Honest Advice for Job Seekers and Employers in a HOT Tech Sector

If you went to college, chances are you can find a job.  If you went to college and you know what you want to do, that certainly helps.  If you went to college, and you have at least an internship under your belt- you are in great shape.  If you went to college and you are a seasoned veteran in the technical realm- your phone is ringing off the hook.

It’s pretty amazing how hot the tech (and clean-tech) market is these days.  Every day I talk to people on both sides of the equation.  Employers are having a hard time filling highly specialized technical roles and candidates who have said background are turning their phones off on their way to dinner because they are getting so many calls.

This is all from a Colorado perspective.  If you start talking about the Bay Area, Washington, DC, NYC, Boston, and other Hubs of Geekdom, forget it.  It’s almost like the dot-com boom again with the war for talent.  Bring on the stock options, the playful cultures and the private concerts by big name performers…not to mention multi-six-figure incomes for the best-of-the-best.

By my assessment- after ten years of being the one of the best barometers of the market-unemployment is close to 2-3% MAXIMUM in the Computer Sciences, Information Technology, and Engineering realms.  Perhaps less than that, and my take is the remainder of those folks don’t actually want to work or are unemployable (read, bad attitudes or egos this size of Rhode Island).

So, what does all this mean?

First, from an employers perspective- get it together and make a decision quickly on a candidate you like.  If you dither, you WILL lose your top candidate(s) to your competition.  I have seen it happen time and again over the past few months, and my colleagues have too.  Dont mess around- make a GREAT offer and make it quickly if you are serious about finding the best guys (and gals) out there.  If you are not serious about completing the process in short order, then don’t waste your time or the candidate’s time. It sounds harsh, but everyone will be better off in the long run if you plan appropriately for the hiring process.  Also- be open about what you can and cannot do in terms of a full compensation package.  While it’s a strange place to start- in a highly competitive environment, you need to be transparent about what’s realistic and what’s not.  Lastly- provide a timeline in which the offer needs to be accepted.  You would be surprised at how many open-ended offers there are.  Nobody wins in that situation- create clear expectations and foster open communication channels and everyone will be happy.

For candidates.  Be open, honest and forthright with your prospective employer.  Be clear with them that you are interviewing in multiple places.  Tell them that you are interested, if you are- and DON’T BS them if you aren’t.  Share what your ideal situation is and ask them what you can really expect on a daily basis in the position.  Be open about what makes you tick and even how you prefer to be managed.  Again- open and honest communication is absolutely critical to this new relationship…even if you feel like you don’t know the person sitting across from you.  This is an opportunity to get what you need and for the employer to work effectively with you for the long run.  One more thing…DO NOT accept an offer, just to use it as leverage.  That is poor form and you will ultimately have a black eye as a result.  The tech community nationwide is remarkably small.  It may not come back to bite you this year, but bridge burning is never a good idea.

It’s an exciting time to create your own future- whether you are a business looking for talent or a potential candidate seeking your dream job.

My advice for all parties is to treat every interaction as important to your future success. Be open and forthcoming in every discussion you have.  Don’t hold back your honest thoughts- be diplomatic of course- but be clear about your intentions, about your capabilities and your needs.

You’ll be glad you did.




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3 Responses to Honest Advice for Job Seekers and Employers in a HOT Tech Sector

  1. lmckeogh says:

    Statements like – “the remainder of those folks don’t actually want to work or are unemployable (read, bad attitudes or egos this [sic] size of Rhode Island).” are trotted out in the press frequently. See DBJ “Tech Help Wanted” as one example. According to one local CEO, “it is better to have open jobs and wait for a true talent than to fill a seat with an average software engineer.”

    In reality, there is a gap between employers and potential employees. IMO, it comes down to fundamental human nature, not talents in many cases. Everyone wants what they cannot have. (Grass is greener syndrome) Those that are unemployed are freely available therefore not desirable. Those viewed as truly talented are employed. However, what you find is that on both sides of the fence that there is the normal bell curve type distribution. But when you eliminate a large percentage of available talent based on a bias that makes it even harder to find someone to fill a role. Hence your 2 – 3% estimate.

    To counter the CEO’s perspective, how long does it take before that open role becomes a drain on the company, especially a fast moving startup? 1 or 2 months, probably not a problem. Start creeping up on 90 – 120 days and even if an individual hadn’t had direct experience in a domain, they should be able to get themselves up and functioning in that time. Over 6 months and now you are losing opportunity and revenue. Or your company doesn’t need the position filled in the first place. I’ve seen a number of these types of positions listed and I shake my head.

    If hiring managers would look at the potential a candidate represents they would find there are many hidden gems out there waiting to be engaged. The added benefit that these individuals bring is a different perspective and history that can broaden a company’s knowledge base. Hiring from the same domain or from the competition can have incestuous consequences.

    • dkmayer says:

      Thanks Larry.

      We don’t disagree with your assessment.

      There is a fundamental issue with finding the right candidate, for the right slot, at the right time. Sometimes “can do the job” is okay and thats why companies bring on contractors. Often- its an important mix of cultural match, technical capability, ability to communicate with fellow humans and work ethic- among other things…perhaps I over-simplified a bit regarding why folks remain unemployed, but both cases still ring true.

      We are in a unique situation where we need to make sure that both sides are happy- in every way. It can be really frustrating on all accounts. Candidates accept then pull out, employers need someone then change their minds or put things on hold for one reason or another.

      There will always be a gap between employer and prospective employee- its just natural- our hope was that in encouraging both sides to be more transparent and brutally honest, things might improve a bit.


  2. lmckeogh says:

    I agree it is great to have the transparency when all things are equal. In this situation, especially right now with the belief that unemployment is so high, the pendulum is squarely in the employers court. What many businesses forget is that this was a condition that they directly or indirectly created. This is the new reality unfortunately.

    One thing to keep in mind is transparency doesn’t (and shouldn’t) occur overnight. You can use the ever popular dating analogy. You don’t just jump into bed with someone and expect a long term relationship to materialize. Often it is the ground work that is laid before getting to that point that carries the relationship some distance if not all the way.

    I respect your position in the middle. I am sure it is double hard when both sides appear to be dysfunctional. If you want to change things, I would start with the interview process. An average 6 – 8 hour interview period can tell you some things about cultural match, technical capability, interaction, work ethic, etc. but your not going to get a full disclosure. It is a sales call. Statistics indicate that even the best companies get it right only 57% of the time. The hiring process comes down to a coin toss! That doesn’t work in your favor or the hiring company’s.

    What many people at the company don’t know how to do is interview properly. They only do this a few times a year if their lucky. Most people’s interview skills are either rusty from the recession or are influenced by the last poor interview that they went on. The difference between an insightful interview and the average one is huge. I’ve interviewed at a variety of companies including Google and I can tell you who’s got it going on. The best by far though was this one – http://bit.ly/gYh8QZ. Adding value to the interview process will help all around. Who better than someone such as yourself that see’s this time and time again.

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