A new job-placement environment has created a surprisingly different dynamic for those seeking jobs and those seeking employees, says a new survey from executive recruiting firm Perry Martel International and the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA). The “2003 Survey of High-Tech Employers” found that if high-tech workers want to get a job, they have to dramatically change their approach to the search process.

"The environment following the high-tech meltdown is one where an oversupply of workers is being accompanied by a shortage of highly skilled workers," said PMI President David Perry. "This is causing the dynamics of job hunting to change dramatically from the situation a few years ago. The old ways of job hunting not only don't work, they have been supplanted by a new approach.

Sensing a shift in hiring practices, PMI and CATA set out to survey North American employers on their actual hiring practices and develop a guide to tell technology workers how to best find new employment in the post dot-com high-tech economy. Employers were represented in two categories: executives and non-executives, with major differences in attitudes between the two groups.

Key survey findings:

  • There were no differences between industries or countries on the best way to find a high-tech job. The differences are between executives and non-executives.
  • 97 percent of executives feel that the best way to find a high-tech job today is through target marketing of firms followed by a direct approach to the executive. For executives, the second best method is through recruitment companies. Networking rated less than a one percent response.
  • Among non-executives, however, 73 percent felt that networking was the best way to find a job. This feeling was strongest among human resources professionals (83 percent) and lowest among the engineering professionals (57 percent favored going to recruiting companies).
  • 84 percent of executives said they were always in strategic hiring mode, vs. 7 percent of non-executives.
  • Executives (81 percent) concentrate almost entirely on intangible skills instead of tangible skills. They look for core qualities that add value to the profit line of the organization.
  • Non-executives (77 percent), however, are still looking to fill in boxes on a standard recruiting form.

"The biggest surprise in the survey was that networking rated so low among executives," said Mr. Perry. " Executives prefer a direct approach and are less likely to suggest using headhunters, where as non-executives still believe networking is the best way to find a job. In the kind of hiring freeze situation that often accompanies a slow-down, it's easy to understand why non-executive staff may be loath to bring forward anyone they interview no matter how strong their skill set. This means that the networking favored by non-executives will keep job seekers very busy but is not likely to result in a job offer.
"The Catch 22 in all of this is that while executives are looking for people with the kind of qualities that can advance their business, their hiring staff has a very different set of standards for the candidates they think the company needs."

To resolve the imbalance between job seekers and executive searchers, both sides are advised to approach the problem differently:

  • Job seekers need to become adept at direct self-promotion to executives and to answer the question "How can I increase shareholder value?"
  • Employers need to instill in their search teams the values they themselves cherish in their continuing search for star talent – the realization that value is not salary; worth does not flow from a job title. Knowing how to evaluate the worth of someone's contribution is the important element.

A total of 19,000 contacts in various high tech categories in the U.S. and Canada were invited to respond to the survey. A total of 7,182 people completed the survey for an overall response rate of just over 37.8 percent. The unusually high response rate is attributed to the brand awareness of CATA. Participants were asked to self select their titles which were divided into executive and non-executive.

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