It was a sweltering June night at the Middle East Club in Cambridge, Mass., and Joe Turner & the Seven Levels were about to take the stage. But this was no ordinary battle of the bands, and the alt-rockers were vying to win more than merely the crowd’s affection.
Each of the eight bands on stage -- as well as the 60-plus that auditioned -- had to contain at least one full-time IT professional. And the battle’s sponsor, ITA Software, was in a hiring frame of mind.
When the last guitar chord had sounded, a heavy metal band had won the contest, but it was Joe Turner who snagged a job. Résumés from the event continue to pour in, says Melissa McDonald, director of HR at ITA, which develops back-end search tools for travel sites such as Orbitz, Kayak, and Cheaptickets.
Recruiting drives for most growing software companies don’t typically resemble a scene from School of Rock. But when you’re competing for talent in this hot job market you have to kick out the jams, says McDonald, who has hired 123 people so far this year, most of them software engineers.
The tech job market has rarely been hotter. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in the IT sector ranges from 2 percent to 3 percent, depending on the job title -- less than half the national average. The number of openings posted on technology job site Dice.com is up 18 percent compared with last year and 63 percent since 2004, says Dice CEO Scot Melland. “It’s a very good time to be a technology professional in the U.S.,” he says.
But it’s not so good if your job is to hire the pros. With more openings than people to fill them, tech organizations have to work harder to attract qualified geeks. They may also have to pay more for them, ratchet down their expectations for new hires, and do a better job of hanging onto the talent they already have.
Enticing new hires
If you think it’s hard to find qualified people over here, try doing it in East Asia, says Lauren Barker, manager of staffing at USi, an ERP managed services provider with 507 employees in the United States and 204 in India. The problem isn’t a dearth of talented techies; it’s cutthroat competition from other tech companies.
Earlier this year a major U.S. online retailer opened offices near USi’s in Bangalore and began luring away some of its best employees, offering salary bumps of 20 percent, as well as the prestige of working for a brand-name company. Worse, says Barker, in India job candidates routinely take their offer letters to the competition to see if they can do better.
“The job market in India is competitive right up to the last minute. They’re constantly bartering for a better title or more money,” Barker says. “You have to design the marketing strategy totally differently than you would for a U.S. position.”
USi realized it had to boost its brand recognition to attract new talent, so it created a direct-mail marketing campaign, sent mass mailings to every home in Bangalore and Hyperabad, and rented highway billboards.
Although U.S. corporations have yet to send out “you may have already won” letters to prospective job candidates, they are being more aggressive in marketing their brands, Dice’s Melland says. “We’ve seen an increase in advertising on the Net, publications, radio, and TV, and not just for job positions,” he says. “Companies are trying to get their brands out there so they can attract qualified people.”
Beefing up recruiting efforts