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Firms that previously struggled to compete against the biggest technology companies are seizing the opportunity to focus on tech recruitment.

Start-ups and companies across a huge range of sectors from life sciences to utilities are scooping up talent as the world’s biggest tech businesses announce recruitment freezes and layoffs. While Big Tech is cutting back, some businesses that previously struggled to compete for talent are scrambling to hire. 

The world’s largest technology businesses like Google, Amazon and Meta have been letting staff go, blaming fears of a recession, persistent inflation and rising interest rates. More than 95,000 tech industry jobs have been lost this year alone. Some of these companies over-hired during the pandemic and others have suffered business missteps – Meta, for example, overestimated the speed of adoption of the Metaverse.

Despite their problems, the global shortage of technology expertise remains and companies in other sectors are seizing the opportunity to take on candidates with know-how in everything from Salesforce to network infrastructure. But while the scale of the skills gap means that candidates are still in demand, they may have to re-evaluate salary and benefits expectations.

IT recruitment during a recession

Despite talk of a recession, many mid-cap companies and start-ups are hungry for talent in areas such as mobile app development, cloud migration, and data centre management. Traditional industries such as gas and electricity firms and railways have also struggled to compete with Big Tech and are now on the hunt for talent. And with fiber cable being laid in 41 states in the US alone, the telecoms sector is also in search of people.

US-based Anthony Mazzella, Associate Director at Computer Futures, says, “Over the past few years, while everyone has been looking for tech people, the Big Tech companies have been snapping them up because they’ve got the money and they have strong reputations. So, for some companies and some industries this is a bit of a boon really because they can finally get the tech talent they need.

“For every large cap company that is in the papers announcing that they are laying people off, there’s another large firm looking to hire. In life sciences, for example, a lot of pharmaceutical companies are taking people on. Their demand for talent was very strong even before Covid, so I think they will take this opportunity to hire because they aren’t announcing cutbacks.”

Adjusting to industry upset

Mazzella says there will be a period of adjustment as candidates get used to slightly lower compensation packages, but he has seen little evidence of a hiring slowdown. Outside of the Big Tech firms, hiring remains strong.

During the pandemic Big Tech was able to hoover up talent by offering very generous packages that included high salaries, remote working and flexible hours. Mazzella says negotiating a good package will be harder for candidates now and they will have to decide what is really important to them and where compromises can be made.

Many candidates are resisting a full return to the office, so if flexible working is important to them, they might consider applying to a smaller company. Currently, some large businesses are encouraging staff to return to the office, partly because of ingrained working practices but also because they have large campuses that are being underused. They may be reluctant to offer the remote working options that candidates have become used to but may, as a trade-off, pay higher salaries. Start-ups and smaller business, on the other hand, are more likely to offer flexibility to help them attract talent.

Small companies focus on flexibility

Mazzella says, “Small companies aren’t going to be paying what Big Tech companies have paid. But small companies are saying ‘OK, work from a coffee shop and take 30 days holiday a year’. Your salary is going to be lower but overall you will have a pretty nice package. When you go into your recruitment negotiations you’ve got to be thinking about what you actually want and what you can realistically get.

 “Previously, you could get whatever you were looking for. You could get a good salary, work remotely full-time, your hours could flex, and you could work wherever you wanted. You could basically put your laptop down in a coffee shop and do your job. Now I think what’s going to happen is that you will get smaller companies that will remain remote, and in my opinion they will win the next leg of the war for talent. They are going to adjust their compensation packages so candidates will be able to pull some levers but will have to make some sacrifices.”

What's next?

Big Tech layoffs after years of rapid growth may be a shock to tech candidates but they may shine a light on alternative career paths and previously unconsidered options. Those who have lost their jobs may quickly find themselves courted by other companies – for many it may be a new and rewarding phase of their careers.

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