karldmoore development

A development oriented blog, containing anything I've been working on, reading or thinking about.

Hiring During A Recession: A Little Research

Posted by karldmoore on February 3, 2009

In a recent post I postulated that given the current recession and turbulent economic state, the good developers are staying in their current role rather than interviewing for a new position. This was only really guess work however, so I thought it would be useful to conduct a little market research. I decided to have a few conversations with companies looking to hire and recruitment agents to collate some information.

We recently produced quite a basic job specification with pretty standard requirements, a competitive wage with benefits and asked for several years of relevant experience. Having looked at all of the various job postings I would have thought there would be a wealth of talent looking for an opportunity like this. We were looking for around ten resumes to sift through as a starting point.

The number of available candidates and skills is a very difficult ask at the moment. There are simply not a huge number of candidates available with the required skill set. There isn’t just one problem; the number of candidates and skills are both big problems at the moment, there isn’t enough of either.

Our first thought was that wage might be an issue, so what if we were will to increase the wage offering?

Wages aren’t really the issue. It’s quite a general problem that people are unwilling to move jobs right now. The economic state is not conducive towards it. People just don’t know if the company is going to be around next month, or if they’ll be forced to cut costs. If Microsoft and Sun are having to do it, then who will be next?

But surely if there are scores of people being made redundant there should be talent available for hire.

Typically, most of the people being made redundant on the news aren’t highly skilled technical types. Some of them are but the majority are unskilled. Of those technical staff looking for work, many of them are contract staff who haven’t reach the point of really having to work yet. Some of them need to work, but many of them can “play it cool” for a while yet.

So is the industry really in crisis, or is it actually faring quite well at the moment? Are there tens of thousands of skilled developers out there struggling to find work, or just a few more than usual? I’m sure there must be a large number of skilled people who have recently lost their job, but if so where are they and why don’t they seem to be looking for work?

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2 Responses to “Hiring During A Recession: A Little Research”

  1. John Ike said

    In working for an employment site jobbank.com and working in other large companies previously, My feeling is that during bad down times, people tend to try to strengthen their position in the company they are in. A long time ago, an offer presented itself to be promoted within my company. I was given the offer to move from development to management. After much deliberation, the offer was turned down. This occurred at the beginning of the tech bubble. My feeling was that if I got fired and I was a new manager, I would be stuck in the middle of skills. I would be too young as a manager, but already many months away from development. In the end turning down a promotion within your company can be a bad idea s well. It can make you a non-team player and can embarrass the people trying to promote you. Not quite sure what I learned with that experience, but I am sure it was something.

    The same idea works with new jobs. Very often new jobs means that if cuts are going to occur, you will be the one cut. You have the least business knowledge, the least seniority, the least contacts. It can be better to hunker down then to seek even a better pay raise. The only time this would not occur to me is if I was trying to get out of a dying industry to move into a much better one.

  2. shenpen said

    Very interesting. Does it mean that if you are a good developer AND willing to take some risks, you can switch jobs easily during a recession?

    I was afraid it’s the other way around, as the falling demand for software consulting firms will force them to lay-off, or at least a headcount freeze. I think most companies are postponing their major system change or other projects right now.

    Of course, they were postponing them about since October and they cannot do that indefinitely.

    I’m pondering a lot about it, because in September I’m moving to Vienna, Austria. And I’m something sort of a real expert (6+ years in MS Dynamics NAV development) but I don’t speak German very fluently, only so-so, which is a handicap. Still during a boom period it would be OK, but I was a bit afraid how will it work out during a recession.

    OTOH the recession in the Eurozone is not supposed to be very bad. Not as bad as here in the UK anyway.

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