Hiring Tech Talent Post-Pandemic; The need for a Search Firm

Published:06/16/2020 | Posted by Michael Beaton

In the blink of an eye, the tech industry has flipped from a candidate-driven market to a client-driven market, with the majority of companies cautiously assessing their needs to hire and grow. Many organizations are having to adjust to significantly decreased revenues, and thus, make tough decisions. Others, however, are pivoting and thriving (while some are somewhere in the middle). Below are the key factors to take into account when navigating the post-COVID labor market as it relates to hiring technical talent.

Economic Snapshot

Looking back to June of last year, the unemployment rate for U.S. Tech workers hit the lowest number ever recorded, arguably in the “negative” unemployment range but some argue it was as high as 1.3%. In Cyber Security, the unemployment rate was 0%, with an average of 4 positions available per qualified candidate. This is important to note, as the record high unemployment that many are seeing does not translate to the tech industry. Though the entire economy is feeling the pain of pandemic shutdowns, the tech industry has fared very well compared to other sectors. According to the Labor Department, as of May 8th 2020, unemployment reached ~23M, driven largely by the entertainment industry. Of that, only 254,000 Americans lost their jobs in the information sector.

With that being said, in the last two weeks, as offices and the economy begin to open back up, we have seen many companies take advantage of the “flipped labor market” and actively hire. This has allowed them access to the talent they had a hard time attaining pre-pandemic. We have even seen an uptick in positions related to core engineering, network, infrastructure and cybersecurity.

Why use a search firm with unemployment at an all-time high?

Search firms have a unique view of the market in their respective fields. We can see who is hiring, laying off, furloughing, freezing searches, or canceling searches in near real-time due to our candidate & client networks. We also have access to talent that is passively or actively looking and are uninterested in applying to jobs with the all too familiar “no response.” Some of these individuals may fear that a cut is coming, and would like to see what else is out there but won’t spend their time applying to positions along with hundreds if not thousands of others.

It is important to make the distinction between a passive and an active candidate as well. Although the unemployed represent a larger number of individuals now vs three months ago, it is still a relatively small number within the tech industry. Arguably, you will severely limit your search to 10-15% of the market by only targeting active candidates (via HR running the search through job postings).

On the client-side, we are seeing a great number of companies view this as an opportunity to “top-grade” talent. This is done by identifying low performing individuals and replacing them with “A Players.” If the objective is to “top- grade”, (the practice of creating the highest quality workforce by ensuring hiring processes focus on identifying, hiring, promoting, and retaining high performers), it is important to keep in mind that the majority of high performing talent is still employed. Of course, there are some “A Players” that are actively looking at any given time and that number has increased, so I certainly don’t want to discriminate against them.

Many of the hiring hurdles that existed prior to the pandemic are still present and some even exacerbated. Most candidates that we speak to apply for positions and never hear anything back, even though they may be the right fit. This is due to a massive influx of non-qualified applicants, broken hiring practices, unqualified resume reviewers, etc. It is also important to note that with recent “forced acceptance” of remote work, companies are more willing to hire fully remote talent. Local competition has expanded to nationwide competition hiring South Florida based candidates on a fully remote basis. Although unemployment is at an all-time high, highly qualified technology professionals are still in high demand, and with the new adaption to remote workforces, they are being approached by companies nationwide which is creating an additional hurdle to attracting talent at the local level.

Finally, I have personally seen a number of clients view this as an opportunity to avoid using a search firm, with the thought that there are technology professionals unemployed in droves. They have run into the same problems they experienced pre-pandemic (i.e., not getting the right candidates). Some have then come back to me after failing to find the right individual via postings and we have successfully delivered for them.

Bottom Line:

  • With unemployment at an all-time high, companies now have more competition with “A” candidates applying to their competitors on a national level via remote work.
  • You are severely limiting your search by only targeting active candidates. We have access to vast pools of candidates (i.e. the other 90% that aren’t actively looking) that you would likely not find with a job posting that targets active seekers.
  • Job postings will be inundated with a vast increase in non-qualified applicants that you must screen through.
  • It is important to work with the right search firm in times of economic uncertainty; a true partner will be flexible with you.
  • Candidates prefer utilizing their network vs job postings.
  • For confidential searches, there is no better approach than using a firm with an excellent reputation for discretion.
  • Reputation matters – we are the first interaction a candidate will have while exploring opportunities at your company, and are trained to make the hiring process as painless as possible on both sides.



About StevenDouglas’ Technology Practice:

The StevenDouglas Tech Practice brings an average of 19 years of IT recruiting experience, helping our clients navigate this rapidly changing job market and delivering top IT talent. Our Information Technology team’s discipline specialization and vast network of IT relationships allow them to be efficient and effective, all while delivering exceptional customer service. These services can be delivered either through a retained search approach at the executive level or through our contingency search practice for professional staff to middle management. In addition, our IT Staffing & Consulting Division helps these businesses by providing talented IT consultants in a staff augmentation setting on an interim or contract to hire basis

About StevenDouglas:

StevenDouglas, a leading boutique search, and interim resources firm, has been a recognized leader in identifying and providing access to top talent for corporate clients since 1984. Our client base is industry agnostic and ranges from start-ups and emerging middle-market to Fortune 500 companies and public, private and private equity owned firms. Our areas of expertise include Executive Leadership, Human Resources, Finance & Accounting, Information Technology, Sales & Marketing, Operations, and Financial Services. If you are interested in learning more about any of our services, please email me directly at [email protected]


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