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The Hardest IT Jobs to Fill

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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Market forces and misplaced employer expectations are contributing to a tight hiring market.

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockThe hardest to fill jobs are more than just a listicle of data scientists and developers versed in the latest programming languages. Market forces and even some misplaced employer expectations are also contributing to today's tight hiring market.

Here's a look at some of the hardest IT jobs to fill that you won't find in the usual listicle:

Roles with Two Conflicting Skill Sets

Kevin Pugh, technical recruiter for The ACI Group in Baltimore, Md., said that the job requirements giving him the hardest time to fill have two somewhat conflicting skillsets. He gave the example of an IT management role that required candidates to have advanced web and mobile app development skills while also requiring traditional project management skills.

MORE: Is Your Pay Keeping Pace with the Market?

Most of the candidates he found having the project management skills weren't interested in hands-on development. It also became difficult because most candidates who had the project management skills were either not interested in doing hands-on development or did not meet the needs of hiring management with the depth of development skills.

Furthermore, those with strong development skills came from a purely technical background and lacked experience with formal project management, leading large teams, and interacting with corporate business units. When the proper mix of skills was identified in a candidate, the salary requests of these candidates far exceeded the salary range that hiring management was willing to offer, he told me.

Telling the hiring manager to pay more wasn't the answer, according to Pugh. He had to educate the hiring manager the types of candidates that market will bear at a few different price points to help them prioritize needs versus wants in the position.

Pugh also advises showing flexibility with the following:

  • Salary offer
  • Depth of technical skills (accepting an earlier version of a technology, for example)
  • Amount of remote work to expand your market base to recruit non-local candidates
  • Employment type (contract length, contract-to-hire, or direct hire)
  • Creativity in filling the skills gap (For example, instead of one senior level person who handling development and administration at 130k, maybe a mid-level developer at 90k, and a junior-level admin at 40k would fill the need quicker and still be effective)

Junior Level Roles Requiring Cutting Level Technical Skills

Pugh says another tough request is filling junior level roles that require cutting-edge technical skills. These are jobs requiring 1 to 2 years' experience using a particular technology that may be just 1 to 2 years old. The same job asks for a solid understanding of application development principles that a programmer with that experience wouldn't have yet. These hiring managers need someone with 5 to 7 years of development experience with 1 to 2 of those years focused on the specific technology. Just reducing the number of total years' experience and keeping an entry level salary will rarely produce top talent.

Cleared High-Level Developers

Theresa Zandi, principal at Centurion Consulting Group, LLC cites senior developers with Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) clearances as a difficult role to fill. The Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal law enforcement, and the intelligence community require programmers to have TS/SCI to work on their most sensitive software development projects.

She advises investing time in personal interactions and expand your industry networking to meet cleared candidates with the high-level clearances your business requires.

Developer Roles not requiring Immigration Sponsorship

Jason Hogan, principal, Compass Pointe Consulting, said that the hardest to fill jobs in the market today (in the Mid-Atlantic specifically) are going to be any form of development language that requires the candidate to be eligible for hire by the company without any form of immigration sponsorship. Specifically, U.S. citizens with Java skills.

He sees several issues at play including:

  • Not enough candidates who possess the qualifications and experience in the market
  • Truly skilled candidates know and understand their value in the market and demand top dollar pay commensurate with the demand for their skills. They also want to engage with a client directly without immigration sponsorship or an intermediary.

Hogan sees it's probably due, in part, to the fact that there are many skilled international candidates who fill the roles at a lower cost point which creates and disconnect between the value of a role and the cost of specific solution. He also cites outdated procurement processes which view one role as equal to every other role in the market.

Hiring these elusive developers requires recruiters who can build networks, he advises. Putting in the up-front time to become a trusted part of the fabric of their community is the key to differentiating your firm in today's market.

Developers who Love Building Things

Alex Hart, CTO of CultureIQ, a New York City-based startup told me in an interview that hiring developers who love building things can be a challenge at times. His company is a small startup that needs developers are more generalists and comfortable with a range of technology tasks including infrastructure and other backend work.

He told me he doesn't even do a very technical interview process. He swears by the Fizzbuzz test for interviews. He also wants to know what they know about technologies they aren't currently using. Hart also gives candidates a simple full stack project to see how they can tie things together. He wants them not to know every piece of the stack (It's ok if they do). He likes to see how they learn on their own. If candidates aren't interested in the project, they won't like working for him.

Filling the Difficult IT Jobs

The lesson here is about hiring is to look internally first, so your hiring requirements are realistic, your recruiters' networks are humming, and your interview process delves into the true mettle of the developer.