Finding the elusive IT unicorn

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the IT industry is booming. Look on any job site and you will see that IT professionals are high in demand. Once upon a time, parents encouraged their children to become accountants, lawyers, doctors and teachers. Now, we are enrolling our kids in junior robotics, science clubs and coding courses hoping that they will one day be guaranteed secure roles in booming IT companies or perhaps even start their own. Titles like Full Stack C# Developer, front end developer and UI/UX designer are everywhere. A whole new language has emerged. Agile no longer means flexible, python doesn’t refer to a large Amazonian snake and java is not a cup of coffee. As generalist recruiters, we have had to become familiar with this new terminology and understand the differences between these languages. In mature markets like the US and the UK, recruiters tend to specialize. They often have specific educational backgrounds and have worked in these industries only. Due to a larger workforce, they can specialize and become masters in their respective fields. In smaller countries, not so much. Recruiters tend to be generalists, servicing various companies across industry.

Cyprus is a small country, albeit with a diverse and vibrant job market. Being an EU member with our laws being similar to the UK, we attract numerous international companies to the island. English is widely spoken and the professional language of choice so operating here is easy for international companies seeking a country that is nicely situated between Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Our workforce is educated and our people, especially the younger generation, are well traveled and have studied and lived in other countries. The tax rate is lower than in other European countries and let’s face it…we have that eternal sunshine thing that so many people pay good money to enjoy. With all these benefits, it makes sense that global IT firms and tech start-ups have chosen Cyprus as a location.

We have seen massive growth in this sector and IT professionals across the board are in high demand. The supply is limited, the demand is high. How will companies operate if they don’t have adequate manpower? Where do we find these candidates and how do we attract them?

Companies advertise, they ask their staff to refer old colleagues or connections in their own personal networks and when they can’t find the candidates, they approach the recruiter. We are then tasked with finding these unicorns and often they do not exist. If we could clone these IT professionals, we would be gazillionaires but alas, cloning technology has not evolved at the rapid pace that these jobs have sprouted.

Most of our IT professionals are currently employed. We interview people daily and in order to move, they would want a higher salary and better benefits. A better work life balance along with a good environment and interesting projects with room to progress are key factors when considering a move.

For us to attract these candidates, the companies need to recognize that this is an employee’s market and when you need something that is in limited supply, you need to up the ante. Competitive salaries must be offered along with traditional benefits like private medical insurance. Soft benefits could include working from home twice a week, company gym memberships and paid employee lunches. Considering nationals from other European countries and paying the relocation costs would be another avenue. Then there are progressive companies who sponsor work permits to third world nationals. This is a process that many companies are reluctant to embark on but with so few available candidates, this is often the only solution. We have a few clients who do this and have successfully managed to grow their teams.

As recruiters, our job is to find these elusive unicorns but without the promise of rainbows and sunshine, no unicorns will come out to play.

Maria Titan is the co-founder of WorkForce Cyprus. She’s a champion recruiter, cake baking wannabe and super mom to two humans and three furry things.