The great developer drought

By Raeleen  |  18 August 2015

Finding the right hire is harder than ever

Recruitment in our industry has always been challenging, but now it’s absolutely shocking. Ten years ago you could place an ad in the paper or on Seek, and you’d get some great applicants. Sure, you’d have to wade through some not-so-great CVs, but there was a lot of cream in there.

Now, if we use those techniques, the majority of those applicants are entirely unsuitable. It’s not just that they’re not qualified – although that’s definitely one factor. We also get a lot of overseas applicants, and as a small business, we aren’t in a position to sponsor overseas candidates.

The recruitment landscape has changed dramatically for us. We’ve found we’re now much more reliant on recruiters for our candidates. Of the last six people I’ve hired, three of them have come through a recruitment firm. Of course, the money we spend on recruitment puts our costs up, but isn’t reflected in our profits.

LinkedIn is starting to become helpful – especially if you’re linked to a lot of people, or you have plenty of people following your company but it has a way to go yet before it can be relied on to deliver quality candidates every time.

The trouble with advertising

One of the hardest things for us is that when we advertise, people don’t read the ad – or if they do, they don’t address it properly in their application. Lucky for me, I have Tracey, our account coordinator, who reviews applications before they come to Alistair (our tech director) and me. It’s incredibly time-consuming to weed out people that just aren’t qualified.

It’s also difficult for us to have applicants and recruiters alike understand what we actually need. The development area changes every day, so an ad I put out last week may be similar to an ad I put out six months ago, but the skill set is weighted differently.

The ad six months ago emphasised skills in front end because that’s what we needed. Now we are more focused on the back end (insert Benny Hill joke here). It sounds similar but it’s an incredibly different skill set.

What we prefer is to find someone who is a bit of an all rounder, but has a strength in one area or another. That’s really helpful for us. But those people are really few and far between.

It’s all downhill from here

I hate to say it, but I see recruitment in our industry getting much worse before it gets better. It’s been getting progressively tougher to find great people for the past three years or so, and it’s showing no signs of improvement. What disappoints me is that we’re left with a glut of mediocre candidates that have a medium level of experience but that expect massive salaries.

I look at the skill set I have – admittedly, I’m not a developer, but I have a pretty broad range of skills and I’m running this company. A lot of candidates are asking for more pay than I get myself, and I just think that’s ludicrous.

Technology stops for nobody

The report Digital Australia: State of the Nation recently addressed this exact issue. It outlines some real problems within the industry, and states there are simply not enough people studying. There are not enough people out there who can do this work. And the need for candidates with skills in technology is only going to increase.

Technology changes so frequently now that the education a student receives from any technology course is going to have a short life span.  Add to that, the problem that teachers can’t possibly keep up because they’re not out there working in the industry, so keeping a formal education model current and relevant is next to impossible.

The cost of training

I hate to point to the government but, to be honest, I think we need them to provide some incentives to provide internships in the IT industry, and for employers to have some substantial benefits when it comes to training.

I’d be happy to have an intern who is fresh and keen, and train them up with the skills and knowledge we have in spades in our office. But I need some help on the money side to do it, because it’s incredibly expensive to train someone.

This is especially the case in small business. It’s incredibly challenging. I just don’t have the scope to have someone being only 50 per cent productive – or more likely 20 per cent, especially in the beginning. It’s just not viable for me.

We recently had an employee who was at intermediate level with a great attitude. She had a good skill set but needed to be brought up to speed on some of the latest technologies. To do that, I had to take her out of our work flow, plus one of my lead developers. That’s a big loss for a small operation to cope with.

So not only do we have the glut of nothing in recruitment, we’ve also got the challenge of having to train up whoever we bring in.

What’s the solution?

What we need are more incentives from the government to actually help with on-the-job training. That would be useful, not only to us, but to developers wanting to stay relevant in a dynamic industry. We use current technologies, and when you’re working with your peers in that environment, you are going to learn the latest technologies and keep your skills sharp.

And then there is the young ones coming through. Somehow we need to get to these kids in high school and speak to them about the benefits of being in the industry. We need more kids to choose IT/digital as their study option.

Written by Raeleen  |  18 August 2015

Hi, I'm Raels, I’m a working mum juggling two beautiful boys and a demanding business. I have been a digital marketing specialist and graphic designer for 26 years. And I’ve run my own digital agency Mettro for 14. I’m thrilled to share with you my straight up business talk.