1998 was when McKinsey released a paper on “the war for talent.” That was 20 years ago.

In the intervening time, we’ve had much less a war for talent — i.e. getting good people — and much more a war on talent, i.e. alienating the hell out of job-seekers. That’s not good, and you know what? Talent management experts agree, telling Fast Company recently that:

Instead of winning a war for talent, organizations appear to be waging a war on talent, repelling and alienating employees more successfully than harnessing their skills. The result is a highly inefficient job market where most companies complain about their talent shortages while most employees complain about their pointless jobs. The definition of a bad deal is when both sides lose.

How can we improve what’s happening here?

Step 1: Understand the reality

Most people who come to run businesses believe these concepts are important:

  • Cost
  • Processes
  • Products
  • Services
  • Scale
  • Repeated processes

People are important, but these concepts are often more important. Even if we don’t always want to admit it, many executives view people in the lower and middle ranks as interchangeable. This is why companies often don’t invest in training, because the executive-level theory is “Why pay for something if those people are going to leave anyway?”

Step 2: Understand the second part of the reality

The cost/process/scale model is a little flawed, because of a few other factors:

  • Almost every company right now is, to some degree, a tech company.
  • While automation is getting to scale, it’s never going to fully replace humans working in companies.
  • You still need good people.
  • But the market for those good people is incredibly tight, especially in “tech hubs;” we’ve seen numbers that tech unemployment in certain North American cities is under 4%.
  • Many companies currently use agile or road map models where you need the right people in place to start Project No. 1, and that builds to Project No. 2, No. 3, etc.
  • When you lack quality employees in a road map model, it’s very easy to go over-budget quickly — and that is a major worry for executives.

Level-Set: Where do we stand?

We mostly have inefficient hiring processes and we oftentimes alienate our best candidates at a time when we need to be doing the opposite.

Step 3: Let’s try to fix this

The No. 1 complaint that most tech job candidates have is a variation on the following:

  • “I wasn’t communicated with.”
  • “The hiring process was very generic and didn’t get into technical skills; I’m not even sure the hiring manager understood the role he was hiring for.”

These are both solvable problems.

More communication: Use email automation and chatbots. Allow FAQs to be handled in that manner. Set up a trigger with your ATS so that candidates get updates on their status at 1, 3, and 5 weeks. Design a more empathetic “Sorry, you didn’t get advanced” email.

Generic Process: Bring in third-party experts, or have members of the team that the candidate will join do early-stage interviews. Make sure the hiring manager has justified why he/she needs this job open. Make sure the hiring manager can explain what the role does. Make sure he/she can explain that to the recruiter.

Step 4: The bottom line

If you want to improve your recruiting processes and get the best tech talent possible, you need to operate at this intersection:

  • Figure out where your problems and bottlenecks are
  • Look at how technology could help solve those
  • Make sure your people are working on relationship-building instead of scheduling and other repetitive tasks
  • Work on convincing the top tech talent of your value prop and let tech handle the nuts and bolts


Deepti Yenireddy is the Founder and CEO of My Ally, the makers of Alex, an AI recruiting assistant. Prior to starting My Ally, Yenireddy was an investor at USGT Investors and Oppenheimer Funds. Yenireddy, who began her career as a Petrophysicist and Field Engineer at Shell and Schlumberger, studied Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and resides in San Jose.