A Labor Market and Tech Hiring Deep Dive with Rhea Moss of iCIMS

Can companies find the talent they need in the current labor market? William Tincup and Rhea Moss, an expert from iCIMS, tackle this question together. As the leader of iCIMS’ insights program, Moss brings her extensive research experience to shed light on the aggregate activity of iCIMS’ customer base, consisting of 6,000 companies. The labor market is pretty complex, which means we’re going to need some efficient recruitment strategies to stay ahead of the game.

Throughout the conversation, Moss provides valuable data-driven insights into job applications, hiring trends, and time-to-fill statistics. The duo delves into the paradoxical dynamics of the labor market, where a surge in the number of applicants for technical positions contrasts with a slowdown in technical hiring. They investigate the reasons behind this phenomenon, such as companies’ hesitancy to invest in new projects and talent amidst economic uncertainties.

Another crucial aspect of their discussion involves the potential impact of generative AI on the supply of technical talent. Moss emphasizes the importance of human involvement in critical decision-making processes, highlighting the unique insights and understanding that human professionals bring to the table. While AI can enhance efficiency, the expertise and judgment of recruiters remain indispensable.

There’s a myriad of challenges and opportunities in this ever-evolving tech hiring landscape, so let’s try to make sense of it together!

Listening Time: 20 minutes

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Rhea Moss
Global Head of Workforce and Customer Insights iCIMS

Data aficionado, passionate leader, intellectual thrill-seeker, women in tech advocate, customer cheerleader and strategic advisor.

With nearly 15 years of experience in various data insights, customer intelligence, software engineering and product management roles, I proudly serve as the Global Head of Workforce and Customer Insights at iCIMS, the talent cloud company that has nearly 6,000 customers worldwide.


A Labor Market and Tech Hiring Deep Dive with Rhea Moss of iCIMS

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today, we have Ria Mollison from iSIMS, and we are going to be talking about labor, market, and tech hiring deep dive. So we get to talk about numbers, and this is going to be fun. So, uh, Ria, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and what you

Rhea Moss: do at iSIMS?

Absolutely. Thank you for having me. Um, I am always excited to talk labor market, always excited to talk [00:01:00] data. Um, I lead our insights program at ISIMS, which is our research program that gets to look at the aggregate activity of the whole ISIMS customer base. So what are our 6, 000 customers doing? Are people applying for jobs?

Are companies finding those people? How long is it taking? And then really get to share it with kind of the rest of the world, which we all seem kind of sitting on the edge of our seat right now, waiting for that information.

William Tincup: Yeah, it’s, it’s uh, 2024, you know, what is it, uh, six weeks away and you get Again, you turn on any of the AM radio shows and get half the people that are going to say, it’s going to be worse than ever.

And then you get some people that are like really super optimistic, like, you know, inflation didn’t go down as bad as, as much as we thought it would like, okay, maybe that’s a sign. I don’t know.

Rhea Moss: Yeah. Yeah. That’s the million dollar question. I think we’d all be rich if we knew the answer to that question.

I think. That what’s interesting as we look at it from a talent acquisition perspective is we can look at all of the [00:02:00] economic data that we want. You know, what is unemployment doing? What are resignation rates looking like? What about reductions in force? What about inflation? And then wage inflation? But what I hear when we talk so much, when I talk to so many of our customers is just, that’s all great, but can I find the talent I need right

William Tincup: now?

Right, right. Supply and demand.

Rhea Moss: Yeah, exactly. Um, and also what’s going on with my competition? Are people hiring right now? Um, are people applying for jobs right now, you know, really just more of those actual metrics in the TA world that are relevant to what we’re trying to do every day. Right,

William Tincup: right. With, with tech hiring in particular, what are you, what are you seeing?

Let’s just paint that first and we’ll dig into it.

Rhea Moss: Yeah, I mean, I’ll start by saying, um, you know, I’m going to admit I don’t really listen to the AM radio necessarily, but you know, the news plays in the background of my house a lot, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, um, you can’t hide from that right side of your LinkedIn page with all the, all the news, which you have to know is obviously, [00:03:00] those set of articles are meant for you, and they, they’re, they know what I’m reading, and they’re serving up more of the type of articles I’m reading, but, to answer your question, There does seem to be this extreme narrative that is circling tech companies.

Um, but what’s really interesting is when we think of technical applicants or folks that are applying to technical positions, be that in any industry, those headlines aren’t necessarily having the effect that we would think they would. Um, huge, huge surges in the number of applicants. It’s almost up 70 percent year over year, but what’s interesting is actually there’s a slowdown in technical hiring right now.

Um, hires are down about 20 percent from last year, and then openings are down a little, almost to 10%, which is interesting as you think about that, right? If you think of supply and demand, right, we’ve got this huge surge in the supply and a little bit of a slowdown in demand and what that is showing right now is if your company is trying to hire in tech or build talent pools in tech, it’s a really, really great time to be putting those jobs out there.[00:04:00]

William Tincup: So why the, why the slowdown in, I mean, again, in just interpreting kind of what you think is there, what, why, uh, is it, is it just, they’re not building more or they’re changing their direction in terms of, we, we needed certain skills before, we don’t need those skills now, and they’re kind of hitting pause, like, What’s, uh, why?

Rhea Moss: Why? I think they all, we all would hope it’s the latter. I don’t think that’s the case. We know there’s a skill shortage in technical talent, and I don’t think that’s going to be slowing down in any time in the near future. But we also know that a lot of times technical teams are hired to build new things, and building new requires investment, and the willingness to spend, and a lot of companies are either not getting those funds right now, We know a lot of funding has really started to dry up, um, but also a lot of companies that are kind of holding their breath on this notion of whether or not there will be a recession, which we’re still having the same conversation a year plus later, are saying investing in tech talent, one, is expensive, [00:05:00] we know that, right?

This is not an inexpensive hire to most companies. And then two, it’s, you want to have that talent to invest in the next product. The next big project or the next big thing, um, and that may be companies kind of holding off on that for a minute and saying, let’s sell what we have and see how that goes before we go really make an investment in what’s new.

It’s interesting

William Tincup: because like, uh, the VC market, especially in our space, it’s what I see is a lot of what they used to call analysis paralysis, where the venture partners don’t know. What to do with AI in the sense of like, in the mid nineties, everyone knew the internet was coming, but they didn’t, they didn’t know to what degree it was impact everything.

Right. Now, same thing with AI. They know it’s coming. They know it’s here. They know it’s doing stuff, but they don’t, they don’t know how it plays out. So I see a lot of venture partners just kind of sitting on their hands because they don’t want to make the wrong bet. [00:06:00] So I’m wondering if, like, when you’re looking at innovation and people, uh, not, not, not building as much, maybe not, not innovating and not, not, uh, not hiring the talent to do those things, I wonder how much of that is to do with they don’t know what to build

Rhea Moss: yet.

That’s fair. I think none of us know how this is going to play out. Right. And I spend a lot of my time in the HR and the talent acquisition circles and conversations. And while I think there is an overwhelming sense. of excitement we’re on the edge of something we all want to see how this plays out there.

You know, the other side of that coin is what could go wrong, right? I’m going to date back a bit here. Maybe five, six years ago when we started to see just AI, not Gen AI, but AI started to infiltrate and at first it was really exciting and then you heard some companies that had a little bit of, you know, negative headlines come out about things [00:07:00] they built and these things had taken on a bias of sorts or a mind of their own.

I’m thinking back of, you know, you heard about models that were going to match candidates to jobs. And then you heard stories of things like we realized the model would, would exclude people from. And Female only colleges because the training set we used was our current staff and we didn’t really have female interiors, right?

I think there’s this other very smart, intelligent thing to do, which is like, I don’t know that this is like something I want to be overly cutting edge on in the, in the HR space. Because from a legal perspective, from an HR perspective, um, I think there are going to be incredible uses of it. But I think in general we’re all kind of going, um, let’s make sure we’re not the one who makes that first big mistake with it.

William Tincup: That’s right, and so from that, I want to ask you, with Gen AI, how do you, how do you think this is going to impact the supply of technical talent? Because for years we would [00:08:00] say, we don’t have enough software engineers just to build the things that we want to build now, much less the things in the future.

Whereas now, I don’t know Python, but I know what I want Python to do. I can use generative AI to create. what I wanted to do. I didn’t have to go and get a degree in computer science or a degree in software engineering or anything like that. Uh, so my technical skills, which used to be harder to acquire, There, there, it seems, let me put an asterisk next to that, it seems like some of that’s not going to be as hard to acquire those skills in the future.

You’re going to need different skills, you’re going to need prompting skills and other types of skills. You need, you know, you’ll be, you know, like when the internet first. Came on the commercialized internet, Boolean, you had to learn, you had to know how to search. Correct. And so masters of library sciences and librarians, [00:09:00] they knew how the hell to use the internet better than anybody in the world because they knew how to search.


Rhea Moss: I think, I think there’s a couple of things there. I’ll unpack a few things you said. One, I think there will be efficiencies that are brought. Two, I think that. There will always be a need to understand. The logic and the methodology behind something. And I say this, um, because, you know, I, I remember, um, aging myself a little bit here, right?

But I was in high school, and when I was in high school, calculus, they’d just come out with these calculators that you could do calculus in the calculator, right? And I remember all my teachers saying we can’t use your calculator in your test because you’re not going to have a calculator in your hand your whole life.

Well, it did not age well. Um, but what I will say is I work with data scientists and data analysts every day and we do all of our analytics and, um, you know, I’ll just be [00:10:00] very self honest and deprecating here and say that I don’t know that I could do their job tomorrow if I needed to exactly. But there are definitely times that I see the numbers come up and I say, like, I don’t know what the right answer is, but I know that’s not it.

Because I understand what we were trying to do from a mathematical, theoretical perspective, and I can tell you that the value should have come out somewhere between 20 and 40, and you just told me it’s 350. And I think that that is that human element, that even with a Gen AI tool, even with someone who, this is the difference between someone who knows how to code Python, Right.

Using that to make their Python code spit out faster, but still knowing when they see something to go, I think that computer made a mistake. Because there, there’s a use case that doesn’t require that human in the loop. Then why would we even have a human in the role? Why wouldn’t we just let the thing write code

William Tincup: for us?

Right. It’s, it’s interesting because it gets back to a conversation I had with a software [00:11:00] developer about 20 years ago. And he said, listen, there’s, there’s always going to be people that can code, but what you need is someone that’s an architect or someone that’s strategic that has the vision of where that needs to go.

That’s not going to be supplanted. And you want

Rhea Moss: to say this, did spell check and did grammar check and Microsoft Word put copywriters out of work? No. Right. So that’s where I think, you know, yes, it’s really helpful and it takes the average person like me who just fat fingers a typo. It makes me, you know, quicker, better, a little bit less.

Thanks. Um, that’s why I was saying efficiency, but I don’t know necessarily that it’s, it’s going to say this can just do the job. And I think we think a lot about this from the ISIM side on the recruiting front. We’re not saying that a Gen AI tool should be able to go sort through the resumes that applied for a job, pick the person, convince them to work at your company, make them the offer and hire them.

Worst thing, right? Think about that. That is the job of a recruiter. Now, could you give the recruiter some [00:12:00] tools that will help them Be, you know, summarize this candidate’s resume for me, or help me come up with questions to ask that candidate that will help me figure out more efficiently whether they’re a fit for this role.

That’s the type of thing I think we’re going to see those use cases. Take the people I have, let them stay good at their core skills, right? Those human relationships, right? Connection, um, listening to an answer and getting a feeling of if they’d be a fit. And then help them with the other stuff that they’re spending.

Instead of now, 20 minutes before an interview, they need to read the resume, remind themselves of the job description, maybe let a technology do that. Maybe let technology start with, you know, use these three questions, or here’s three things we see on the resume that are interesting that you should ask about, right?

I think that’s where we’re going to see it become more powerful. We talk a lot in recruiting right now, right? The teams are smaller, a lot of TA teams are smaller than they’ve ever been, and we say, Take, you’re being asked to do more with less. I think these tools will help the [00:13:00] people that are in the roles be able to do a little bit

William Tincup: more.

I love that. So, I’ve said for years for folks that have not been through multiple recessions or downturns, the first thing that comes back, at least that I can remember, is staffing, is you see the uptick in staffing faster. And, and so if, if staffing firms are starting to kind of uptick, then it, then, then basically hiring is, is, it’s going to follow, uh, and full time employment is going to follow.

Now that’s kind of just kind of, um, kind of generic way to think about it, but what do you think when, when, not if, when things come back, especially in, in technical hiring, what will we see first? Like, you know, it’s like, I don’t know. Did you ever, do you remember the, uh Is the, uh, the thing that happened in Indonesia, where, uh, it is a tsunami, did you ever watch any of these videos where the water goes [00:14:00] out first, it goes way, way out and like all the animals are running, so it’s like if I’m ever on a beach somewhere and like the animals are running somewhere and the water goes out, okay, you know what, I’m going with the animals.

Anyhow, um, what do we see first? Like, what do you think this, we need to keep an eye on this because it’s a leading indicator. If this is, if this is an uptick, then these are the things that we’ll see next.

Rhea Moss: So we, and I say we as sort of all the companies in the whole wide world that’s now a we, um, we saw in 2020 this effect where we saw a lot of recruiters lose their roles.

And we saw a lot more, um, unemployment in that space. And then when we started to kind of come out of the economic situation that initially came with the pandemic, um, we saw recruiters being hired in droves. That’s right. And I think back on, you know, those headlines that were, [00:15:00] I can think of one specifically off the top of my head that was like the hardest.

The first role to recruit for is a recruiter. And we heard these headlines about, you know, certain companies in Silicon Valley paying these astronomical wages for recruiter positions. And the reason wasn’t that they necessarily all of a sudden felt like these recruiters were worth it, it’s that they were so desperate to hire the other roles that they first had to hire the recruiter.

for the recruiters to go fill those other positions. Right. We’ve been actually watching recruiter sort of key metrics for the recruiter roles. Um, they’re called HR specialists by their standard, um, their standard occupation code. But what we’ve seen and we continue to see is this very, very steep decline in openings and hires of recruiters.

Um, I think when we’re really starting to turn the corner, when we’re coming out of this from, um, a hiring perspective. We will see those recruiter roles really start to open up if companies are being smart, because like I say a lot, you know, [00:16:00] if, if our CTO, Al Smith, I love to use him as an example. Um, if Al comes to Laura, our chief people officer and says, Hey, Laura, I’m ready to invest again.

I’m going to hire, you know, three agile teams of software engineers. Um, in most companies, the answer right now is going to be, well, great, but I’ve got to go hire a recruiter. To hire those folks for you, um, and when you add up all of those time to fill and ramp times, you know, you’re looking at over half a year.

And I think that’s the piece that, um, I would love to say it’s going to be an early leading indicator. That would be if companies act really smart. Will it be? I’m not sure, but I think we’ll really know times are changing. Um, to your point about staffing, companies turn to staffing agencies when they don’t have that talent in house.

That’s right. I think that’s what we will start to see is those recruiter roles open back up. Um, for anybody who didn’t catch last month’s insights report, it is not happening yet, very much not happening. Um, but what is interesting is that the [00:17:00] applicants to those recruiter roles are actually starting to decline as well, which says there’s a very interesting kind of thought here is are recruiters over it?

We’ve done this to the pool of talent right now. We have really put them through the ringer the last couple of years, right? Um, you know, for you. Wait a minute. Yes, there is. We’ll pay you a lot. Just kidding. There’s not a job for you. We might be off for now, but it’s a lot less than what you got a year and a half ago.

I mean, think about what the recruiting profession has been through. Yeah. It’s psychotic. And think about the skills those people have. Oh my goodness. I mean, just general business skills, right? Like you could make them, you could put them in sales because they’ve been selling. Your company, not your products for a long time.

You could put them in having any difficult conversation because that’s what they do for a living. Um, they are great at people relationships. They’re great at persuasion. And I think that talent, we may see a huge skill shortage there. Because I think that talent is going, I’m looking at these other roles in my company and they have not been fired and hired and fired and hired and [00:18:00] fired.

Um, And I think that we may see when that time comes, some really interesting headlines around not being able to get people to take those positions.

William Tincup: I like that. I like that a lot. You mentioned the Insights Report. Um, I was going to ask you the question of how do you distill this information for your clients?

Uh, because you know, you’re sitting on thousands of clients and they are curious about how this is playing out. Yeah. So how do you, what do you, what do you do with the Insights Report?

Rhea Moss: Well, I get to talk to wonderful people like you. Uh huh, uh huh. I love to share it at industry conferences. You know, we’ve been on the circuit this year.

It’s been a great time. Um, but we also put out a monthly report on isims. com slash insights. I will shamelessly plug. Publicly available every month. Always starts out with the three key indicators in the economy, right? Just our companies. Opening jobs, are people applying for them and are companies hiring them?

Again, not survey, just actual usage data of 6, 000 customers. Uh, [00:19:00] that comes out mid month, uh, actually came out this morning. If you’re listening later, it came out on November 16th for this month. Um, and then we also, if you are a customer of ISIMS, we also do provide services where we give some really deep dive, uh, regular cadence reporting on certain topics, certain industries or higher types.

And then finally, um, for those special few, we also will do one on one consulting engagements where we’ll go in and build full blown, you know, custom analytics and benchmarks for companies for the business problems that they’re trying to solve. Drops mic, walks

William Tincup: off stage. Thank you so much for your time.

I love talking to you. Of course. It’s

Rhea Moss: always

William Tincup: fun. Well, there you go. And thanks for everyone listening. Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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