840 incremental jobs per year.

Other jobs sch as "Computer network architects" are expected to grow by about 2,090 incremental jobs per year.

"Software developers" are expected to grow by about 22,260 per year.

"Information Security Analysts" by about 2,740 jobs per year.

"Database Administrators" by about 1,790 jobs per year.

The rough total of the incremental job gains seems to approximate the 85,000 H1B visas granted this year, indicating few incremental jobs available for USA workers.


Is the bls.gov completely out of touch?

Am I reading the data incorrectly or overlooking some job classification with many more jobs expected?

 

 

 

 

 

 
Thaddeus Howze
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Thaddeus Howze,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2014 | 7:05:28 PM
There's no skill shortage, there's an ETHICS shortag
Nonsense. There is no skill shortage. There is an UNWILLINGNESS to pay for quality talent. Corporations have taken this stance on pay which says: 

We will not pay you what the job is worth. 
We have done everything we can to make society as unequal as possible. 
We have jury-rigged society so you don't make enough money to live on, have as much debt as you can carry and if you are a young person, engineered society so you CANNOT get a job without as expensive a degree as we can possibly saddle you with. 

This means if you are an older person who was pushed out of the workforce during the Great Purge of 2008, you are probably still looking for work. You have the skills but you are not willing to do the same job you used to do for half the money you used to be paid and working 20% more hours, to boot. 

If you are a college student, you are more likely to get a job, because you don't know what the value of that job is worth. If ten years ago it paid $60,000 and now pays $35,000, what do you know? You didn't have a job ten years ago. This looks acceptable to you. 

Corporations float the idea that the workforce should understand running a business costs money and we all have to tighten our belts. Statistically that simply isn't true. While the rank and file worker has not seen a pay increase of any significant value for over 30 years, the executive class and the corporate investors are making money hand over fist and their income has increased a thousand fold in that same 30 year window. 

Anyone who says they can't find workers is being dishonest. What they can't find are people who can afford to live on these pitiful excuses for wages for doing the work the corporation cannot live without, while executives who sit in the lap of luxury, who want for nothing, who laughingly get into their seventeen Mercedes in a decade and go to their mansion in the hills, keep their employees working for slave wages, no medical benefits and all working two to four part-time jobs to pay for the next generation of wages slaves to work even harder, increasing national productivity, for even less money. 

Yes, I have said what few are willing to say. We are being led astray, told we are lacking something that once upon a time, if a corporation needed trained people, they did what anyone who needed a person with a particular skill set did. 

They trained them.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
11/9/2014 | 9:06:12 PM
Re: There's no skill shortage, there's an ETHICS shortage
Thaddeus, 

You have spoken some good truths in a very straightforward way. I appreciate it very much.

I have seen similar things to the ones you point out. That unwillingness to pay for quality talent is found all over the place. It's been like a virus that has spread all over. 

Some corporations go as far as offering you peanuts when they perfectly know the value of the work and they also know they are offering half, or even less than what the job was worth years ago. Sometimes I don't know how they have the courage to do it and ask if this is acceptable when they know it is not. 

-Susan
Robert P.W360
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Robert P.W360,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/10/2014 | 10:15:19 PM
Science+software in HR
Soon after losing my job in 2008, in IT after 15 yrs at 2 Fortune500 firms, I applied to AT&T Mobility - just to get by for awhile. After their very long on-line resume stuff, a 100 question personality profile popped up. AT&T told me to look elsewhere based on the psych/personality test. That's where my story began.

HR has been infiltrated with software loaded with human behavioral sciences to assess candidates for work. First it was workforce behavioral psychology. NOW, neurologic tests are infiltrating HR, to assess thoughts for allowing predictions as to your potential and performance. What's next? In about 5 years, "genomics". This is a fluid evolution of science+tech+med. A Harvard author defines the slide as, segmentation>personalization>discrimination. It's taken from the sphere of marketing where business uses excessive data points to target consumers. Big data works in HR too, the science is in the assessment software. We are heading to a software selected workforce.  Psychology + Neurology + Genomics
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
6/17/2015 | 6:34:11 PM
H1B Visa Abuse is Also To Blame
It's downright comical how the writer of this piece completely left out the issue of H1B Visas, particularly with regard to the about-face Disney just did in the face of public backlash for pink slipping 250 tech workers and then making them train their inexperienced, cheaper foreign replacements.  No discussion of American IT is balanced without adding the decade plus long abuse of the H1B Visa charade fraud.
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