How would you fit a giraffe in a fridge? What would win in a fight between a tiger and a lion? How would you explain Facebook to your grandmother? These are some of the questions recruitment site Glassdoor claims have been asked by brutal employers in recent interviews as they look to whittle down the list of hopefuls vying for a place at their company. But when it comes to the IT channel, the balance of power has shifted away from employers and towards candidates so much that it might be more likely that such a grilling would come from the latter, not the former.
Demand for staff in both sales and tech roles in the channel rocketed throughout 2015, which has resulted in the hunters becoming the hunted when it comes to jobs. That is according to recruiters in the space, who have said the power is now most definitely in the hands of staff.
Marc Sumner, managing director of recruiter Robertson Sumner, said in the past a channel jobseeker could expect to be on the market for between six and eight weeks, but demand is now so high that they will likely be available for only 10 days. This, he said, means some staff are not even prepared to wait up to a week for a second interview to be arranged as they will likely get a better offer in the meantime.
"All these candidates are suddenly being bombarded with opportunities," he said. "They will get a phone call and within a week they will have six or seven interviews. A company can't wait a week between the first and second interviews these days, because [the candidate] will be gone."
The jobs market was swinging in the favour of jobseekers throughout 2015, he said, with the move accelerating significantly in Q4. He added that traditionally, moving jobs could see employees' pay packages boosted by up to 20 per cent, but that figure is now between 30 and 40 per cent.
The numbers appear to back up the recruiter's claims. According to data from CV-Library - which tracks the jobs market across a number of industries - in the IT space, the number of jobs created in 2015 was up 8.1 per cent on the year before. But over the same period, the number of job applications rose just 4.3 per cent, demonstrating a jobs surplus in the IT industry.
Tim Cazemage (pictured, below right), head of infrastructure practice at channel recruiter Stott and May, said rapid changes in technology have meant tech staff's value has shot through the roof - especially if they have multiple vendor accreditations.
"It's definitely a candidate-driven market," he said. "We found that converged infrastructure is huge and it has been talked about now over the past three or four years and has been implemented in the past 18 months in a much more practical way.
"So employers are looking to cross-train their consultants. A typical reseller that has been focused on storage and virtualisation will look to build a Cisco networking practice, for example, so they can offer that full converged infrastructure service to their clients. Once [staff] are cross-trained, they are in huge demand. It makes them more favourable to other [employers] too."
It's not just techies who have their pick of employment opportunities, Cazemage said, adding that channel firms will always be on the lookout for good sales staff.
"They are always in demand because it is money orientated," he said. "If it comes down to figures and facts - if someone is generating x number of millions, they can go just about anywhere so long as they are not a complete misfit from a personality perspective. All resellers are pitching for the same sort of business - they are tendering for the same sort of work - so if a salesperson pops up with a proven track record of making their current employer stacks of cash, and they decide to leave, they can pretty much go to any reseller they decide upon. It won't change; it comes down to money."
In the past, buying a newspaper and flicking through the vacancies would be the first step in seeking out a new role. But in today's digital world, even those people who are not necessarily looking to move on are bombarded with opportunities online. Whether it be job alerts via email, Twitter adverts or LinkedIn promos, opportunities are rife.
This is one of the main reasons that candidates wield so much power in the channel at the moment, Sumner added.
"Because social media is so prevalent now, [candidates] are so used to seeing similar jobs [to what they do]," he said. "But they're seeing what someone's paying them - say £5,000, £10,000 extra basic - and they are just going.
"There are not many people on the job boards because they are being approached direct, headhunted or seduced on LinkedIn. They don't even have to do anything; they are just waiting for people to approach them with opportunities and tout money at them."
But the move to digital can often prove to be a benefit channel companies, said Daisy's chief people officer David Jones.
"Previously, we would post an advert on a job board and we would receive CVs in response to that ad and run a very time-consuming sift for the top talent," he said.
"However, this traditional method of recruitment has been turned on its head. We are now far more proactive in seeking candidates than we have ever been, for example, taking the time to find people on LinkedIn through their digital CV and using much of this type of information to create our candidate shortlist.We are not far off having a TripAdvisor style of referencing in the future."
The channel is no stranger to quirky team-building novelties designed to keep staff happy in the hope that they won't move on. Nerf gun battles, bring your dog to work days and sales incentive trips are just some of the perks channel companies offer their staff.
But CV-Library data shows that in the IT industry, this is sometimes not enough.
"Learning how to attract even more qualified candidates to available vacancies is crucial for the IT sector," said Lee Biggins, managing director of CV-Library. "Our recent research revealed that 76.2 per cent of IT workers would opt for more money over workplace perks - indicating that improved wages are a better recruitment tactic than perks such as free food or early finishes. Unfortunately, salaries in the sector increased by only 0.9 per cent in 2015 when compared with 2014, meaning the decline in applications per vacancy could be attributed to unimpressive wages."
But there are other ways to win over staff without the wages bill going through the roof, according to Comms-care's sales director Rob Darby, who described recruiting and retaining staff as his "the single most difficult challenge". He said training is a great way to recruit and retain staff.
"Good salespeople don't move because if they are good, they will already be getting the salary and benefits that they want," he said.
"Our approach is to recruit new, fresh talent and bring them through the ranks - we can train them in the way we want them to work and also ensure that they are invested in the company, which in turn helps with retention.
"In the wider business, beyond sales, we are seeing a massive skills shortage for engineering and managed-services personnel. That's where we have gone down the apprenticeship and graduate route and again, where people progress through the ranks, they tend to feel valued by the business and become more loyal."
Daisy's Jones agreed that training can be more effective than novelty gimmicks.
"We approach employment as a genuine two-way contract," he said.
"More often than not in the past, candidates were asking what was in it for them. That is why Daisy's learning and development programme has become such an important element of our overall recruitment strategy.
"Offering all Daisy employees an opportunity to continue their learning around our new products and new ways of working allows them to continually develop in both a personal and a professional capacity."
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