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Hiring Techs: Still Tough, But Not Why It Used to Be
Qualified candidates remain hard to find, but mostly because they’re afraid to switch jobs in an uncertain economy.
Tech unemployment in the U.S. stood at 2.3% in June, according to the latest data from CompTIA. That’s a touch higher than May, but still well below the nation’s 3.6% overall unemployment rate.
If you’re an MSP, data like that probably just reinforces what you already know: as our screwy, pandemic-warped economy enters its fourth year, good technical help is still hard to find.
It’s a sad fact of life that Sarah Stewart (pictured), president of recruiting agency MSP Hire, lives every day. Job candidates are plentiful, she notes. Qualified ones less so.
“Let’s say we get 30 applicants for one job in one given week. We’re only inviting maybe six to the next part in our hiring process,” Stewart says. “There are a lot of people out there that think IT is where they want to be even if they have no experience.”
And that’s for level one job openings. Don’t get her started on level threes. “I have a headache even thinking about it,” Stewart sighs.
Hiring conditions tilted heavily toward job seekers are partially responsible for the situation. Over 40 million workers, some 27% of the labor pool, have actively pursued a new job or career in the last 90 days per data from CompTIA earlier this month, and 40% of those people consider the employment market strong or very strong.
Stewart sees a new pattern emerging, however. Until recently, she notes, technicians were all too apt to jump ship the second someone waved more money at them. These days, with interest rates high and economic conditions uncertain, techs are much more cautious about taking a chance on a new opportunity.
“A lot of people are just staying put to kind of see how it all works out,” Stewart says. “They’re very wary about making a move.”
That dynamic helps MSPs in the short term, she continues, but won’t last forever. Eventually, technicians will regain some of the confidence they’ve recently lost and resume abandoning employers who’ve failed to make sticking around appealing.
“People are staying because they’re scared, not because they want to stay,” Stewart says. That makes investing in employees an even better idea than usual at the moment.
“The new motto that I’ve adopted, which probably sounds strange for the president of a recruiting firm, is you can’t out-hire a retention problem,” Stewart says. “I really think it would be in an MSP’s best interest to take a look at who they have on their team, identify the star players, and start pumping some real training or mentorship into these people.”
Keeping them costs much less time and money than replacing them, she notes. That’s true for every business, of course, but even more so for overworked MSPs, who tend to rush through the hiring process, hire the wrong person, and regret it.
“The cost of hiring somebody who isn’t right for the position is astronomical, and most people know that,” Stewart observes.
Being methodical about recruiting is the key to avoiding that fate, she adds. “In this industry, process is everything,” Stewart says. “If an MSP is going to successfully sift through hundreds of resumes, more than half of which will be complete garbage and a total waste of time, there must be a process for it. Otherwise, it’s just going to be too overwhelming.”
Stewart has specific pointers based on her own experiences for building a process. Start by arriving at a precise definition of your company’s culture and building it into every job description you write. “You want to show candidates why you’re a great place to work,” Stewart says, and also filter out people unattracted to that atmosphere.
Getting precise about your requirements when hiring helps as well. Stewart recommends including only a short, disciplined list of must-haves when writing job listings.
“You’re going to advertise your must-haves right underneath who you are as a company,” Stewart says. Save the nice-to-haves for interviews, she adds, so you don’t miss out on good people with a relatively unimportant hole in their resume.
“You don’t want to give a qualified candidate a reason not to apply,” Stewart notes.
That said, job interviews take time that a busy MSP usually doesn’t have, so MSP Hire uses a time-saving screening technique to weed out the clearest bad fits quickly.
“We take a look at a candidate’s resume super quickly, 40 seconds,” Stewart says. “We scan to make sure that they’re fulfilling our must-haves, and then we stop looking at the resume and fire them off an email interview.” That usually contains three questions, she adds, like what do you know about our company, what makes you the best fit for this position, and “something silly” like what’s the best way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“This will eliminate a good 40% of the candidates that have applied, mostly because they can’t be bothered to complete the email interview,” Stewart explains.
And if that’s too much for them, she adds, how much effort are they likely to put into documenting a ticket?
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Hiring problems aside, it’s still a great time to be an MSP
Gartner expects global IT spending to rise 4.3% this year, per data posted earlier this month. That’s a modest figure by historical standards that looks weaker still when you consider the 5.5% growth Gartner was projecting as recently as April.
All of which makes recent data on managed services from Canalys, shared this week on LinkedIn by Canalys analyst Jay McBain, look pretty good.
And those are 2022 results. Canalys is forecasting over 16% growth in 2023, to $488 billion.
The other striking stat in that image is the 335,000 channel partners worldwide delivering managed services. That’s a bigger number than you might expect, but plunges all the way to just 86,546, McBain says, when you limit the count to firms making 30% or more of their money from recurring revenue.
There are a whole lot of IT providers out there, apparently, either still transitioning toward recurring revenue or failing to capitalize fully on the MSP part of their business at a time when 82% of organizations worldwide are outsourcing at least some of their IT. Managed services may be a large, mature market by now, but there’s still plenty of upside for those who are all-in on it.
Progress on the IT diversity front?
So hat tip to Dave Sobel of the Business of Tech podcast for calling my attention to a rare bit of good news, courtesy of Axios and (ISC)2: 66% of newcomers to the cybersecurity workforce over the last 12 months in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Ireland are something other than white.
This is encouraging not only because it suggests the tech industry is growing a bit more diverse, though that’s reason enough to celebrate, but also because we badly need to attract a much wider range of people into the cybersecurity profession. Per separate (ISC)2 data, Planet Earth needs to add 3.4 million more security pros to the 4.7 million it already has to keep its IT assets safe.
Also worth noting
New analytics features in SkyKick’s Security Manager and Cloud Backup solutions, added in conjunction with a giant platform upgrade, now arm users with a range of data-driven reporting insights.
Good news, bad news: ransomware incidents were down 41% year over year in the first half of 2023, but cryptojacking was up 399%, per SonicWall.
Egnyte users can now find and summarize information in their documents faster and more securely via generative AI.
Speaking of AI, GoTo’s RMM solution now uses it to produce scripts, and that’s just one of nearly 40 new features across the GoTo portfolio.
Compliance and risk management vendor FortMesa is the latest company to plug into Gradient MSP’s Synthesize integration platform.