This Is What Tech Hiring Could Be Like In 2021

While the number of open tech jobs took a hit in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some labor economists and tech recruiters are expecting a surge in hiring in the field in 2021. 

The U.S. tech industry posted the third-largest decrease in job postings among all sectors, according to ZipRecruiter data, but the COVID-19 vaccine and savings accrued by individuals and companies because of remote work could lead to robust hiring demand next year.

“We’re very bullish on hiring in 2021, particularly in tech,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter. “There are lots of reasons to be very, very optimistic about what’s going to happen in tech. One is that obviously the vaccine news is the big reason—there’s sort of an end to the pandemic in sight now.” 

Americans who have saved money staying home during the pandemic are poised to spend more once it’s over. Additionally, many large employers, like Oracle, have moved their headquarters to lower-cost areas or taken steps to make remote work more permanent, as was the case with Pinterest, which paid $90 million to terminate its San Francisco office lease

Shedding real estate typically leads to cost savings for companies, which in turn frees up dollars to hire more employees and grow, Pollak said.

Growth ahead

Art Zeile, CEO of DHI group, which owns tech job database Dice, also expressed optimism for tech hiring in 2021. Zeile said he expects a surge in interest in technologists once the pandemic is over.

“We believe that there will be a post-pandemic explosion of interest in technologists, and that includes within startups, with so many focusing on technological innovation,” Zeile said via email.

Zeile pointed to a Microsoft report from this year that estimated the total number of “technology-oriented” jobs would increase from 41 million in 2020 to 190 million in 2025.

The rosy outlook for 2021 is a far cry from where things were for tech hiring after February 2020.

While tech is one of the industries in which employees can work from home, job opportunities this year haven’t necessarily been up, according to Pollak.

“Tech is actually the industry with one of the largest declines in job postings and that’s perhaps surprising because with so many in-person brick-and-mortar types of industries on pause, one would think the internet would be taking over, and in many ways it is,” she said. “I think what this reflects is that many people who are able to work remotely and are continuing to have their jobs are no longer looking for new jobs the same way they were before the pandemic.” 

According to ZipRecruiter data, the average count of U.S. tech job openings fell from just over 1 million in February to 497,225 in June. The figure rose to 793,852 in November. 

Pre-COVID-19, more people employed in tech were “job hopping” because they were optimistic, according to Pollak. Now, the quit rate at tech companies has gone down, leading to fewer job postings. 

“People who have jobs are staying put because it’s hard to do this whole onboarding thing during the pandemic when you’re not going to the office,” she said.

Despite that, there’s huge interest in the jobs that are available, according to Pollak. ZipRecruiter has seen a “very high” number of applications per tech job posting. 

Filling a remote need

Remote work, however, has caused demand for certain tech jobs, according to Dice. Network engineers, for example, ranked third for tech job postings in the third quarter of 2020, according to Dice’s most recent Tech Job Report.

“In order to build, maintain, and secure these broadly dispersed networks of employees, companies need to hire network engineers and systems engineers, which may explain their high rank in Q3,” the report read. “If the nature of work looks fundamentally different in coming years, it will likely be in part because these innovative technologists figured out how to build out the necessary infrastructure.”

But shifting to a fully remote or hybrid model doesn’t always mean employees retain the same perks they had in the office. Some companies that are fully remote, like San Francisco-based Sourcegraph, offer location-agnostic salaries, where employees in the same role make the same amount regardless of where they live. Other companies, including large tech companies like Facebook, have said employees who relocate to lower-cost areas to work remotely will have their salaries adjusted (read: reduced).

According to Dice’s data, California and Texas topped the list of states leading tech hiring in 2020 Q3. California had 124,000 job postings—more than double Texas’ 54,000 job postings–with established tech hubs like San Francisco, Sunnyvale and Los Angeles leading the state for tech job postings. What’s more surprising, though, is that Florida and Georgia—not necessarily known as tech hubs—saw their state rankings for tech job postings jump in Q3. Florida moved up one spot to be ranked No. 5 and Georgia jumped five spots quarter over quarter to be ranked No. 8.

Home: the new workplace

Some companies have already taken steps toward permanently working remotely.

After Arizona-based startup Trainual executed its virtual company retreat successfully, CEO Chris Ronzio realized that even when things go back to “normal” post-COVID-19, the world still won’t be the same. 

“If we can do everything, month after month of growth and productivity, and we can even do a company event fully remote, I think this (remote work) can work and it’s only going to get better if we can meet in person a couple times a year,” Ronzio said.

The company made the decision to open up hiring to talent located outside of the Scottsdale, Arizona, area where Trainual is based, without the expectation that out-of-state hires would ever relocate. Trainual gave up its office in May and instead opened a 4,000-square-foot “company hub” in Scottsdale where employees can come and go if they need a place to work. The company now has employees in states including Pennsylvania, Tennessee and New Jersey.

Trainual’s adjustments are just one example of how startups and tech companies are adapting their hiring practices with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dropbox said in October that it would move to being “virtual first” and open “Dropbox Studios,” or spaces in cities where Dropbox currently has offices for employees to work should they choose to do so. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in May that the company would “aggressively” speed up remote hiring, CNBC reported.

According to ZipRecruiter’s Pollak, employers are being more “adventurous” with remote hiring, and it could be here to stay.

“I think that’s a major reason why a lot of this move (to remote work) will be permanent,” Pollak said. “Companies will see the benefit of expanding the talent pool is huge.”

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