Tech skills for hire: Why the industry’s layoffs could be your gain

The tech industry’s layoffs flood the talent market with highly skilled workers. Here’s why it’s a great time to hire these people—Teven outside your industry.

Tech skills for hire: Why the industry’s layoffs could be your gain

If your LinkedIn feed is filled with highly skilled tech connections announcing they’re unexpectedly in the job market, sporting the “open to work” filter, you’re far from alone. The tech sector is continuing its cuts, with nearly 170,000 workers laid off from tech companies in 2023 alone, according to tracking site  

The layoffs show no signs of slowing down soon. Yahoo announced that it will lay off 20 percent of its staff by the end of 2023. Microsoft plans to reduce its workforce by 5 percent and let go over 10,000 people this year. And Amazon recently announced it will continue its layoffs of about 9,000 more workers. Several tech companies reported that they’re laying people off because they hired too many while expanding during the pandemic years — and now, in an uncertain economy, they need to course-correct. 

With the flood of skilled tech workers looking for new jobs, many organizations outside that industry are looking to hire them. In fact, our data scientists say that now is the perfect time for other industries to hire tech talent to fill in critical skills gaps that they need to expand their operations. 

One such example is Walmart. According to The New York Times, the retailer filled many of its 5,000 tech openings with employees from Silicon Valley companies. The company convinced many former tech employees to make the move by focusing on the fact that their work will reach millions of customers. 

Many unemployed workers have skills that easily transfer to new roles — and even new industries. By using a skills-based approach to hiring, organizations can better understand how candidates can transfer skills from one job or industry to another.

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Go outside your industry comfort zone to find the skills you need

Groupthink exists not only in individual organizations, but also throughout industries. By going outside your industry for talent, you can bring new perspectives and ideas to your team. Professionals who work in a specific sector for an extended period of time often become comfortable with the way things have always been done, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Carly Ackerman, Director of Customer Experience for VIP Accounts and Partnerships at Eightfold, says that employees moving into a new industry tend to be adaptable and open to new ways of working. 

“Hiring candidates from outside your industry opens the door to innovation,” Ackerman said. “Someone who isn’t experienced in your sector won’t have industry fatigue and may be able to bring new and fresh ideas into the workplace. Employees also tend to be energized by jumping into a new industry, meaning they bring excitement and drive to your team.” 

Widening your search to other industries opens up your talent pool, which provides you with more candidates to choose from and can increase diversity in your workforce. Additionally, you may be more likely to find the right candidates for positions that are harder to fill, which improves productivity. Organizations in more remote areas may especially benefit from the broader talent pool, especially recruiting teleworkers who can help with digital needs. 

Moving to a skills-based evaluation method

Hiring from other industries requires a mindset shift. Instead of focusing on candidates with specific titles or roles, organizations should look for employees with skills, or adjacent skills, that are transferable to their open positions. 

For this to work, recruiters and hiring managers need to be open-minded, keep their skill wishlists as general as possible, and include aspects like adaptability and drive. Once you hire the right people with transferable skills, you can provide training to fill in the knowledge gaps. 

For example, many organizations hire teachers for their instructional design and training departments. Although these educators often don’t have industry experience, their expertise in presenting information in an understandable manner make it a relatively easy transition. 

“When interviewing, focus on human skills, including evidence of a growth mindset, ability to navigate ambiguity, and problem-solving,” said Rebecca Warren, Director of Customer Success at Eightfold. “Most importantly, look to hire excellent communicators.” 

Because recruiters and hiring managers are accustomed to looking for technical skills, organizations need to provide training and guidance on what other skills to look for and how to evaluate them. By creating a list of sample interview questions and evaluation criteria, organizations can help managers open their minds to new candidates while also hiring employees who are good fits for the role.

“It’s difficult if your recruiters don’t understand what transferable skills are needed for the role,” Ackerman said. “HR can help the hiring managers understand the skills and then how to hone in on those skills during the interview, such as asking questions that describe situations demonstrating a time that they solved a complex problem or managed conflict.” 

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Challenges of hiring from other industries

While there are many benefits to looking at candidates from other industries, you must also overcome some challenges during the shift. 

Here are common challenges organizations encounter: 

  • Managers who are not open to a new profile. Because it can feel like a big shift for managers, organizations should focus on communicating the benefits and providing support for hiring managers during the process. Look for examples of employees already in your organization who came from another industry to hold up as an example of success.
  • Employees need training in the industry and organization. Because the manager must train the employee on additional skills and provide industry knowledge, these employees take extra time to get up to speed. Organizations should make sure managers have the time and resources to properly train new employees without causing extra stress or impacting deadlines.
  • Compensation and benefit differences. Some industries have a much higher pay scale, which can make it harder for people to make the shift. Employees in higher paying industries, like tech, may not be willing to take a pay cut.

Transitioning to hiring from other industries

Successfully hiring new employees from other industries requires a greater shift than just where to focus recruiting efforts. 

You need to also refine your internal hiring processes to increase the acceptance rate for job offers from employees outside your industry. Additionally, your organization should provide support and training for managers and employees to set these industry newcomers up for success. 

“You have to create the carrot on the stick that they’re running toward,” Warren said. “The last thing you want is for folks to join your organization if they’re just running away from something.”

Here are five best practices to follow:

  • Give managers flexibility with compensation and benefits. Employees coming from other industries are likely used to different compensation scales and benefits. You may need to increase the compensation and benefits for some positions or offer hiring bonuses to attract these employees. Also consider offering flexibility and remote working options. Many tech workers specifically look for inclusive benefits, such as maternity/paternity leave and family-planning options.
  • Showcase your company’s stability. Many people looking for a job, especially those laid off from tech companies, are looking for stability. Talk with candidates about your employee tenure stats, future growth prospects, and stock performance (if public). Because environmental, social, and governance is a top consideration for many candidates, talk about your sustainability practices and programs. Additionally, show, don’t tell, prospective employees how committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion your company is, which is a current issue many tech employees have with their industry.
  • Talk about innovation. Employees in other industries, especially technology, work with innovation on a daily basis. Share details about the exact type of work they will be doing as well as any innovative tools they will get to use in their new jobs.
  • Provide mentorship programs. Connecting new employees with experienced employees from the same industry provides them with the support they need to successfully make the transition. Often, someone from a similar background can explain the new industry in a way that they can best understand.
  • Consider using cohorts for onboarding. When you start groups of employees from other industries at the same time, they can provide each other with support. These employees also can connect with each other as they make the transition together.

Your organization’s revenue growth and ability to serve customers depends on having the right people in the right roles. By looking outside your typical candidates and hiring from other industries your organization can find its next star employee.

Learn more about building a more resilient, agile workforce with our infobook on taking a skills-based approach.

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