In a world of fast-paced technological advancement, more and more IT skills are needed to keep up with the demands of a changing global marketplace. In South Africa in particular, there’s a lot of discussion around a lack of IT skills in the local job market. This has given us a lot to consider in our industry, but in order to really understand what is going on, we would like to open up the discussion, raise some questions and initiate a general conversation to examine the issue. First of all, why are people saying there is a skills shortage? Is there really one? Or better phrased, to what extent do we really have a skills shortage? Are businesses potentially exaggerating the problem? Are businesses potentially creating barriers to entry? Are businesses potentially hindering their own hiring processes?

As specialist recruiters, we would like to discuss some points that could potentially be contributing to this assumption:

Skill level

  • Rocket Scientist Mentality: Do you really a need a rocket scientist? In many cases, companies employ rockets scientists who end up performing lower level work.
  • Are companies prepared to upskill candidates? Clients require experience with a specific skill set and candidates are motivated to explore new work in order to learn new skills. Are businesses prepared to invest in teaching new skills? Do businesses expect individuals should “hit the ground running” the day they join the business?


  • Salary mismatch: Many businesses feel they need a rocket scientist and go through the whole recruitment process to only conclude that the rocket scientist is “too expensive”. Even when their salary expectation met the budget from the outset!
  • Under-offering: Is an on average 6% to 12% salary increase reasonable?

Submitting candidate applications via online portals: This appears to be referred to as the big black hole. Do these portals actually work?

Is timing a potential problem? Do businesses lose out on hot talent due to a slow, tedious feedback process? Is a 4 to 8-week offer approval process competitive or do businesses tend to lose people to other businesses that have a more refined recruitment process?

Pre-interview testing process: Is the recruitment strategy that a number of businesses adopt around testing candidates reasonable? By example, you need to pass our test before we speak to you. Is this a reasonable ask? Do businesses lose out on exceptional talent because candidates may not adhere to the business’s “sausage factory approach” by completing the businesses assessment prior to having some personalised engagement?

Expecting only high calibre over-achievers: Does tenacity not count? Are there not a number of developers out that had an extremely tough time possibly due to financial restraints or family obligations and still managed to complete their degree? These people’s degrees were not laid out on a silver platter and yet they are compromised as they didn’t over-achieve from an academic perspective. Should these candidates be discriminated against?

Are businesses arrogant? Why do businesses expect candidates to “want to work for them”? Hot candidates have their pick of jobs and businesses, and shouldn’t businesses “sell themselves” as much as candidates need to “sell themselves” to the business?

What Does the IT Industry Think?

We’ve raised a lot of questions in this article, and we look forward to sharing a few thoughts in a lot more detail in the coming weeks. We’d really like to hear from people working in the industry, to find out more about what is behind the skills shortage debate.

Are you a business looking to hire IT professionals? Or are you an IT professional? Assuming as much, what do you think about the current status of IT skills in South Africa? We are interested to know whether you are seeing the same thing. Perhaps there are other issues that are contributing to the perceived skills shortage that we haven’t covered.

Let us know in the comment stream below!

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