Attracting and retaining skilled IT engineers and other technical talent is always a complex challenge. In recent years, the complexities of hiring top IT talent have only intensified. 

There are multiple reasons for the difficulties in hiring qualified software engineers and other IT pros. Understanding why IT recruitment is so difficult can help firms strategize to identify the best hiring strategies. 

The IT Engineer Hiring Landscape

An analysis by recruiting firm Robert Half International showed that there were more than 400,000 new software engineering and development positions posted in 2023. That figure comes despite large layoffs at prominent technology companies throughout the year. 

Similarly, a late 2022 survey by Gartner showed significant challenges in hiring and retaining IT staff. In the survey, 86 percent of CIOs reported more competition for qualified IT candidates and 73 percent were concerned about IT staff attrition. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is bullish on the software development data. According to BLS data, the employment outlook for software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers is slated to grow by 25 percent from 2022 to 2032. That’s a much faster rate than for other occupations. 

In addition, the BLS projects about 153,900 openings in those professions annually during the same time frame. 

According to Robert Half International, the top in-demand IT positions include: 

  • IT Operations Manager 
  • Software Engineer 
  • Software Developer 
  • Network or Cloud Manager 
  • Database Developer 
  • Systems Engineer 
  • Business Analyst 
  • Systems Administrator 
  • Desktop Support Analyst
  • Help Desk Staff 

Why It’s So Difficult to Hire IT Engineers

There are myriad challenges in attracting and hiring quality IT engineers and other staff. Here are a few of the core reasons. 

Need Not Matching Education

Technology space is changing rapidly. In recent years, multiple disruptive technologies have upended entire industries, including cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain. These technologies are also evolving quickly. 

The evolutionary nature of all these technologies means that many employees do not have the skills needed to meet the needs of businesses seeking IT staff. 

While there are many programs designed to meet the needs of an ever-evolving IT landscape, these do not often pass muster. Boot camps and certificate programs may provide core skills, but many participants focus on “passing the test” and do not have the understanding and experience needed to thrive. 

Fierce Competition

If you are a talented IT engineer, you can write your own ticket. There are lots of jobs available and candidates can afford to be choosy. With so many interesting jobs available, job seekers can wait for the ideal position to open, putting pressure on those looking for IT talent to get creative about how they recruit. 

Desire to Change Jobs

The IT culture is nomadic in nature. Many professionals prefer to hop around, leaving jobs after two or three years for seemingly greener pastures. 

IT pros are naturally curious and are often seeking their next challenge. That means they seek situations where they remain intellectually stimulated and ready for the next complex project. 

If managers are unable to provide those challenges, IT staff are often looking elsewhere. 

No Hybrid or Remote Work

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work. That is true for IT as well as other positions. 

Technology enables many software developers and other IT professionals to work from anywhere there is reliable Wi-Fi connectivity. 

Workplaces that fail to adapt to this changing reality are doomed to lose talent or have trouble attracting it. 

Shifts in Compensation

Many IT jobs are high-paying positions, commanding competitive salaries in the private and public sectors alike. Organizations that were paying lower-level IT positions $35,000 to $45,000 annually are now finding applicant pools where the salary expectation is $80,000. For jobs like engineering that require more education, the salary demands are also escalating. 

Rising inflation and competitiveness have changed the compensation game. Companies need to respond with salaries that keep them competitive. 

Lack of People Skills

It may be a cliché, but it’s rooted in reality. Many IT professionals lack some of the basic people skills that employers are seeking. Hiring committees and managers may be put off by interviews that are awkward or uncomfortable. 

The best technical minds may not have the communications or interpersonal skills that bridge the gap. This lack of social skills can drag on hiring times as companies look for the right candidate. 

How to Attract Top IT Talent

The challenges facing companies seeking IT workers are complex and clear. A new approach is necessary if you’re looking to fill vacancies with personnel that have the skills and experience necessary for success. 

Here are some of the key strategies and tactics necessary to thrive in the competitive space for IT talent. 

Look to Nontraditional Sources

Different talent sources are necessary to find talent. While the boot camps and certificate programs may not always have the best approaches, there are some of those sources that deliver great talent. 

Look to temporary staffing agencies as another way to test out potential talent and find good fits for your needs, too. 

Boost Your Corporate Brand

Employees increasingly want to work for organizations that have strong corporate reputations, great work environments and positive employee engagement. If you’re not focused on creating exceptional experiences for your teams, you’re at risk of losing out on talent. 

Consider how you communicate to your team, the clarity and transparency of your messaging and what your employees are saying about working at your company. 

Trust and loyalty are earned and built on a long-term commitment to the people you employ. 

Focus on Work-Life Balance

A true, authentic focus on work-life balance is an excellent way to attract talent. That means carefully considering the ability to provide hybrid or fully remote work for key IT positions. Most businesses worldwide now provide some version of remote or hybrid work; if your company does not, you’re losing out. 

Provide Professional Development

IT employees want to grow in their jobs. As the advent of new technologies persists, so, too, will the need for skilled staff to leverage these opportunities. 

Providing continuing education, on-the-job training and a commitment to professional growth will help in recruitment and retention. Encourage them and pay for courses, certifications and other training that will position them, and you, well for the future. 

Reskill and Upskill Employees

You may have the answer to your IT recruitment needs already in place. There may be employees working elsewhere in your organization who are interested in shifting into a career in technology. 

Provide these employees with those same opportunities to learn on the job and you may very well solve your pressing IT staffing needs. 

Recruit for Experience

There are many talented IT professionals who did not go to one of the top technical colleges are universities. While a pedigree may appear important on paper, in practice, there is talent everywhere. 

The key is to look at the experiences and skills that are in place on a resume and look past where a candidate was educated. 

Develop Career Paths

Recruitment is just one part of the employee lifecycle. Retention is also essential, especially given the competition and cost of hiring IT talent. 

Attract and retain IT talent by having well-defined career trajectories. Helping IT staff see themselves working long-term for your company demonstrates your commitment to them as professionals. 

Be sure you are transparent about your compensation (salary and bonus) policies, the ability for staff to be promoted to bigger roles and the professional opportunities available. Ensure managers support career progression and empower their staff. 

The need for great IT talent is not going away any time soon. Understanding the challenges and developing cohesive strategies will help boost your recruitment efforts. 

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