Do You Really Need a Rocket Scientist?

In a previous blog post, we initiated a discussion about whether there is a shortage of IT skills in South Africa. In a series of upcoming posts, we’ll expand on each of the points we made to further the discussion. As specialist recruiters in the IT industry, we often come across what we call the rocket scientist mentality, as it relates to the expectations that some companies have of the candidates they want to hire. In other words, it’s the mentality that only hiring a candidate with the highest possible qualifications, will do, even when this is not the case.

In our experience, this expectation leaves many candidates with impressive credentials feeling frustrated because the rocket scientist job they took wasn’t everything it was advertised to be. This can be frustrating all round as it results in the rocket scientist don’t end up doing the challenging work they are supposed to be doing, and disappointingly, means that they end up doing lower level work instead which result in a resignation. So what is really the problem behind this, and the solution, and is there really a skills shortage to the extent it’s being communicated?

The Problem

  • If you’re setting up a candidate for disappointment by overpromising and under delivering, it’s going to be difficult to secure and retain the right people in the long term.
  • If there is truly a skills shortage, chasing highly qualified/experienced people doing less complex work will just accentuate the myth of a shortage.
  • Rocket scientists, unicorns and ninjas cost a lot more per head than just competent developers. They are also significantly harder to find and attract. This has and will always be the case.

In addition, the issues associated with finding the rocket scientist are: justifying salary expectation, losing numerous rockets scientists due to under offering and when you eventually hire the rocket scientist you lose him anyway as he simply isn’t challenged in your environment!

Our Solution

  • Analyse your need thoroughly. Understand your build needs, budget and team culture.
  • It’s important to have a clear understanding of what is needed vs what is wanted. As an employer, we suggest creating a variables spec giving you a clear picture of your wish list vs your needs list. Don’t get lost in looking for a rocket scientist when you are building Toyotas.
  • Try to enable yourself to look at variables. The stronger Developer may lack specific tech but be able to learn them quickly or perhaps is already using them at home. The weaker Developer may have the tech experience already but be limited in terms of future proofing.
  • Can you afford to make an investment hire (a younger Dev who you can groom) or do you have the budget to go after a veteran who can hit the ground running?

What are your thoughts on the rocket scientist mentality? Is this something you’ve also come across in the IT industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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