The recruitment of executive-level or highly technical information technology (IT) professionals, particularly developers, is a major area of concern for leading national or multinational companies operating in Malaysia. With the demand of developers outstripping the available supply of talent, executive recruitment company Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia spoke to six human resources (HR) executives or hiring managers working for leading technology companies about the difficulties sourcing developers and what they are looking for in the perfect job candidate.
Monroe Malaysia Managing Director Monica Viladot said that while universities and other higher learning education centres in Malaysia were beginning to catch up with the demand for developers in the information technology sector, “paper qualifications” were no guarantee that graduates would be able to secure jobs with leading companies.
“The majority of human resources executives or hiring managers are concerned about the quality of many of these graduates, or even professionals with a couple of years’ experience under their belts,” Monica said. “And we are of the same opinion: if you don’t have the right attitude for the job, if you can’t think outside the box, or you have no desire to learn or develop yourself, you won’t get far as a developer.”
Monica said it was a real challenge for many companies to not only recruit the right developers, but to retain them. “It is not uncommon for senior information technology professionals to receive five job offers on LinkedIn in a single day, which is obviously driving salaries upwards,” she said.
Clarice Tay, vice president and head of acquisition and traffic generation for Tameko, a pioneer in the technology, media and telecommunications industries, said there were shortages of developers, both IOS and Android, as well as PHP developers.
Arvind Gasen, service delivery manager for Hitachi Sunway Network Solutions (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd said that given the surplus of graduates from universities it seemed “illogical” to have a supply shortage. “At any given time an advertisement is posted for a vacancy, there will be numerous applications with candidates boasting about their qualifications,” he said. “However, in my opinion, the reason why most companies are facing shortages is because the qualities that are looked for in a candidate cannot be measured by a certificate that one has obtained.”
Arvind said a certificate did not guarantee that the individual would become a reliable and dependable employee. “Candidates as of late have been severely lacking in terms of critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. They often seem lost when they encounter a problem or a complication that they may not have heard of from previous experiences or from what they have learned and often are not on the right track to look for answers.”
He said that many candidates were failing to push themselves and always expected knowledge to become a handout instead of a personal pursuit. “More often than not, a simple ‘I don’t know’ will suffice for them,” he said. “In this day and age, any sort of information can be obtained if proper research is done. With this in mind, it is simply not enough to have a certificate to prove your qualification but face a roadblock when the intellect is challenged.”
Ling Poh Teng, development manager for PleaseTech Ltd Malaysia, a software solutions company, said many senior application developers lacked knowledge in key areas such as application design. “There are a lot of developers out there but few of them have in-depth skills on how to design a robust or secure application, with a fair amount of knowledge on design patterns, or even how to write good codes that are expandable and maintainable.”
Englebert Lai, chief technology officer for M-Mode Berhad, said full-stack developers were difficult to recruit as they “need to know from front to back.” “The developers are usually only exposed to specific skill sets. We need people who really understand the systems while developing the applications. This will enable them to develop a more sophisticated system with limited resources.”
Shu Shean, a recruiter for Arvato Systems, said there were shortages of candidates with niche and solid technical skills, as well as “eloquent communication skills.”
Kim Sia Sim, data analytics manager for Tilde (Singapore) Pte Ltd, said it was not just about skills. “I want someone who wants to continue to grow and has a sense of craftsmanship in his or her work. In other words, self-motivated developers. One of the key questions I ask in interviews is to tell me about a project they are proud of and why.”
She said she looked more at the person when making a hiring decision. “A highly self-motivated individual can always adapt to the changes within the company and from the environment.”
Arvind said what was important was “the attitude the candidate or employee brings to the office.” “The roles that they need to play by far transcends the job description. It is imperative to think critically and intellectually. Why are these strong characteristics important? Simply because when faced with challenges, what becomes the highlight is not the problem itself but the attitude in which one approaches he problem. This is something that cannot be taught on the job but rather boils down to the individual.”
He said that in today’s work environment, there was always a solution to a problem if an individual is smart and persistent enough to look for answers. “These are the qualities that most employers look for and based on my experience is one of the most essential things a majority of candidates nowadays lack.”
Arvin said the results of the quality of some of the candidates meant that “constant supervision and guidance becomes a must,” which “becomes a burden on the company.”
“Let’s take, for example, a candidate as a form of investment. An investment is supposed to produce returns but in this matter if the candidate needs to be supervised to the minutia, why hire them to bleed the monthly payroll?”
He said it was an issue when five people needed to be hired to do the job of one person. “This is because a broader range of tasks that can be undertaken by a highly resourceful and intellectual person who has the ability to think outside of the box and solve problems, has to be broken down into smaller sub tasks simply because the candidate hired does not have the qualities and characteristics to organize and manage these tasks.”
Kim said he would love to hire more self-motivated and coachable people. “Every time I hire a person who is not coachable or not self-motivated, I die a little bit inside,” he said. “All paper qualifications mean nothing to me. Even the so-called skillset. Because I believe given the right motivations, anybody can learn. Also because new technologies are coming up so fast, the length of experience makes little to no sense as a hiring criteria.”