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What Are Today's Most Difficult IT Hires? ( 281

Slashdot reader snydeq shared an article from CIO: The IT talent gap is driving up demand for skilled IT pros, but for certain roles and skillsets, finding -- and signing -- the right candidate can feel a bit like trying to capture a unicorn... AI and data science jobs are at the top of the list, in part because they're relatively young technologies, and they're being introduced in all sorts of companies going through their digital transformation. At the same time, there are some surprises... The experts we talked with name-checked a laundry list of desirable skills and needed experience with emerging areas like cognitive computing, machine learning, data analytics, IoT and blockchain. But the true unicorns are candidates who can not only deepen their bench of tech skills but keep an eye on the bottom line.
The article also cites high demand for data privacy experts, penetration testers with a scientific mind-set, and adaptable developers (including DevOps engineers), as well as experts in robotics and cryptology. But everyone's experiencing the job market differently, so the original submission ends with a question for Slashdot readers.

"What hires are you having the most difficulty making these days?"
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What Are Today's Most Difficult IT Hires?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04, 2018 @10:39AM (#56065611)

    We're having difficulty finding someone who is a blockchain expert with 5+ years in Lightning Network experience.

    HR won't let us hire anyone with less, and demands at least 2/3s of new Engineering hires be non-white non-male.

    • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @10:53AM (#56065657)

      Sarcasm noted, but it is very close to the real truth.

      The most difficult person to hire is someone you can abuse like an H-1B, but is a citizen.

    • by swilver ( 617741 )

      This is normal. It just takes 3-4 years on average to find such a person.

    • Required skills: Candidate must demonstrate proficiency in programming in PostScript and be able to divide by zero.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04, 2018 @10:42AM (#56065617)

    The most difficult IT hires are the dev/admin/whatever with 20 years of experience willing to work for minimum wage. Woe is the poor cheap-ass employer.

    • by scsirob ( 246572 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @11:10AM (#56065703)

      This. Plus the ones that have 20 years of experience with a technology that didn't exist 10 years ago.

    • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @11:16AM (#56065727) Homepage
      Those aren't real ads. After running the ad and concluding that no candidates came forward, the company is free to hire an H1B to displace an American worker. They don't actually expect anyone to answer the ad, it's just in fulfillment of a legal requirement.
      • by geek ( 5680 )

        Those aren't real ads. After running the ad and concluding that no candidates came forward, the company is free to hire an H1B to displace an American worker. They don't actually expect anyone to answer the ad, it's just in fulfillment of a legal requirement.

        Very true in Silly-Con Valley but the rest of the US is a different story. Broaden your search and you'll find SV is the outlier, not the norm.

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )
        I called an agent on one of these once (it was a targeted email, as I was in his database with the experience and skills the position was asking for, though with a latest salary 4x what was beng offered), and he called me racist.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04, 2018 @11:21AM (#56065751)

      And to try and get them, they ask idiot "tech" recruiters who go after that "smell of success" by vgrepping for buzzwords.

      Though there is some interesting (Chinese sense) variation:

      penetration testers with a scientific mind-set,

      Too many cowboys in "cyber security". Makes sense because all of "cyber security" consists of s'kiddies calling themselves "hackers" and bicker among themselves about hat colour. Finally figuring out this particular cottage industry sells mostly imperial textiles, eh.

      and adaptable developers (including DevOps engineers),

      I have sysadmin AND development experience, and that's always been a point against me, even before devops became a thing. Just like "can do" and "I don't know but I'll figure it out" attitude (a rather essential trait for generalist sysadmins) gets mentally filed under "attitude", not "can do". Thanks, HR drones.

      Bitter, me? You bet, with reason well beyond being an occupational hazard for this line of work. But that isn't the point.

      I say people selection is the most important thing, and so far "we" are doing poorly. Executives watching their people burn out is but a high point in this particular traveling crap shoot and shit show.

      • by scsirob ( 246572 )

        I'd hire you in a heartbeat.

      • by Bigbutt ( 65939 )

        I’m seeing this more now. I started off programming (basic and derivatives then C) and migrated into systems management (with shell and perl mainly) but continue to program for fun (php, mysql, with jquery and css). My home environment is or is moving to rcs/git, jenkins, artifactory, phpunit, ansible and tower, and puppet. None of that shows up on a resume though. Until you can get past HR, you’re invisible.


      • by rnturn ( 11092 )

        ``I have sysadmin AND development experience, and that's always been a point against me, even before devops became a thing. Just like "can do" and "I don't know but I'll figure it out" attitude (a rather essential trait for generalist sysadmins) gets mentally filed under "attitude", not "can do". Thanks, HR drones.'

        I run into this a lot. I've always been able to figure new tech out--point me to a manual or a web page and I'm off to the races--but that doesn't seem to count for much in many HR folks' minds

        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          Your last point isn't an open source issue. Consider how many Unix variants and C variants and FORTRAN variants and whatever else there was even before Linux came around. Never mind all of the other non-Unix-like OS' from back when every hardware vendor rolled their own completely unique OS to go with it.

      • by DeBaas ( 470886 )

        I have sysadmin AND development experience, and that's always been a point against me, even before devops became a thing. Just like "can do" and "I don't know but I'll figure it out" attitude (a rather essential trait for generalist sysadmins) gets mentally filed under "attitude", not "can do". Thanks, HR drones.

        When I grew up companies in my country had departments called 'wages administration'. The selection was largely done by the direct superiors (the people that would feel the pain from bad staff). I guess HR sounds more important and now we have HR...
        I am not to say everything used to be better, but in this case... Let HR worry about salaries etc. and keep them out of the selection process. Let techies hire techies.

        BTW I once heard of one contractor that rigged the system of recruiters searching only for keyw

    • The question is strange. "IT" is not a general purpose term to describe everyone who programs or touches a computer. Why would an IT person know about blockchain or AI unless they ran across it in school, since it's not in the job description of any IT department. The language is changing too much. For me, I wouldn't even call DevOps IT.

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @11:06AM (#56065695) Homepage

    "AI and data science jobs are at the top of the list, in part because they're relatively young technologies"

    Nothing particularly new in any of the fields mentioned. Specific frameworks in use are different now than they were 5, 10 or 20 years ago. However, speaking as someone who has been in IT for somewhere between 30 and 40 years, there's really not a lot that's fundamentally new. Mostly, we have added more turtles. What I do see is that each new generation re-invents old ideas and slaps new labels on them. Often, they even think the ideas are new, until some old grouch like me comes along and rains on their parade.

    The last real sea change was the spread of the Internet in the 1990s - enabling worldwide networking (and worldwide attacks). The actual vulnerabilities being exploited, however, are old-hat. The top security risk today's web applications is injection []? This has not changed in 20 years, which ought to be embarrassing for the entire IT profession.

    • by geek ( 5680 )

      Web apps are high on the list yes but OWASP is very biased on that side of things. The #1 is, was and probably always will be phishing scams that exploit layer 8 (can't patch people).

      The web is a mess for one major reason. HTTP is a stateless protocol, so everything we do with it is a sad hack. Cookies, session ID's all this crap we pile on to track people over a protocol that is not designed for tracking creates tons of issues. Web apps will continue to have these problems for a long time.

    • by swilver ( 617741 )

      They say they want an AI expert, and then tell them to built a chat bot.

    • What about AWS/gcloud?

    • I feel like you've made this same argument before, with this same useless factoid. The rest of the items on that list are equally embarrassing, so I'm not sure what exactly your argument is -- presumably you consider the list's existence to be shameful.

      If what you have to offer the younger generation is a bad temper and an "It's all been done before" attitude, you should get out of "IT". And if after 30 years you're doing "IT" and not "CS", you're an overpaid computer janitor. This would presumably also exp

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @11:12AM (#56065705)

    This cuts both ways, for positions and candidates.

    When a phrase becomes a buzz word, it means whatever whoever wants it to mean, but they have to have it in resumes/job postings to look hip.

    If you put one of them in criteria, congratulations, every resume on the planet is applicable. Not becuase people have relevant skills, but because people will find any way they can to justify putting it on. The diluted meaning means there's probably some way people can work it in to their resumes.

    It's also a warning sign to see in a job posting. If a company is seeking a buzzed skillset, it is more likely than not they have no idea what they are doing and have no good reason to even be poking about in the area, but some management person read enough articles saying that a business *must* do this to stay relevant.

  • It is hard to find good AI people, because AI does not exist. All you have are algorithms and clever parlor tricks. The hardest people to find are people who will work in Silicon Valley for $50,000.
    • The hardest people to find are people who will work in Silicon Valley for $50,000.

      If you browse at threshold -1 there's that guy who posts the affiliate links to raise pennies because he works in silly valley for $50K.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Don't be daft. Nobody expects "AI" to mean "perfect replication of a human brain." And even if it did, if it runs on a computer its still just algorithms and parlor tricks because computers only run algorithms. They don't do anything else.

      Of course the term is still somewhat loose. Game AI is a very, very different skill set from deep learning for example, and expert systems are a different beast again and so on. We have a whole whack of fairly unrelated algorithms that all get called "AI" because they

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @11:19AM (#56065741)
    but in America, none outside of the really high end stuff that isn't really IT, it's math. I guess it's a little hard to get competent folks to work a 24/7 NOC because companies don't want to have enough people on staff that the hours don't suck so you end up with 12 hour swing shifts 3-4 days a week. Aside from that outsourcing + H1-Bs have meant there's a glut of cheap labor.
    • So there is a glut of cheap labor but it is hard to get folks to work in a NOC? Makes sense to me. No one wants to work in a NOC because the job itself sucks.
      • the hours make it hard to have a life. It's generally 12s. 3 two weeks then 4 the next. Meaning a 48 hour shift once a week. Most cities that have tech jobs also have long commutes. Meaning you spend 3-4 days doing nothing but work. It's hard to have a life like that. Borderline impossible if you're stuck on the graveyard shift.

        Companies could compensate by paying more, but they just don't do that anymore. They just live with the problems. So you get a mix of old guys that can't get hired anywhere else
  • " can feel a bit like trying to capture a unicorn... "

    No problem, there are lots of virgins in the IT world.

  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @11:40AM (#56065811) Journal

    ...are the most difficult hires.

    I'm not young either, almost in my 50's - and still got hired in IT.

    What surprises me though, is that our company have a habit of not hiring experienced staff, because they want to do the training and teaching themselves. We have a "teacher/mentor" culture in our offices meaning that when a new batch arrives, possibly with no knowledge of our infrastructure whatsoever - we train them meticulously. We have a high tolerance for failure (yes, most people will make mistakes, often quite expensive mistakes such as rebooting a server that has 100's of cash machines connected to it), but once they do that only ONCE - they'll likely never do it again. It's surprisingly effective. Also cost effective, as they get to be highly specialized and focused on our business and our customers.

    The hardest ones to train, is the "experts". Completely age unrelated. Experts "knows so much" forehand, it becomes an uphill battle to explain to them everything. Some of them get offended that we imply that they "didn't know that" and it's almost like a mine-field trying to explain anything to people who know it all.

    Fresh from the street - is the new IT gold. (And this comes from an almost 50 year 30+ in the IT business guy, me...who is as surprised as you probably are reading this), but it's quite true - I work in one of the biggest companies there is. I can't reveal who I work for as it's in my NDA, but if you work in a similar corporate, you'll totally get this.

  • by RoscoeChicken ( 73509 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @11:48AM (#56065841)

    (Read that title again carefully before responding.)

    Lots of Indians have this amount of experience on their resumes. Why not Americans? :)

    Seriously, anyone with a solid foundation in STL and C++03 could pick up Boost or the latest features in C++0x, but HR and managers don't want to hear it.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      To play devil's advocate, you could argue that having worked in C++ since 2007 would give you 10 years of C++17.. simply because the vast majority of the language hasn't changed. As long as you spend a few days learning the new features and differences (or hope your interviewer is equally unaware of them,) you're more stretching the truth than actually lying.

      Its a bit of a different story if you claim 10 years experience with say, Swift (released in 2014) which isn't a direct upgrade to anything in the sam

  • In smaller companies, discovered that cultural fit is the hardest to satisfy, above and beyond finding the matching skill set.

    I’m sure that’s different in larger companies.

  • ... problem in 2 weeks for an hourly rate of no larger than 25$.

    Those are really difficult to come by. We have been looking for 3 for ages.

    A close second are those people that can make us happy even if we don't know what we want but we know exactly how much it may cost and when it's supposed to be finished. Tough one too that is. These IT and programming experts are so arrogant and really hard to work with.

  • by anvilmark ( 259376 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @12:23PM (#56066035)

    I'm currently in the job market. Many of the ads I'm seeing are extensive, detailed, collections of technologies and skills but only 3-5 years experience. What's worse is how often there is no clear distinction between what is truly essential and what is a "plus".
    This kind of posting selects against the honest, and anyone with more than a mild case of Impostor Syndrome.
    Oh, ad might catch the unicorn's attention, but if the applicant truly has the extensive experience asked for - why would they work for YOUR company?

    • by rnturn ( 11092 )
      Many? I'd say "most". Then there's the other extreme where the ads are so vague that you have no idea whether you would want to apply or not. Especially, if you are forced to submit via their ATS where you have no idea whether a human with operating neurons has actually read your resume or whether a badly constructed regex is looking at it. Hard to tailor a resume to these (probably purposely) vague job descriptions. I know of one local company that has a reputation for writing these awful ads and setting t
    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      The ads are mostly meaningless drivel anyway. The HR department just throws together a bunch of things they've overheard the engineers talking about and then play buzzword bingo (usually automated these days) in order to shortlist the number of candidates they have to talk to. Kind of necessity with online job applications. They likely get thousands or more for each publicly-posted position and the vast majority will be complete garbage (it not outright spam) that needs to be weeded through.

      Its hard to g

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @12:30PM (#56066075) Journal
    It is just not easy to get HR and C*s to want to pay them enough.
    Therein lies the REAL issue.
  • by hwstar ( 35834 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @12:38PM (#56066117)

    The trend I've noticed is that companies prefer to hire someone who can't easily move to another company, yet have the option of terminating employment for any reason whatsoever (i.e. an extreme version of employment-at-will) For example, this is why they prefer H-1B and contingent employees. H-1B's can move, but it's a lot of work on the part of the H-1B employer. Since they are locked in, the company can pay them less. Contingent workers can be easily let go without the worries of the employee suing the company, or having to pay for pesky things like health insurance, vacation, holidays, unemployment insurance, and worker's compensation.

    As for off-shoring to overseas locations. The problem companies face is that most of the rest of the developed world has stricter labor laws and better contingent worker protections then the US, as well as single payer health care and statutory vacation laws. Also employment-at-will is an alien concept all developed countries and in most emerging economies such as China. Salaries in the developing countries are also on the rise.

    By using H-1B and temporary workers and employing them in the US, the company can avoid paying market rates for labor and have a captive workforce which can be increased or reduced at a moment's notice which makes the bean counters, and investors happier.

    The problem is this tactic only works if there is a good supply of H-1B and contingent workers to be exploited. We need better protections for H-1B and contingent employees in the US, as well as a reform/harmonization of "Employment-at-will so that workers are not taken advantage of, and the global talent pool truly operates as a free market.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because lets face it, most project managers and project leads are pretty terrible picks.

    So your architects end up hand holding and building the project plan and showing someone with elementary excel skills at best how to pull metrics (do their job too more or less).

    And the architect needs a full stack background regardless of their area of expertise, otherwise you're just getting in the way of another architect who does have the full stack background.

    And as others have pointed out already the expectation is

  • by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @01:17PM (#56066315)

    the right candidate can feel a bit like trying to capture a unicorn

    That is 100% correct and that's because companies and more specifically HR doesn't deal with reality. Unicorn basically means looking for a person with a combination of skills, abilities and experience that either doesn't exist or is extremely RARE (< .01% of the population) This idea that every tech company could put out a job requisition for an infinite amount of time and eventually snag a unicorn is not even remotely based in reality. Companies need to put the crack pipe down and start dealing in reality and adjusting their expectations accordingly just like we all do. No one gets special treatment.

    • Re:Unicorns (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geek ( 5680 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @02:15PM (#56066619)

      Companies need to start training people. You see training in every field except IT. I'm lucky and my company does a reasonable job of keeping its workforce trained but almost everywhere else all I hear from people is they get no training. You can't expect people to work 60-80 hours a week AND train themselves on upcoming or newer tech. It's absurd.

      Expecting candidates to know everything is ridiculous. Hire the person with potential, then invest some time into training them and mentoring them. You'll have a better employee and a more loyal one. Right now it's like musical chairs, people go until they burn out in 6 months to a year then switch companies. The average employment term in SV is like 9-24 months if I remember right. Where I work it's closer to 10-15 years. Shocking the difference it makes.

      • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

        Companies need to start training people. You see training in every field except IT

        Judging by your id, you're not young. You should know just as well as I do, we used to get training especially around the time of the Internet Explosion followed by the DotCom bust because all these startups were hiring warm bodies leading up to y2k. There used to be this thing called *Research* & Development, you know R&D? They dropped the R and kept the D and along with that went the training. The reason for that is because GAP changed and CFO's didn't like seeing the non-capitalizable work on

        • by geek ( 5680 )

          I never got training in those days. I was too busy working myself to death pulling 100 hour weeks. Nothing has changed in SV at all.

  • The IT field is swamped with semi-competent and outright incompetent people. People who have an understanding of engineering that stops at "it worked when we tested it", that do the most outrageously stupid things that cause bizarre failures later on. People that are incapable of reading documentation. People that do not even know the basics about technology they use daily to build applications. And so on.

    • ``People that are incapable of reading documentation.''

      But, first, you need people who are capable of writing documentation. When companies stopped including actually helpful printed documentation--or, hell, a CD full of PDFs--prepared by professional technical writers (as opposed to foisting the task on the coders who can barely cobble together a coherent paragraph), the reading of documentation became known as a waste of time. "It's on their web site." Is it? Usually it's not. In some cases, it might be

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @01:34PM (#56066389) Journal

    "Technical Fad Coordinator"

  • Tech Trainers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kordyte ( 5253337 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @01:54PM (#56066491)
    It's surprisingly hard to find technical trainers. Very few candidates make it through a phone interview, let alone an example teach. Admittedly it's an unusual combination of skills. We want people that have serious development chops, know multiple languages well (although no need to be perfect), and can teach. The pay, I believe, is good (I do it professionally). It's still stressful at times, but it's a different kind of stress. Agencies have been next to useless finding candidates because they understand none of the skills or how to screen for them. Many people in the tech world don't know these roles exist, or don't know what it takes, so if you're curious here's the kind of things you would need to do/be to make it through an interview, and land the job:

    * Demonstrate clear fundamentals in your 'home' language, e.g. in Java I might ask about pass by value and how that affects code, or in C++ explore where and when you use the destructor. These are not obscure corner cases, although later stages of an interview could move to that but the technical interview is mostly done by then
    * Demonstrate authenticity, e.g. have you experienced the stress of dealing with a 'sev 1' and survived to tell the tale

    * Can you stand up in front of people and engage them in learning
    * Can you think on your feet and derive an answer from existing knowledge
    * Can you admit when you don't know something, research the answer, and come back to the group
    * Can you present information clearly

    Last of all, can you do all of this with enthusiasm? I genuinely don't know if it's just a rare combination of skills, or we just can't find the people.
    • As much as I agree with you, and as helpful as good training can be, that is the answer to a _different question_. Negotiating with your client that they really need to solve a distinct problem is a skill, and a rare skill for IT leaders. We're often tasked with "solve this very specific problem I asked you about" rather than "make things work well". Learning to work with that and live with it is a challenge that drives people out of IT in droves.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Sounds to me just more like a rare job title that not many people would be looking for. Those who are interested in teaching usually look to the school system (at whatever level interests them) since that's where 99% of all teaching jobs are.

      Your best bet (if your "good" pay is good enough) would probably be someone with a master's degree. Many (but not all of course..) will have taken on a TA role and thus had at least a bit of teaching experience in addition to whatever technical skills they bring to th

  • Entry level (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edgedmurasame ( 633861 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @03:23PM (#56066943) Homepage Journal
    At the best, you get offloaded to a benefit dodging staffing agency, at worst get nothing due to not being the perfect person.
  • But the true unicorns are candidates who can not only deepen their bench of tech skills but keep an eye on the bottom line.

    So the true unicorn is someone who does everything and costs nothing? Pretty sure that isn't just desired in tech.. Not overly surprised they're having trouble finding such people..

    • It is actually possible to get people cheaply if you manage to be creative with salaries and job perks. You can get quite a few people with the lure of training and certification on company time and paid by the company (with the string attached that binds you to the company forever).

      You can actually get good, young people who cannot afford those certs themselves that way for pennies. Yes, they'll probably leave in 3-5 years (when they can), but by then you have the next batch.

  • At least not yet.

    ``It might seem like a good idea to make job requirements as exhaustive as possible, but in reality, that may turn off qualified candidates who would be great for the job,''

    I've seen the job ads without the laundry lists of technologies--you've seen 'em: lists that seem to indicate they're trying to fill three open positions with a single hire (sysadmin, DBA, developer)--and that's great.

    The trouble is, though, that the word hasn't trickled down to the actual hiring managers and their

  • I've recently graduated with a degree in Information System, and for some reason, every job I search for keeps asking for significant amount of experience using hardware that I haven't touched, let alone afford to use, or at least have some kind of IT/IS experience. When I had two terms left to go (I was being retrained under the US Trade Acts program), I started looking for internship opportunities, only to find I was running into the same issue: experience with hardware or software that no one without a
  • In the words of a former boss of mine "Good, available, no police record. Pick two".

    It gets better now that there are actually university courses teaching IT-security, then again, it just ain't the same material, not the same mindset that you find in the old peeps.

    Maybe 'cause back when I was young, the only ones you could actually hire were the ones that were actually good enough to not get caught (and thus have no record)...

  • by mrsquid0 ( 1335303 ) on Sunday February 04, 2018 @07:58PM (#56068137) Homepage

    finding people who actually understand statistics as opposed to just claiming that they do.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"