Attracting Top Tech Talent in a Candidate Short Market

Rick Knights

If your organisation is struggling to hire technology talent right now, you’re not alone. After the pandemic put a pause on hiring, for what luckily only turned out to be a few months, we’re now in the busiest market I’ve seen in my 18 years in recruitment – and there are multiple factors creating the ‘perfect storm’ of candidate shortages.

So, what created the storm? A few broad trends have converged on the UK in recent years, starting with the fact that just about every company is seeking to digitise their offering, especially due to growing e-commerce demand.

Another major influence is the aftermath of Brexit. Whether you’re for Brexit or not, it has affected the mobility of talent. A large pool of European candidates is now less accessible than it used to be.

Technology professionals have also become more risk-averse due to the uncertainty generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Good tech people are less likely to consider changing jobs, especially if they’re being well looked after by their current employers.

As a technology recruiter, I know there is more to the talent shortage than these big economic and political issues, however. I’ll dive into some related factors in more detail below.

The Most In-Demand Skills

In the current technology market, Software Developers (React, TypeScript, Node and Vue), DevOps, and Cloud Engineers (Azure/AWS) are the most sought-after professionals.

One of the driving forces behind this demand for tech talent is the rise in digital transformation. Businesses that were not truly ‘online’ in the past are now digitising many aspects of their operations and more companies are realising they must protect themselves against future risks like those presented by the pandemic. This is in turn is driving demand for Developers to build new software and Cybersecurity professionals to manage IT security risks – plus, project managers to manage the process!

While of course it would be great if there were more of these people in the market, lack of candidates is not the reason these roles are difficult to hire for. These candidates can now have their pick of opportunities and it will come as no surprise that salary is a critical factor in their choice. Hiring managers who are still offering the salaries they were two years ago, are going to miss out on top tech talent, which leads us nicely into my next point…

Salaries Are Climbing Like Crazy

The salaries of most IT professionals have increased over the last two years, but for Developers in particular, they’ve skyrocketed (possibly matching the rising blood pressure of hiring managers!). Due to the general uncertainty in the market the events of the last years has brought, Developers aren’t easily enticed to re-enter the job scene – they’re very comfortable where they are. As such, higher salaries are being offered as a hook – and this is effectively squeezing the market.

In the Midlands, for example, permanent Senior Developer roles typically advertised at £55-60k two years ago are now in the range of £80-85k. This salary pressure means that companies relying on salary benchmarking data from two years ago or even 12 months ago will be underselling these roles by 10-25% less than what the current market dictates.

It’s essential that if you’re looking to hire you’re working with current salary data, so you don’t have top candidates walking away. Incidentally, talking to a tech recruiter (like Movement8!) is one of the best ways to get accurate salary and employment insights.

Employers Are Tapping into The Value of Contractors

Following the slump in contract demand in 2020, the scarcity of talent available for permanent roles is also contributing to more contractor opportunities, as more employers opt for temporary hiring to overcome their talent shortfalls.

Whilst IR35 has brought about its own issues, more employers operating outside of IR35 if necessary, while others are paying more for contractors falling within IR35. Which in turn, is also contributing to the rising rates for tech contractors – we’re seeing companies pay an extra £100-200 on top of existing day rates to compensate.

The biggest contributing factor to the ‘rise of the contractor’ is again, the increase in digital transformation. Organisations are seeking niche skills that they won’t necessarily require in the long term and so engaging contractors in the current market can be a highly effective approach to finding some very talented people to work on your most important projects without the long-term cost.

Candidates Want True Work/Life Balance

There is also more of a focus on softer benefits beyond salary. We are answering more and more questions from candidates about flexible working hours, how many days of holiday leave are available, and what the overall work/life balance looks like for a role.

It’s worthwhile noting that about 90% of Developers are now working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that so many people have realised the benefits of spending less time commuting, it’s not a stretch to assume candidates’ expectations have changed about travelling to the office every day.

Savvy employers understand this need for better work-life balance. One company we work with offers unlimited holidays, for example. Consider what you can offer to candidates on top of salary, as these factors can make all the difference when attracting (and retaining) top talent.

Final Thoughts

In this market, you will need more than basic research and a pre-COVID-19 era salary report to refine your talent attraction strategies. It pays to think about how external forces are shaping what IT candidates are now looking for and what would make them consider changing jobs. Top technology professionals are highly aware of their market value, so employers must understand the true selling points of a role to arouse the interest of potential candidates.

That’s where we can help. As a specialist tech recruitment agency, Movement8 work day in, day out advising clients on their hiring strategies and finding the best tech talent in the market. To learn more about what Movement8 can do to find your next tech hire, please get in touch.