After watching a man get beaten half to death, the warden in the old prison movie Cool Hand Luke tells the assembled convicts, “What we have here, is a failure to communicate.” I remembered that line as I read (yet another) story about tech employers bemoaning the lack of talent, and (yet another) string of comments about how companies will find plenty of talent if they’ll just stop looking for their dream date.
If my friends the regular blog commentators think I’m about to bash companies, or the managers reading this think I’m about to criticize job seekers, I’m sorry to you both. Because when it comes to exploring this disconnect, I’m looking at all of you. There is a hiring challenge in IT today, and it’s demonstrated by the low tech unemployment rate + the number of open positions. But it’s exacerbated by managers’ desire to find people who know everything they need to on the first day, and candidates’ belief that their past experience equals qualification for work that needs to get done with today’s tools.
To put it another way, companies don’t like to train new hires like they used to while candidates don’t believe it’s their responsibility to keep up with new technologies. A trade group executive once told me that success isn’t about learning new skills; it’s about evolving your existing skills. It amazes me how many people don’t like to hear that. Nor do they want to consider that following the basics of job hunting add up to taking your best shot: networking, customizing your approach to each employer, learning how to communicate with other departments. Even sending a thank you note after the interview stirs controversy.
At the same time, managers succumb to the temptation to dump every little need into their job descriptions, even though they should know better. It’s just a fact of life that some great developers don’t instinctively take the strategic view. They’ve got code to write, after all — the code the company needs. Others have demonstrated solid ability in software engineering, but are at a loss as to what’s the next tool they should learn. Ruby on Rails? Hadoop? R? Google Go? How about handling WebGL? Managers may want to consider the interest candidates show in the foundation skills needed to do the job, without being too granular. That said, it’s perfectly fair to then expect them to demonstrate their interest by nailing down the knowledge they need — once they know the rules.
The dynamics of the tech job market aren’t going to be changed by managers and candidates alone. Economics, politics, and dozens of other things impact it. But more thought about the realities faced by the person across the table can help, too. It is indeed about communication — it’s just no one should get beaten up in the process.
What are your thoughts? Could an adjustment in your thinking help? Or is it all on the other guy? Let me know by posting a comment below.
- Cool Hand Luke (IMDB)