10 ways COVID-19 has changed tech hiring in the UK

10 mins

As we approach the half-year mark since the UK lockdown was announced to reduce the spread o...

As we approach the half-year mark since the UK lockdown was announced to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are beginning to see some areas of our lives returning to “normal”. We’ve been to the pub, seen our families and had a much-needed haircut, but it’s clear that the workplace normality we were accustomed to in 2019 isn’t returning for quite some time, and in fact may never return completely either. As a recruiter within the IT sector, we’ve been at the coalface of how COVID-19 has impacted tech hiring in the UK and Europe, so we wanted to share some of these insights with you all to help inform your hiring strategy for a new era of tech recruitment:

Candidate priorities are evolving
The lockdown gave us all a lot of time to reflect, and it’s no surprise that we have seen certain employer value propositions rank higher than before when it comes to what candidates are looking for in their next (or current) role. According to LinkedIn’s Talent Insights and a LinkedIn survey conducted between February 2020-June 2020 of candidates within an Information Technology function, the top three desired EVP’s are:

1.    Good work-life balance
2.    Flexible work arrangements
3.    Job security

Work-life balance and flexible working arrangements are likely to be ranking higher as a result of more people working from home / more people forgoing the lengthy commute / more people realising that they prefer a flexible approach to the usual 9-5. Job security of course has become a high priority for people as the pandemic sadly lead to redundancies, employees being placed on furlough, and there has been a great deal of uncertainty in various UK industry sectors. Despite the tech industry holding stronger than many other sectors, companies within industry sectors such as travel have been hit hard, and employees in the technical teams at these organisations have had to cope with the instability and even loss of jobs in this time. It is worth taking a look at how you measure up to the top ranked EVP’s and where possible, promote areas you are strong in as an employer in order to attract talented techies who may be open to opportunities. Check out the full list of desired EVP’s below:

Reassuring candidates is key
We’ve highlighted how important job security is for candidates within the tech sector right now, and while that can be a positive way to attract candidates for companies who have demonstrated resilience in the pandemic, it’s also clear that some candidates are nervous to leave their current role in this market. Some candidates may be worried about leaving a role where they have been employed with the same company for a few years, for fear that if their new employer is pushed into the position of making redundancies that they may be “last in and first out”. For hard to find technical employees, it’s unlikely that companies would want to lose these skillsets from their businesses, so if you are in a position to hire now it might be worth considering how you can put candidates minds at ease during these uncertain times. If you can communicate a strong employer brand, showcase employee stories, and add some reassurance to your communication with candidates, then this will help to drive confidence for those individuals who are nervous to make the move.

Companies are snapping up hard to find talent
There are certain roles within the tech sector that are notoriously tough to fill, which is why companies will engage recruitment agencies like ourselves who have existing candidate relationships, established technical networks and access to tools to be able to find people with these niche skillsets. However the pandemic has resulted in a number of these individuals entering the job market, which has allowed various brands to snap up talent that they would usually struggle to find! The companies that won out the most were those that continued to hire throughout the lockdown period, when their competitors had furloughed their internal recruitment teams and enforced a hiring freeze. That being said there are still lots of candidates on the market that are actively looking for a new tech role! If you have certain skillsets in your tech team that you are always desperate for, but aren’t “actively” advertising a job vacancy for this area of technology then it might be worth updating your careers site / social channels to let candidates know you are open to hearing from them. 

Networking online is escalating the hiring process
Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn have been crucial for tech communities during the pandemic, with individuals taking to the platforms to share information and offer support to connections who have been affected in their roles. Individuals who have publicly shared the news of redundancy have often received advice, recommendations and even been put forward to roles as a result, and this community spirit seems to be here to stay as we are seeing more and more individuals use social media as a tool to escalate their job hunt. If you are not utilising social media as a tool to build out technical networks, then you could be missing out on a great deal of relevant information for your hiring strategy!

People centric employer brands are being championed over polished content
For many companies, promoting the employer brand has often been the job of a select few individuals in the organisation. Individuals who are familiar with a company’s brand guidelines, have access to professional photography and know how to create well worded content to accompany their posts. This approach has allowed organisations to control how their employer brand is seen by potential candidates, however the professional images that look great on social media don’t always paint an authentic picture of what it is like to work for that company. We are now seeing more companies embrace employee generated content in both their employer and consumer brand marketing, images and videos shot on a smartphone that give an honest and authentic view of what working for your company is really like. The reaction to this has been overwhelmingly positive, because while these posts may not appear “perfect”, they are often perceived as being more believable for candidates who are looking for insights into a potential employer. Do not be afraid to let your employees loose on their smartphones to capture real moments of life in the tech team as part of your employer brand promotion! 

Virtual interviews have become the norm
For the companies that continued to hire throughout the entirety of lockdown, adjusting to conducting videos via tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams was a must to gain those meaningful “face-to-face” connections in a time where travel was so restricted. Today despite more of us returning to a physical office setting, many companies are still embracing video interviews to help enforce safety and social distancing measures throughout the pandemic. Ultimately you may still look to round up a lengthy interview process with a final in person meeting but conducting initial stages via video calls means you are able to filter down your applicants without forcing unnecessary contact or travel. If you haven’t already introduced video into your interview process you could be missing a trick (keep reading to find out how in our next point!).

Time to hire has decreased
The lockdown created a variety of obstacles for tech hiring, however we surprisingly noticed that the time to place candidates actually decreased for many of our clients! The reason? Taking the interviews digital, combined with the additional diary availability because of people working from home / not having to commute / having physical events and meetings cancelled meant that scheduling a suitable time for interviews became a lot easier. We also found that during this time it was easier to reach candidates and clients to deliver feedback / discuss applications, and therefore the process often ran a lot smoother than the times where both parties are so much busier! This of course has evolved slightly as more of us return to the office, but the companies that continue to embrace video interviews as part of their hiring process are often able to complete the candidate journey far quicker than when using in person interviews only.

Jobs posted have fluctuated
April 2020 saw a dramatic reduction in technical jobs being advertised (as much as a 50% drop from 2019 in some areas of technology), dropping further in May according to data from CW Jobs, however we are steadily seeing the number of live jobs being advertised increasing each month. This freeze in activity is likely to be down to the uncertainty surrounding the initial pandemic reaction, and lockdown causing many companies to re-think their hiring needs /  in some instances halt their recruitment processes due to the inability to conduct interviews in person. September is set to be an extremely busy month on the job front for Senitor, which is hopefully an indicator of how well the tech sector has adapted and bounced back from the early effects of the pandemic.

Remote working is desirable
According to a recent survey from Gartner, 74% of CFO’s plan to move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post COVID-19. The move to a 100% remote working model may not be possible for every organisation, however it is clear that a large portion of technical candidates are beginning to value the ability to work from home as a positive when it comes to choosing their next role. If remote working is something you offer to your employees (whether that’s fully flexible / 1-2 days a week / in the event of COVID-19 lockdown) then ensure you are communicating this fact in your job adverts, as it could help increase the amount of applications you receive.

Recruitment agencies have exclusive access to candidates
In order to deliver the best possible experience for our candidates, the team at Senitor work closely with each person to understand what their career goals are, what type of role they are interested in and look at which companies they would be a good fit for. This includes matching them with live vacancies as well as reaching out to other organisations who we know recruit for the skillsets these candidates have. In many cases, these candidates approach us directly and work with us exclusively to find their next technical role, and since the pandemic we are seeing more and more candidates choose this option of job searching to simplify the process during this stressful time. If you want visibility of candidates that are available but not visibly on the market then using a recruiter could be your best shout!

These are just 10 ways the market has evolved following the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect to see this develop even more as we move through the rest of 2020 too. If you are currently hiring for your technical team you may want to check out our latest eBook: 8 steps to attract & on-board talented Software Engineers in 2020

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