The World of Work Has Changed — and IT Hiring Must Keep Up

IT hiring trends continue to evolve as the business world itself does. And, today, seemingly every corner of it is changing fast.

The pace of hiring is starkly different today. Living in a digital world means a constant state of IT modernization and transformation, prompting talent acquisition teams to look at their tech workforce needs in terms of a series of project resources vs. 100% full-time, long-term hires. It’s a continuous cycle of recruiting from both inside and outside the organization.

What they are finding when new candidates apply is that their resumes look markedly different than they did just five years ago. For many, Covid-19 meant extended periods of workforce leave — and résumé gaps. For others, it meant greater financial opportunity, exacerbating the job hopping trend that’s been brewing for years.

Of course, no story on the changing state of IT hiring is complete without talking about the acceleration of technology. Due to the compounding effects of exponential progress, the IT industry’s trajectory of advancement may soon resemble a vertical line vs. a steady climb.

Not only will the IT talent shortage persist, it stands to become even more acute.

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An Emerging Model for Talent Acquisition

For decades, talent acquisition teams have relied on a pedigree-based model to evaluate IT candidates. College degrees and a consistent, lengthy employment history top the list of criteria in predicting the future performance of an employee.

With over 70% of all jobs requiring degrees and less than 50% of the US workforce holding a bachelor’s degree, a pedigree-based talent acquisition model puts up an unnecessary paper ceiling. Just as detrimental is using years of experience as an anchor, and research finds that IT recruiters are the biggest offenders of this. According to LinkedIn Economic Graph research, 60% of “entry-level” jobs in the software industry list at least three years of experience as a requirement.

Compared to a degree or employment history, skills are a much better indication of performance. Recent research by Bain pointed out that a fitting skill set is five times more predictive of future job performance than educational background and 2.5 times more effective than work experience.

Many organizations have recognized the importance of moving from a pedigree-first to a skill-first hiring model. According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Future of Recruiting report, recruiters are 50% more likely to search by skills than by years of experience, and 75% of recruiters say skills-first hiring will be a priority over the next 18 months.

This applies to both the public and private sector. Companies including IBM, Dell, Google and Tesla are among those that are increasingly hiring based on skills. At the same time, a growing number of governors have eliminated degree requirements for state jobs, a bipartisan trend that is slowly but surely gaining traction.

From Experience to Skills to Potential

A reform in our talent acquisition practices is long overdue, but shifting from a degree-centric mindset to a skills-based one won’t solve the problem for IT departments completely. That’s because so many of the IT skills businesses need today are brand new (or still on the way), and skilled talent (with or without degrees and experience) simply doesn’t exist.

This is where skilling comes into play. Some large companies have the resources to do it themselves, while others partner with local organizations or companies, but the premise is simple: recruit and train talent with an aptitude for tech and a willingness to learn. And, for many companies, they’re doing this at scale. Their IT projects need entire teams of people, not one or two.

Skilling at scale allows organizations not only to stay in touch with today’s business and talent trends but also ensure a sustainable pipeline of qualified talent. We’re quickly approaching a world of technology in which degrees don’t exist, experience isn’t possible and skills haven’t yet been taught.

Soon we won’t be able to hire for experience or for skills. The organizations that find a way to hire for potential — and help their employees reach it — will be those leading the digital pack.

John Akkara

John Akkara
John Akkara is the founder and CEO of Smoothstack, an IT services and solutions company, and Gold Coast IT Solutions, an IT consulting firm.

John Akkara

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