‘Just in time’ hiring doesn’t work anymore for most tech-skilled positions
Hiring the best tech talent is a challenge for everyone regardless of whether you’re located in the heart of Silicon Valley and other Coastal tech hubs, or in the heart of the Midwest like in our very own Indianapolis tech community.
Large, medium or small; established, scale-up or startup; tech and tech-enabled companies all struggled to find and hire highly qualified people for certain technical roles prior to the pandemic, but especially for software developers, engineers, and specialized or emerging roles.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, CEOs and hiring managers have been concerned about a shortage of qualified tech workers for more than 12 years when the consulting firm added a question about tech skills to its survey. Today, as we emerge from the pandemic, ZDNet reports that 75% of CEOs and hiring managers say that the demands of remote work, security and automation have catapulted the shortage of tech talent to the number one risk factor they face in both the near and long term.
The role of internships in the tech talent pipeline
Despite these challenges, there are turnkey solutions to the shortages companies face in finding and hiring tech talent. Merillat Flowers, vice president and chief of staff at TechPoint, explained that TechPoint’s Xtern program is a one-stop-shop for employers who want access to the best, top performing students at colleges across the country. Applications for the Xtern Class of 2022 are currently open and the deadline for tech and business skilled students to apply is October 11.
“We recruit for Xtern nationwide and last year we had some of the most sought-after college juniors and seniors from 43 states and 222 universities apply to the program,” Merillat said.
Because the recruitment of college seniors is aggressive in the fall, Xtern employers (or any internship employers, for that matter) have a significant advantage over competitors when it comes to hiring their interns, who presumably enjoyed their internship experiences, have a comfort level with the work and familiarity with the company and community.
Take a longer view for technical hiring
Matt Tyner, vice president of operations for one-to-one marketing engine provider Wunderkind, takes a longer view for technical hiring and considers the process more of an investment as opposed to filling any particular job opening.
“Instead of waiting until we have an immediate need for new headcount—say for junior developers or engineers—we make the investment early and often, cultivating the young talent into the experienced pros we need in the future through internships like the Xtern program,” said Tyner.
The hiring pipeline he described can begin from 18 months to three years before bringing tech talent on board full time. The benefits are worth the wait, according to Tyner, and the internships and lengthened hiring timeline mitigates the risks of a bad hire as well.
Invest in talent and building relationships now
“There are more jobs available in Indianapolis than there are experienced and well-trained job seekers, so you’re getting off on the wrong foot if you’re waiting until you have an actual job opening to line up great talent to join your team,” said Kristen Hamerstadt, senior director, partner marketing at Wunderkind. “Investing in talent and building relationships now helps you plan for the future. Plus, you can steer interns toward mentors and resources that will help prepare them to hit the ground running when they graduate, and those relationships make a big difference when you’re competing with out-of-state tech giants and the lure of the Coasts.”
Of course, it doesn’t work out 100 percent of the time and Wunderkind prides itself on transparency and being upfront with interns and potential full-time hires that there may not be available headcount months down the road when they graduate. There are too many uncertainties to make guarantees to incoming college seniors right when they are finishing their internships. However, Wunderkind has experimented with continuing part-time employment after the internships, and by the time seniors are interviewing at job fairs on campus in the fall and into the New Year, things have firmed up enough for Wunderkind to make offers to their top choices for full-time employment.
“I think forecasting is one of the hardest things in business,” Tyner said. “It is always going to be an imperfect process, but we try to think about staffing from a short-term, mid-term and long-term perspective. For instance, when building out an engineering team we know that resources are scarce and that’s why we approach it as a two- to three-year process and guarantee dollars towards programs like Xtern knowing that we’re getting the cream of the crop in talent and helping to develop their skills ourselves.”
TechPoint recruits for the Xtern program online and at approximately 30 university and community locations every year, and the program has earned a reputation among business, computer science and other technical majors as a legitimate springboard to success in tech. TechPoint also operates The Grid, a program for recent graduates or transplants, and Sales Bootcamp, which has become popular with career changers and stay-at-home moms and dads who are looking to get back into the workforce.
To learn more about how the TechPoint talent programs can help you access and develop a pre-screened and turnkey tech-talent pipeline, visit techpoint.org/talent or contact Addy Monger, talent program operations coordinator for TechPoint.