When looking at the direction of the national economy and job market, it’s easy to get discouraged. But is the tech hiring gravy train really grinding to a halt? Hard to say, but it’s probably more of a hedge — and a temporary one at that.
Tech is an industry that employs some six million people in the United States, or about 5 percent of our workforce. And perhaps more importantly than raw numbers, those workers innovate in ways that add value from problem-solving to customer service to marketing (Who doesn’t need help with their social media strategy these days?). More often than not, they’re also willing and able to take on more responsibility and make more money. In the broader sense, they’re the professionals who end up shaping policy and affecting everyone’s daily lives.
So when it comes to tech hiring in 2015, should you be worried that the next generation of tech workers is actually going to make it harder to find new talent?
Yes… and no. The truth is there will always be job loss, layoffs and corporate restructuring — which inevitably leads to job opportunities for other people in other places. And that’s exactly why tech hiring has been strong for years: It’s a field where plenty of young people see opportunity for a rewarding career. And that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon — if ever.
“There’s too much money on the table for people not to hunt for it,” said Mike Murphy, a top vice president of HireVue, a company that helps tech companies fill needs. “Tech is the ultimate growth industry.”
So what happens when it stops? Companies begin unemployment lines, which for tech workers aren’t as easy to navigate as they might be in other fields. And it’s hard to say what that unemployment rate will look like. (The government doesn’t keep official statistics on this metric, but economists’ best guesses put the national unemployment rate at 5 percent. If that’s correct, the tech-specific unemployment rate could be as high as 11 percent.)
But even if tech unemployment numbers stay low and companies are able to find replacements — which shouldn’t be all that hard, given the number of people who have IT backgrounds and training in those fields — it’s still a concern if those new employees are younger (meaning they’ll need to be trained) and even more valuable to the company.
“The top of these company’s salaries is historically higher than the overall market,” said Nathan Ware, chief executive officer at Vyper Shark, a recruiting firm focused on technology companies. “What happens if you lose the best of the best?”
To be clear, most of the people who go into technology are fairly young (average age 33). And many are truly driven to learn (and pay for) more training to keep up with technical advancements. So it’s still reasonable to assume that companies wouldn’t suddenly stop hiring in these fields. They’d just hire less. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t also find plenty of replacements. As Murphy said, “It’s a relatively small pool.”
And with that kind of talent on hand and only so many companies looking, it’s likely that those available jobs will remain highly sought after, regardless of whether they’re paid significantly more than others have been in the past.
“The talent is there,” said Jason Feifer, a vice president of IT recruiting firm Experteer. “The problem is what you have to do to get them.”
Companies have long made a big push toward hiring full-time employees over contract workers, both because it’s cheaper to keep them on a firm’s payroll and because those workers tend to be more committed (and better). That’s partly why tech companies like hiring for more than the minimum — it shows that they’re willing to invest in their employees.
Ware, from Vyper Shark, said he feels the need for corporate responsibility has increased in recent years. “I’m seeing more companies that are getting involved,” he said. “They have a vested interest in their employees.”
So yes, while it seems unlikely that tech hiring will suddenly tank — and yes, it’s a temporary slowdown — it’s still something companies should consider.
“It’s not just a matter of finding good people,” Murphy said. “It’s about doing more to help them reach their full potential.”