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By: Jennifer Chestnut on February 13th, 2020

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4 Ways to Compete for Tech Talent in a Candidate's Market

HR Tech | Talent Acquisition

Attracting and retaining talent is a challenge for any employer, and even more so in the last few years with the unemployment rate diminishing and the demand for tech talent increasing. Currently, unemployment is hovering at 3.3%.  

A 2020 Emerging Jobs Report from LinkedIn’s Principal Economist shared the types of roles that are expected to continue to be in high demand.  It’s no surprise a number of these are in the technology space.  Roles like data scientists, artificial intelligence and machine learning engineers, and software programmers are at the top of the list. In 2018, there were 80,000+ job openings for software programmers/ developers and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 21% increase in job growth over the next 10 years.  

With Washington, DC trending as a top metropolitan area for tech talent, what can employers do to have a competitive edge? 

First, look for candidates who have foundational skills and can be trained.   

For example, many times employers get hung up on a specific skill such as Java programming.  Jane Doe has experience in JavaScript, C++, and AWS but not Java.  However, she is a great culture fit and has demonstrated how she can learn on the job.  Start investing in these types of hires and offer training and certification reimbursement.  Employers need to seek out “HiPo’s” (high potential employees) with an aptitude for learning. 

Second, hire candidates with a strong set of intangible soft skills.   

While there is a definite skills gap in the market related to AI and programming, another large skills gap facing employers is the need for soft skills.  Have you ever had an employee that checked all the technical boxes but could not successfully communicate?  

Communication, leadership skills, and high emotional intelligence are also hot commodities in today’s market.  These intangible qualities are much more difficult to teach than the day-to-day functional job tasks.   

Third, get creative and develop in-house training.   

Many organizations are developing in-house fellowship programs to develop these skills in their employees.  For example, consulting firm Abt Associates has developed a company-wide initiative that trains Abt staff in machine learning programming and applies the training to current project work.  This data science fellowship is led by Dr. Sung-Woo Cho, a Senior Associate at Abt Associates. 

This forward-thinking and proactive approach to solving their skills gap reaps benefits for both the employee and the employer.  The employer is able to invest in the employee and provides growth and development while also solving their need for skills that are scarce in the market.  

If your company does not have the bandwidth or funding available for this type of in-house training, partner with local schools and training facilities to help build your pipeline and provide external resources for employee training.  

Fourth, employers must adapt to support remote work and flexible work schedules. 

Being able to recruit globally will open doors to a new pool of candidates who would not exist otherwise.  We are currently in a candidates’ market where top technologists can and will make these types of demands.  The workforce of the future is global, remote, and flexible. 

These are just a few ways to get ahead of the technology skills gap in 2020.  What other creative ideas is your company leveraging to compete for talent?