Employers Having a Hard Time Hiring IT Staff


IT staff are among the most difficult jobs for employers to fill, according to the ninth annual Talent Shortage Survey by ManpowerGroup.

Some 47 percent of the employers surveyed said those hiring difficulties stemmed from candidates’ lack of technical competencies; a shortage of “soft skills” also topped the list. Other cited factors included an absence of applicants, candidates wanting more money than the job offered and a lack of experience.

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For employers, the inability to find job candidates is bad news. A lack of adequate talent can translate into a reduced ability to serve clients, lowered productivity and morale, increased turnover and higher costs related to compensation and severance.

IT staff didn’t top ManpowerGroup’s list, however. The survey’s 10 most difficult jobs for employers to fill, in descending order: skilled trade workers, restaurant and hotel staff, sales representatives, teachers, drivers, accounting and finance staff, laborers, IT staff, engineers and nurses.

If truly representative of a broader societal trend, the survey’s findings about IT staff aren’t surprising. Given the speed at which the technology industry evolves, workers—whether support staff, software developers, architects, engineers or leads—must constantly keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date. Finding IT staff with a necessary degree of specialization can often evolve into a trying task for even the most skilled HR pro; a rising number of startups, combined with more established companies looking to fill out their ranks of IT workers, further drains the pool of available talent.

That demand for tech workers has driven cities and companies across the company to offer some pretty nice incentive packages. Meanwhile, the number of technology professionals earning six-figure salaries continues to increase, with 32 percent of full-time tech pros collecting $100,000 or more in 2013, according to Dice (independent IT contractors did even better, with 54 percent of them surpassing the $100k mark). That’s a lot of reasons to keep one’s technical skills polished—and optimism high.

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47 Responses to “Employers Having a Hard Time Hiring IT Staff”

  1. Fred Bosick

    Whatever happened to paying higher salaries or offering training? It’s not as if an entire nation of IT workers is conspiring to make CEO’s lives more difficult.

    I wonder if it has occurred to these businesses that keeping up IT knowledge and skills is expensive, time consuming, and is an opportunity cost? Maybe some of us like configuring disk arrays and don’t know SQL very well, or the converse. Nevermind the softskills allegedly in demand.

    Is that because they want duplicitous “sales engineers” who will glad hand and rip off customers with a steady stream of technical mumbo-jumbo? If I wanted to be a salesman I’d already be working at a used car lot or going door-to-door selling AFLAC. The kind of guy who cares about sorting algorithms is not going to be the life of the party.

    But it’s OK, this report will only be used to bludgeon Congress into allowing more indentured servants into the country. After all, it’s the *ninth* Talent Shortage Survey! Seems like they’re looking for a particular answer.

  2. Cicuta

    That is a bunch of crock! If you review any advertised IT job the list of what they want is infinite, sort of speak, and no one on earth has the experience in everything they ask. I have more than 15 years’ experience working with enterprise computer systems plus I have an engineering degree with more than 20 years’ experience in the field. The thing is that when I was working, as I am retired now, everyone in the group for system’s administration did not have the knowhow even in the OS they had been working with for more than 10 years. Companies in their narrow mind and stupidity want the System Administration to do networking, being a DBA, a Java programmer, a C programmer, a Web administrator and developer, a computer hardware engineer, a Data Center expert, expert with backups using all the backups applications (Netback up, IBM backup, etc), Web Logic… and the list goes on and on. Also, most of the people working with computers do not have an engineering degree and sometimes not even a certification; so, why they ask for an infinite experience with everything under the sun? The IT work has been well defines for different groups to do the work such as; Networking Group, Systems Administration group, Web Developers group, Data Center Group, and Engineering group. Each of those groups do the work they have to do with in the core of the group and the results are excellent. However, now companies want to save money and want one guy to do it all in a very sloppy way. I have been commenting that companies will face a point when there won’t be any technical people in this country and the cause is the stupidity of companies and an education system which no one can afford. GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS.

    • yoeddie

      Due to reasons given Cicuta, lots of people have abandoned IT field as well. Add the onshoring/outshoring of jobs and meager wages these days, no one wants to be in this field. And if someone has employment, no one dare venture look for another job for fear of being laid off again. They keep touting IT is a great field to get into but the environment is not so inviting. Plus, where are the jobs anyway? I still have automated job search emails that I review regularly and see not changes. Just sporatic upticks here and there but not on a regular basis.

    • wizgod

      I agree with what the op above says a of mend ill go one step further. I have both a Engineering and comp sci degree and for the life of me cant get a job. Y is that?

      • It’s not you or your credentials that’s the problem. It’s people that want your credentails and background without actually working for it. Most of these company’s ranks have been depleted by constant layoffs. The ones left standing are typically the least qualifed. As noted by Steve Jobs, D and F players will only recruit D/F players.

    • jaramill

      LOVE your comment CICUTA. I have 17yrs+ as an Oracle database developer. Two degrees in Computer Science. I was hired as a contractor at one company (I’m a U.S. citizen) along with another (who is an H1-B visa candidate from India). After 1 and a half months, the company merged with another that it bought out from bankruptcy.

      That day, my agency says they’re letting “me” go. The director came to me and basically said at the end of the day…..you’re too expensive and we’re keeping the H1-B. And mind you I took a bit of a pay cut to learn ETL as it goes hand in hand with database development.

      So this quote/unquote I.T. shortage is a bunch of bull****

      Let me put it in “dating” perspectives. They (meaning the companies) want to hire (i.e. date) a supermodel….BUT they want to take them to dinner (i.e. salary) at McDonald’s.

    • Nightcrawler

      Yeah, I saw an ad for a DBA the other day that required, among other things, “excellent Photoshop skills.” Huh? WTH does graphic art have to do with administering databases?

      In 2011, I received a Math/CIS degree that I was never able to use, despite the fact that I’m female and IT companies are allegedly tripping over themselves to hire women.

      I do not feel that my gender had anything to do with me not being able to find work. There simply weren’t any jobs I qualified for. As you mentioned, there aren’t any entry-level jobs available. I could probably count the number of applications I sent out for tech positions on my hands…and have fingers left over. The last tech job I was passed up for was a $10.00/hour, part-time position. They said that they wanted someone “more technical.” For that kind of money–part-time, no less–I don’t know what they expected. (A couple of years ago, I worked a clerical temp job for $10.00/hour, and the only requirements were that I could type and use a computer. That place didn’t pay much, but at least they didn’t expect much, either.)

      Now, I’m placing my hopes on the MBA I got last month.

      • Cicuta

        Hey Nightcrawler… you have given me a big surprise mentioning you are a female and a very smart one. The MBA degree I am sure will help you a hell of a lot as there are not to many females with brains for technical work. One thing it might help is that if you are under the “endanger species age” and a US citizen, which I am sure you are, try the companies which are contractors to the DOD (Department Of Defense) such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Grumman/Norton, etc., as they have to meet certain government rules and one of them is to hire minorities. Also, the name of the game for technical people is willingness to relocate and some companies still do that if they need the people badly. The DOD contractor are the biggest companies in this country and the work is super great for technical people and I can vouch for that because I am an ex-DOD engineer and scientist and did work for all mayor DOD contractors in CA, FL, and MS for more than 20 years and then after that switched over to IT in the private sector. Also, you might try the DOD itself such as the Army, Navy, Air Force; in other words, Federal Civil Service. With the schooling you have you can land a GS-12 job with no problem but you must be willing to relocate. Try the website USA Jobs (https://www.usajobs.gov) and in there you will find thousands of technical jobs and they all are good. If I were you, that would be the first thing I do and forget about all the IT industry as a whole. In those jobs you get even more technical than any IT job in the private sector. Now, one thing I can tell you: do a GSA Resume which is different than the resume for the private sector companies and you can do a Google search again looking for samples of GSA Resumes or I could send you one as I still keep it I believe, as a sentimental value to me that I have served this country well besides being a Veteran of the US Forces. OK Nightcrawler, please keep me informed through this web site if you need some advise.

      • Cicuta

        NIGHTCRAWLER, I forgot to mention in my previous message that most technical jobs with the DOD contractors and Civil Services ask for a current clearance (Secret and below) but sometimes companies are willing to give the clearance if they are desperate; but lots of jobs do not need it also. Give it a try and by the way … congrats for your MBA!

  3. Apres

    I agree with CICUTA. I remember when job descriptions were general. Example: Java developer for robotics company.
    The problem is not necessarily with the employee as with the employer. If you are using new technology and the potential employee knows in general what it is all about, then hire them and train them on what is required. Do not wait to hire until the requirement is met. An object-oriented programmer who knows C++ can often pick up other languages such as C# with training. The time spent training them will equal the time wasted looking for the perfect candidate. You do not have to start from ground zero. To the employers: Try it, you’ll like it.

    • The problem actually isn’t that companies don’t want to train employees.
      They just don’t to invest in local/state side employees. Companies are spending heavily on training guest worker employees.

  4. Kinda interesting statement in a sense.

    Besides the lack of entry level jobs in the marketplace, there are also jobs with the customary 3-7 years of experience ‘lifejacket’ so they won’t get caught in a bad hire. The problem though is that they try to find the perfect person too many times to fill that role not to mention wear many ‘hats’. Even if a person has perhaps of 4 years of MS SQL Server experience, HR firms throw out the resumes if they are looking for a person with the same amount of experience with SSRS when the company uses Crystal.

    In the end the company is just inflicting wounds on itself, as either it has to change the entire way they use IT for what they do, or just take a chance in people. Usually they do neither and both sides suffer for it.

    • Glen Smith

      I suspect part pf the problem could have something to do with current PM methodology. Seems current PM methods want you to hire horizontally in both terms of skill sets and compensation from a pool of currently employed (or briefly unemployed) candidates . You are NOT going to find many people currently employed (or recently unemployed) willing settle for a job with the same (or just slightly higher) compensation. You either need to expect to pay 20-30% more than the going rate, higher vertically (hire the mid-level guy looking to move up to a more senior role) or take a risk and widen your search pool. I guess there’s the another choice and whine to congress.

  5. Bubba

    Good point, Cicuta. I’m a Developer and am amazed at all the interview questions I get about DB admin and Sys admin stuff these days. They seem to want develepers to know a lot more info outside of development than they did 6 or 7 years ago.

    • Cicuta

      Hey Bubba, glad you read my comment and agree with and I see you have been taken through the meat grinder. I have done work with all the OS’s available to industry since the days of VMS with the VAX computers and CPM to present days OS’s. I am an electrical/electronic/systems engineer and in those days, mid-seventies onward till 2000’s the engineer had to do everything, as IT, as we know it now, started in the early 2000’s. So, I had to pick up the OS, and all the bells and whistles that come with it such as Capacity Planning, electronic design of I/O boards, TEMPEST design, as I was working for the DOD (Department Of Defense), etc. In those days there were no silly Certifications till Microsoft invented them with Netware to make more money; but companies were not into it as it is now. I have also worked with Certified people and they do not know anything about solving problems even though they memorized the commands for Windows and other OS’s but when it comes to troubleshoot and resolve OS problems on the fly they are zero to the left and I had to take over the problems. In all companies I have worked for in the private sector such as Sun Microsystems, NEC, Siemens, etc. no one know anything about Capacity Planning and how to design a Data Center from the ground up and install all the systems, test them, and launch them for production and to top it off developing test procedures for the dummies who do not even know how to do it. And guess what, I never took a certification test but companies went by my experience which I have it documented in my Curriculum Vitae with 62 pages including awards for a job well done. Now when I see jobs descriptions I laugh because I know they will never find someone with all the qualifications they want and what is most stupid is that they offer a 3 to 6 month contract. Then they say there are no qualified people and ask Congress to approve another 150,000 H1-B visas which Congress gladly approves as they are on the take. For the last 10 years I have been commenting on all of those issues but they don’t listen; so, 10 years from now, or even less, there won’t be any technical professionals with university degree in the US of A.

      Good luck to you and thanks for the reply to my comment.

    • Cicuta

      Hey Bubba, The bottom line is that the word developer says it all…develops; However, in order to develop the environment of the system has to be known or be familiar with, otherwise how can you develop for something you don’t know anything about? I am not saying be a Sys Admin but something about the system has to be known. There are instances, and this I have been through, when the developer has to work together with the engineer and Sys Admin for technical issues which the developer is not aware of and especially with the engineer; and for testing definitely the Sys Admin who is the only one with root access. I recall a Fortran programmer working for me at Raytheon; we were developing a testing program for missiles and in that case “Telemetry” knowledge is imperative; then in that case the programmer had to come to me in order to know what to do; I explained the issue and what to do and then he did the programming and the results were excellent. There are also cases in which the DBA has to work together with the Sys Admin if the database has to be upgraded from one version to the next and again, testing is imperative; the DBA does not know his way around the OS and the Sys Admin does not know about tables and the such; hence, both are a team. When upgrading from one version to the next, there are always compatibility issues with other systems and in that case the DBA has to let the Sys Admin know of the issue and in turn the Sys Admin does the troubleshooting and most of the time; the support of the company selling the database is also involved (Oracle, DB2, etc.).

  6. Freida

    One other BIG issue is that the recruiters seldom know anything about IT. I had a call today saying they needed a JAVA programmer. They were surprised when I said I was a COBOL programmer and that wasn’t even close. And this happens on a regular basis. If the folks trying to find the right candidate don’t know what to look for, how are they going to find it.

    • Steve Guest

      Well the IT industry shoot itself in the foot when it developed “smart” ATS software. This allowed the recruiters to stop finding talent and skills because they had keywords. In a recent discussion with a recruiter they knew how to use the keyword system but no one in the company had taught her how to choose these keywords. With almost no IT knowledge and coming into HR from a liberal arts degree she had no concept of how things were related. On top of this she admitted she had no training in the legal aspects of recruitment. Thus when she told me any candidates had to be able to work for 30 years it never dawned on her that she may be breaking the law but it was what the hiring manager wanted!

      Please don’t blame all recruiters. There are some really great talent seekers out there – they just have I’dio’t hiring managers.

  7. John Doe

    Bubba and you are correct as is Cicuta. His analogy is spot on with what is at the root of this problem. The solution to this little debacle is that We as a group need to take the reigns away from the idiots driving the sleigh and put them in our own hands. Reaason being everybody got rich off our hard labors and we got royally (#@$#$#) and no they don’t care about us. Relating a story of a interview I had as recent as yesterday. Went in to some staffing agency and guess what? I got done with all of their mularky and ended up talking to a clueless receptionist about the position the staffing lady didn’t even have time to talk about because the company she works for didn’t even have anything to test my skills with other than to give me a test they use for laborers which is math based…;) Now when you get incompetent doing things you can’t expect logic or understanding to come out of it. HR. That is what I call a place in corporate america for Scial Workers to retire to after they’ve screwed up Americas Families tot he point that Kids run amuck in the streets openly shooting people. Oh Wait that’s been happening for oh about 20 years now. Wait Social workers have actually accomlished something. At least they can say they have completed something on thier agenda. What as computer scientists can we say we’ve done other than be totally bamboozled into believing that majoring in a scietific area promised good jobs and a place to call home. BOY do I feel just stupid.

  8. ITmiseryjobs

    I completely agree with cicuta’s point. Companies are just getiing way out of their way making unreasonable job posting. They ask for plethora of technologies one person to know and then cry like babies that there are not enough talent. Each technology they mention in job posting is itself a separate position on its own. A person in a lifetime would not even know these technologies its so silly to ask.

  9. Of course employers are having a hard time hiring…because the hirers are not competent to judge those they are trying to hire. They ask the wrong questions (“Do you have experience with CODASYL databases…?” Seriously?!) and more highly evaluate the wrong things (“Yes, you’ve worked successfully in nearly every industry, but do you have retail experience?” or “Yes, you are familiar with version 7.6A, but what about 7.6C?”) and have absurd expectations (“Project manager wanted who can also maintain system hardware components and provide phone support…”) or abrogate all decisions to HR folk (typical major: hospitality management). By the way, there is no career path except for those who play golf with the boss… so much for merit and hard work. When “peers” are part of the interview process, it is often in their interest to prove their superiority by making the interviewee look foolish or reject any potential rivals. If companies really wanted to hire, all they have to do is get real.

  10. Steve Guest

    The other issues are the fallacy that anyone over 40 is too old to learn or know current technology. The excuse from a recruiter is you are not the right culture fit. The bottom line is here new managers don’t want smart older workers. For a start they can make them look bad when they trip up. Based on the news stories some of the older and wiser heads are currently needed because they take care and have pride in the software released.

    The other issue is IT professionals in the US have debt and families to feed. While companies can find a source of H1-B workers from Pune or Hyderabad who will work for 30% of a US resident and do so for no benefits, why pay the proper rate for the task. Plus large companies feel good about using these foreign workers because they argue it shows they are a global corporation.

    As pointed out many recruiters are seeking the moon when they put out job requirements and some even do not notice. I mean I had a recent request for 10 years Exchange 2007 experience required. When I asked them if they were serious and how many candidates said they had this – I was told I was the first to say they did not. Was I really the only honest candidate with ability for basic critical thinking?

    As Mark pointed out another time I was also told I did not qualify because I had used version Y and not the older version X of a product – why I was too up to date!

    One manager recently finished an interview and told me he would not hire me because I was too smart! I have to assume this meant I had tucked my shirt in for the interview and did ware skinny jeans because surely a company wants to hire the smartest people they can find!

    There are great IT brains unemployed in the US who would rather code than flip burgers.

    • Nightcrawler

      —– I had a recent request for 10 years Exchange 2007 experience required. When I asked them if they were serious and how many candidates said they had this – I was told I was the first to say they did not. Was I really the only honest candidate with ability for basic critical thinking?——

      I’ve often joked that the biggest difference between me and the people who ultimately land those tech jobs with unreasonable requirements is that they are willing to lie like hell. They’ll say whatever they think the interviewer wants to hear; they’ll claim they know how to do everything.

      • Cicuta

        Hey Nightcrawler , hope you are doing good. I just read your comment and that is something, old age syndrome, which we have had for a very long time and once people hit 50 they are in the endanger species. However, there are companies which are in bad shape and age is of not much concern for them; I know that because I landed my last job when I was over 50 and then after that job I retired because of my choosing. One thing probably might help is a website which is called RetiredBrains (www.retiredbrains.com) and there you or any guy looking for work which is over 50 “might get lucky”.
        Also you can Google for “jobs for retired or senor professionals” and again … “might get lucky”. I believe that the bottom line is that companies are screw up and want the H1-B guys from India and Congress is not helping at all. I just read an article that now there are 3 states in this country where Indians are the biggest minority and that is only the beginning, in 20 years from now the whole India will take over of everything here; from gas stations and convenience stores to technical jobs…sad but true. Meanwhile, just continue to be on top of technology if you enjoy that as me and probably you might look into working in something else. Good luck to you and all those great guys whom have made this country what it is now and unfortunately going down the drain, as Asia is where it is all at now especially China and Russia.

        • The truly sad part will have been for people to just passively accept it.

          A stranger walks into your home, and starts to assume your life…. would you just sit by observing it as a “mere out of body” experience?

          One small step is…. stop purchasing products from companies that lobby for guest worker programs and corporate cultures that promote treating Americans as second/third class citizens in their own country.

          Revenues still matter, and as individuals you still control what you consume in your home. Its a simple calculus, companies that promote regressive labor practices should expect direct impacts to the consumer side of revenue stream.

          Leverage open source in your personal life where possible. It less expensive and puts the worst offenders on notice where it counts $$. $1-4 billion erased from the consumer segment per quarter will refocus priories….

          • Cicuta

            Not only what you mention should happen but also stop buying products which US companies produce overseas and also companies which lay-off workers in the US and not overseas. A good example is HP; last year they laid off more than 30,000 employees in the US and NONE in India and the CEO Meg Whitman made it public telling Indian people not to worry about being laid off because none would be laid off. She was in an eBay scandal regarding a 20 million scam, then she run for governor of CA against Jerry Brown; and now she just got a heck of a salary increase at HP and she will be earning $1.5 million a year starting this November plus stocks in the company. In 2012 she earned $15.5 million taking into account salary plus other stock gifts. When I knew about the HP layoff of 29,000 US employees (later on they laid off another 9,000) I made comments in the Internet for people and companies to stop buying their products but no one listens or care. No matter how we look at it people in the US are screw big time as companies are selling their divisions to China and China sells the products world-wide. That means taking jobs away from the US; however, the US governments give the tax payers money as gifts to other countries such as Ukraine, Egypt, Afghanistan, etc. and our people starving to death and that you can take to the bank.

    • I can attest to the accuracy of what you say in your first 3 paragraphs. Furthermore you are not alone in your experiences in interviews! I have laughed many times when they ask for 6 years of experience in a technology that is only 3 years old. I have also been disappointed when they didn’t see the potential when I had experience all around one of the things they wanted, but not that exact version or configuration.
      Then there is the salary issue…A few years back I interviewed for a major animation/entertainment company (D), and they had 4 pages of qualifications for someone to head the build up a studio for a feature film and maintain the whole thing. That meant selecting and purchasing millions of dollars of equipment & software, deploying it and maintaining it, and they only wanted to pay $50/hour max, no benefits, contract basis. A plumber in Calif. charges $95/hour! A finish carpenter $75/ hour! Okay, I got it. That’s why I eventually realized I would have to do my own thing.

  11. Robert Emminger

    Corrections: On perm positions all I can say is here is the steps: My resume gets in the hands of the company, they bust thier asses to get an interview with me, I go in with a knowledge of what they are looking for, they deny me becuase I have a “contractor” background….U.S companies piss off unless you “stop” being so pricky on the contractors who want to go perm….Contractors get the massive skillsets you are looking for, not the perm desk jockeys who have been working with 3 to 5 different technologies for 5 years. So stop being the Califonia style pricks and drop the “Job hopper” myth fear! It not a bad thing to have a deverse background.

    • Robert,
      don’t let yourself get worked up over such things….. If they believe that, its an indication of ignorance.

      Basically they need a deniable way to disqualify you as a candidate. It almost never has anything to do with competency…. The job hopper thing, is a red herring :-). Given the level of employee attrition at most companies, virtually 95% of all workers in the states that have been at the same company for 5yrs. or less.
      multi-decade employees are thing of the past.

      Let me put it into context: Bjarne Stroustrup of C++ fame was made redundant when AT&T imploded…
      The current “AT&T”, is really just Bell South Re-branded. When employees are tossed out, they “job hop”. Ditto when HP canned 30K employees in Cali about 10yrs ago, they all immediately became job hoppers….. and it goes on. Any body remember Nortel? 90K employees immediately became job hoppers.

      Point of the above is simple, don’t allow yourself to be emotionally/psychologically degraded/run-down.

  12. Cicuta

    Hey Robert and guys on this issue; you really made my day as it is early morning and I am reading all comment on this post. Of course… there is a point in time when professionals looking for a job get piss and stop looking for a job in the same line of business they have been doing for so many years and move on to different things…it has happen with millions of people in this screw up IT industry. The funny things is that, and as I mentioned in my comments, once you start working at one of those IT companies realize that most co-workers are dumb as hell. Sorry to hear about your experiences and wish you the best of luck.

  13. Haris

    I agree with you all. In addition, recruiters play a big role with making this problem get worse for both, employers and job seekers. It is so frustrating and disrespectful when some unseasoned and fresh recruiters tell you in seconds that you are not qualified for a position you applied for. Are you serious? After a number of years of experience and working with different companies, you are telling me I did not know what I applied for? Come on now!
    I think we need to start to ask the recruiters to send their resumes or tell the job seekers their knowledge about the responsibilities of the job first before both could talk so the job seeker would know what to expect during the call or decide whether to talk with that recruiter in the first place.

    Another news that shocked me and made me sick the other day, was the article that I received from an IT consulting company. It said that they were happy and proud to have filled many IT positions in the US by getting approved thousands of H1B visas to bring foreign workers from outside the US. Really? You couldn’t find anyone in the US to fill those positions? If not, and I am very sure that is not true, couldn’t you train them and invest in them? It would be a lot cheaper to train the local and experienced individuals than bringing foreign labor and help them to become citizens.
    Please, do not misunderstand me. I am not against that at all but all what I am saying is, help those local individuals getting jobs first and then search abroad as the last resort!

  14. Anonymous Recruiter

    I agree with most of the points raised in the comments. I deal with managers who have unrealistic notions of what is available and reasonable. Clients want one person who is “versatile” and can do many tasks (because they can’t afford to hire the several people needed to do the various jobs they’ve cobbled together in the job description).
    They might need to replace someone who has been with the company for 8 years and has evolved the position from what it was to something that is a hybrid – managers, please don’t expect you can find a like-skilled or like-minded replacement easily or quickly (or cheaply)! What’s really ironic is the same manager who wants a multi-faceted candidate will likely bristle at a person who has jumped from project to project because they are a contractor. In most cases, contractors are the only candidates with the diverse set of skills because their perceived weakness is their actual strength – working for different clients, in different environments broadens that person’s experience, tool set, and capabilities more than your average who’s worked for the same company doing the same tasks on the same systems for 5-10 years.
    There is no quick and easy fix but I appreciated being able to commiserate!

    • Cicuta

      I am retired now but I keep track of what is going on because I just want to know and also because I enjoy technical stuff. So, what you say about the manager who wants to find someone who can do it all is not going to happen. My experience with managers is that they are not in fact technical people with the exception of a very few which after having a technical position moves to the managerial position but still those people are not current with technology; matter of fact, they do not even have an idea how to troubleshoot a problem and they rely on the people in his group. In order to be an expert in anything technical, the person has to be doing the same sort of work for at least 10-20 years and if you do the math about, say, 5 different applications then we are talking about 50 or more years and believe me that person is not an expert in everything. Matter of fact, in my 40 years’ experience as an engineer in several fields, computer systems administrator including web administrator with PKI administration, support engineer, networking engineer, and many other hats I have worn, never have seen an expert in everything … I have met excellent technical guys but they are not experts in everything. What I would look as a manager is to look for someone who can solve problems on the fly and these problems might be hardware related, OS related, application related, environmentally related, etc. but definitely someone with a technical university degree in engineering or computer science engineering; also, I would look for someone who is good doing research as well and keep track of technology “as applied to the department” and definitely good technical writing. Is very rare to see a hardware engineer working with computer systems also, although there are some, as myself, and if that is the case not to overwork the guy to the point of burning him out as I have seen that happen and the result is that the guy “will” have to take a medical leave or quit.

      Lastly I may mention that for me certifications are meaningless as I have met lots of guys with certifications but they cannot solve problems … they just memorized the commands to pass the test.

      My advice to the manager is that he cannot replace 3 or 6 guys with one as that person will quit the job after 6 months because he is burned. If he has a budget to meet, assign a bit of extra work to the guys in the group already, including him, and then hire someone technical but not with the expectations he has.

      • Hold on old timer!! :-). Given your formal EE background you know better!!

        Certs are not irrelevant. The goals of certifications should be to professionalized the domain. Professionalized generally speaking is a good thing, and generally goes hand in hand with establishing a state licensed guild. Think ABA and the bar exam.

        I agree the process seems to have gone off the rails, and needed to be refocused.

        Folks credential/education always a good thing, but as a with most things is only made better with meaningful experience.

        • Cicuta

          Max, I did not say certifications are irrelevant; I said mining-less. For instance: The person memorizes a bunch of commands and most of them will not use to the point of keeping them fresh in the human RAM. Then what? he has to breakout the books and procedures in order to recall the command for whatever and especially a long procedure. In any UNIX platform, for instance, there are procedures which have more than 20 steps and each one has different commands and options and this is not the type of question for a certification test; in that case, the person has to have the procedure at hand, look for it in books or the Internet, or call support at the company who sells the OS. There are about 15 different versions of Linux and they all differ in a lot of issues; now, each version has about 10 thousand commands from which the Sys Admin uses about 60 and about 20 or less on a daily basis. Then we have Solaris with at least 2.8 to 2.11 available at a company data center and each one has another 10 thousand commands; then we have AIX, Reliant UNIX, HP-UX, etc. Now, Windows is a different issue as with UNIX, but most companies have it. The environment of any company has at least 3 different OSs; so, in my experience I have not met anyone who has a certification on all UNIX platforms and LINUX which is also a derived OS from AT&T Bell Labs Sys V. Then have a certification on Oracle,SysBase, DB2, Java, etc.
          However, a technical guy who knows how to get information and troubleshoot is far more useful than any person with one or two or more certifications and that is my point.

          This is an example which happens a lot: An enterprise UNIX system works perfectly; there are no networking issues and has installed several databases of any kind; however, users complain that the system takes a life time to process the database programs which by the way are humongous. What is the problem? How to troubleshoot it?

          • Agreed, it also speaks to motivations. Most(not all) of these candidates are economic migrants simple as day. If picking apples paid them 70K/yr they would claim experience of 20yrs. There’s certainly no passion there.

            Critical thinking skills isn’t what certs confer upon the candidate.
            Simple puzzle questions as to why cones have holes, equally fail to hit the mark.

            Lets face it most organizations are packed full of drones, critical thinking is not the core skill set desired. Turns out the criteria currently in vogue is around which candidate most desperately wants the job, and most likely to put up with being abused. Hire the least qualified or most financially desperate, since they can least afford to leave. No sarcasm on the last point. It’s actually the recommendation given by HR in response to the horrid turn over firms are facing.

            There’s a reason HB1’s are flooding the domain. They can’t leave easily(captive resource), they’ve virtually no rights. Work force cost stabilization.

            On a tangential but related thread. How many of you know the name of your state and federal representatives? Raise your hand….

            It’s really not difficult to find out, and get the email address.
            Basically write them a letter, and get your friends and neighbors to do precisely the same. Politicians, they like to stay elected, and until they figure out a way to negate their constituents from the process, they will
            need to address needs or get fired. The guest worker programs are destroying your very communities and eroding the tax base. A virtual flash mob if you will, with nothing more than the cost a of a few key strokes.

            This issue transcends RED vs BLUE, its about PURPLE and viable local communities.

  15. This article tells me how unreasonable employer(s) are being when selecting IT staff. One of the complaints cited is that candidates wanting more money than the job offered or lack of experience. Well it sound like to me employer(s) want it both ways they want to hire someone who matches there wish list but don’t want to pay for it. The only other option an employer has is to hire someone that has your core requirements and less experience and pay the salary you want. I wished employers actually tested candidates like Gayle Laakmann McDowell describes in here book “Cracking the Coding interview” to determine the best candidate for a given job at least that would give people who are new graduates or have been unemployed for a long time a fighting chance for these jobs.

  16. MdGirl73

    One other reason the job listings require so many specialized skill sets for one position is because the positions are on government contracts and the government has to give final approval on the hire for key positions. That’s also another reason why companies want to hire people with experience and not provide training; they won the contract or re-bid based on having employees lined up with special skill sets and now they need to make these “perfect” candidates materialize. They rather pass over several candidates who are a good fit in search of a candidate that is a perfect fit.

    • Cicuta

      You are 110% wrong! You mean to tell me that the whole IT industry is on a government contract? The government has nothing to do with private industry, other than spying on them through the NSA, CIA, and FBI. The only companies which have to account for the employees they have and hire are the DOD contractors and the reason is because those projects are for the government and because they are defense oriented. The clearance classification for those government contractors is: Top Secret, Secret, Confidential and not all jobs require a clearance. Clearance is about the confidence and trust it can be placed on the individual and not the skills. Now days, most companies ask for an active clearance but how a candidate can have a clearance when he/she just graduated from college? Sometimes companies working for the government specify on the job description that the person must be investigated for background and take a polygraph test and that is all but the set of skills is not an issue for the government but for the company. How do I know all that? Because I have more than 20 years’ experience working for the DOD directly and for DOD contractors. I bet you are an HR person with the wrong information.

  17. Root Cause Lesson:
    __Part #1__
    It’s the middle of winter in Minnesota, you arrive home after a long days work and after walking into the house notice, its freezing inside. The central heater is on and working, however all the windows are open. What are the options to address the issue immediately: 1) Crank up the heat, whilst leaving the windows open? 2) Close the windows? 3) Other?

    The emotional response is almost always #1, the least effective option.

    __Part #2__
    The issue at play isn’t really about needing 50 skill-sets or being too old or too young or too educated or too ___ It’s about Labor Arbitrage.

    The ideal state is for labor to cost almost zero(slavery), while at the same allowing the market to determine value of the products generated with labor.
    This latter concept is really simple. The goal is share as little of the rewards as possible with labor resources(fixed cost).
    .e.g. pay labor(fixed cost), 50cents/hr to create an automated whizbang apple picking machine, turn around and sell the machine for 100K per unit, avoid sharing gains (called wealth dilution) with labor.

    Labor Arbitrage is one the key instruments in the tool bag used to reduce labor costs whilst maximizing gains. It’s all good until the part about “we a team” no longer applies to sharing gains.

    Summary, all employees/consultants etc are fixed cost. Some are just on the better side of the equation than others. Everything else is basically academic/noise.

  18. Glen Smith

    There is “sort of” an shortage. No jobs means an empty pipeline since work is the way you learn how to work. Training and other forms of formal education only provide the framework at best.