How to impress a technology employer in the East of England
26-11-20
Industry Analysis

Applicants and Candidates are NOT the same thing

Written By
Andy Bristow

It would be easy to assume with the year we have had that companies looking to hire should be enjoying huge choice in the market and benefiting from a downward pressure on wages.  

In fact, the IT sector is bouncing back quickly, hiring is exploding in the SME tech market and many larger corporate businesses are yet to re-enter the recruitment fray, which will make the competition for skills even more acute when they do. I have no doubt that we are at the start of a significant upturn (Brexit notwithstanding). 

That being said things have clearly changed, internal contacts at job websites tell me applicant levels are significantly higher than the same time last year which you would think makes finding candidates much easier.  Actually, it’s taking longer than ever to identify people. 

Why so?  If a “candidate” is someone with a realistic chance of securing a specific role, more applicants do not equal more candidates.  

Of course, some IT jobs have been affected by the disruption but on the whole skilled IT candidates in permanent roles have been retained en masse.  The market has been flooded with senior candidates and terminated contrctors as companies hollow out expensive management teams and larger businesses cut costs. The contractor market will come back despite IR35 concerns and the many senior candidates will eventually find roles but if you need to hire an IT Manager now is the time to do it. For technically skilled positions however, it has if anything got harder to hire with candidates preferring the safety of a full-time role than risking a move. 

We have a scenario where technical hirers are finding the skills or circumstances of many active candidates are poorly aligned to present demand.  

Volume isn’t necessarily value 

Did you know that among highly skilled IT jobseekers it is relatively common to deploy bots that can automatically apply for hundreds of roles a day within seconds of them appearing on job boards and Linkedin? Did you also know that an internet job advertising industry using applicant numbers to secure new advertisers is quietly comfortable with this practice?

For an agency like us specialising by both sector and geography, this isn’t a bad thing, we can quickly process applicants and identify those with which we can build fresh relationships, earmark future stars and catch up with older faces all to the future benefit of our clients.  

For direct hirers though there are opportunities aplenty for missteps.  Every business wants to give equal opportunities to applicants and this starts with giving each application fair consideration, how long does this take? On average it takes 5 minutes to simply read a 2 page CV add in an initial acknowledgment email followed by a rejection or submission for further consideration then all of a sudden processing only 20 applications can be as significantly time-consuming process which if not taken seriously can risk damaging the businesses standing and reputation as a hirer in the market.  Deploying automated solutions to solve this (as many large businesses do) is impersonal at best and is no different to candidates setting up application bots at home. Automated processes talking to automated processes...  

How to stand out? 

High numbers of applicants is as much of a problem for the applicants themselves as it is for hirers, how do they stand out from such a crowd? How do they know their application has had a fair shot? I can give several examples of businesses paying fees to hire candidates that are already buried deep in a company inbox somewhere within the business.  

Avoidable? Certainly, but at what cost? Many conclude correctly that putting the processes, procedures, personnel and practices in place needed to save a recruitment fee or two isn’t worth it and this will be the trend for the next economic cycle. 

There is a certain size of business with regular hiring needs where it is viable to run a full time internal IT resourcing team, but for other businesses who are both profitable and serious about growing then trying to do themselves what others can do better, quicker and ultimately for similar cost doesn’t seem a sound strategy.  

The businesses who will emerge as recruitment winners over the next few years have executives who instinctively understand this and choose to focus resource on what they do best to deliver growth and profitability, they will build and nurture relationships with professional service suppliers that help contribute and enable their growth.  Anyone with any knowledge of IT knows that it is very rare to “do IT” both well and cheaply and recruiting into it is no different, whether done directly or via and agency.