Whether hiring for cybersecurity, software development, or other in-demand roles, businesses routinely struggle to recruit and retain technical talent.
According to Deloitte, nearly 60% of tech industry leaders describe getting fresh talent in the door as “a major challenge.” A further 40% paint retention in the same terms, with experienced employees frequently jumping ship in search of more lucrative opportunities. Economic headwinds have also impacted hiring, with many companies now prioritizing senior technical talent over early-career hiring.
The rationale? Recent grads and early-career employees come with their share of challenges. Like any new technical hire, it can take months to fully ramp up early-career talent. Worries over technical skill gaps, cultural fit, and long-term retention lead many to view early-career employees as a risky investment—or even an outright liability.
But there’s also lots to love about Gen Z, from both a cultural and financial perspective. Despite the risks, an early-talent recruitment strategy can be a significant growth lever for companies. Let’s explore the reasons why.
Hiring early career technical talent—challenging misconceptions
The impacts of two generational trends—baby boomers exiting the workforce while Gen Z enter—is already beginning to impact the composition of all types of organizations.
While managing this sort of demographic change poses a challenge, innovative companies are tackling misconceptions surrounding early career technical talent and leveraging talent acquisition strategies for growth.
Let’s break down some of the common misconceptions surrounding early-career talent acquisition strategies.
Misconception No. 1: An early-talent acquisition strategy is too expensive to invest in
But investing in a campus recruitment strategy is still an added expense. Many companies balk at the costs of working with a campus recruiting agency or hiring an early careers team to handle recruitment internally—all of which requires dedicated resources.
One thing these companies overlook? The cost of hiring mid-career and senior-level talent is often much higher. For example, it’s estimated the cost of hiring an entry-level worker will run you about 20% of their salary. For mid-career employees, this figure is much higher—often 1 to 1.5 times their annual salary.
Then there’s the issue of the salary itself. Mid-career salaries for technical workers are far and away higher than their entry-level counterparts. According to data from levels.fyi, 50th percentile salaries for L1 software engineers were about $170,000. Compare this to the 50th percentile for mid-career, L3 engineers—$320,000.
For most companies, it’s much more cost effective to source and train entry-level talent than it is to lean on mid-level hires and their salary demands.
Pro tip: Partnering with organizations like CodePath can help companies save compared to the costs of recruiting internally
The costs of recruiting your own early-career talent can add up quickly. Between recruiters salaries at $70k a head and paying to post to job websites, advertising at career events, and bulking up with an external agency, organizations of all sizes see per-hire costs balloon.
Fortunately, going with an early-talent partener can dramatically scale back the costs of hiring external recruiting agencies or an internal recruiting team—all while connecting you to a diverse cohort of highly-skilled early tech professionals. CodePath interns convert to full-time employees 86% of time—around 30% higher than the national average. Learn more about our programs for employers here.
Misconception No. 2: Gen Z talent is harder to retain
Lots of media coverage has described the perceived tendencies of Gen Z to change jobs more frequently.
While it’s true different generations of workers have different outlooks on job mobility, this doesn’t paint a complete picture. Some of the characteristics that define Gen Z also make them likelier to stay at companies where they feel valued.
Why? For starters, a large portion of Gen Z grew up in the backdrop of the 2008 recession. Many witnessed parents or other family members struggle to find work—a circumstance that provides crucial context to the perception of their own careers. In other words, job security matters to early-talent.
Gen Z also champions a set firmly held values around diversity, inclusion, and mission-led organizations. When businesses make efforts to showcase their values transparently and authentically, it can go a long way toward inspiring loyalty for the youngest workers.
Misconception No. 3: Experienced talent makes up for gaps in early career hires
The rate of technological change has made it difficult for many traditional curriculums to adequately prepare students for the demands of full-time work. A full 87% of companies surveyed by McKinsey either identify a present skills gap or anticipate facing one in the coming years.
But there are also significant challenges that come with hiring engineers at any level. And neglecting to invest in early talent is leaving many organizations ill-prepared.
A survey from HackerNoon asked 80 engineers and engineering managers how long it takes to ramp up new engineering hires. Experienced engineers take 3–9 months to start producing real value in their roles; in some cases, it can be up to a year.
Even when experienced engineers reach productivity, there are still challenges. In addition to demanding higher salaries, mid-level engineers are switching to non-technical roles at higher rates than they were a few years ago. They also pivot to other companies much faster than the national median tenure of 4.2 years for all roles.
The above points don’t negate the challenges posed by the technical skills gap for new engineers. But they underscore why having a steady pipeline of early-career engineers to fill in for departing mid-career talent is a major value-add for companies.
Misconception No. 4: Gen Z isn’t a good cultural fit
The generation of youngest workers has a unique outlook forged by the circumstances of their upbringing and experiences. But that doesn’t mean they’ll clash with the existing cultures of the places where they’ll work.
On the contrary—Gen Z’s characteristics make them desirable candidates for organizations looking to bolster their workforces as more of the older generation sets their sights on retirement.
For starters, Gen Z is values-oriented. According to Deloitte, Gen Z heavily favors companies whose values align with their own—with 77% of workers claiming it’s important. This is especially true when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Companies championing these values in their marketing communications and internal cultures can also reap the reward of increased retention and loyalty from Gen Z workers.
Gen Z is also highly autonomous. Deloitte’s survey confirmed many Gen Z professionals prefer individual over group tasks. But that doesn’t mean they want to work in total isolation—they still place a value on physical connection. The takeaway: Gen Z can be trusted to work independently without creating clashes in the workplace.
Finally, Gen Z is highly tech-adept. As the first truly digital-native generation, the youngest workers excel at integrating into high-tech workforces. 51% of Gen Z workers surveyed highlight the tech industry as a top place to work.
CodePath is preparing top young talent for the jobs of tomorrow
Eager to learn how CodePath connects companies to world-class early-career talent? See our solutions for employer partners.