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Norwegian recruiters struggle to keep up with demand for IT specialists

The growing importance of IT in all industries, along with a shortage in skills, make for an excellent high-tech job market for candidates in Norway

The Norwegian Society of Graduate Technical and Scientific Professionals (Tekna) has reported that 48% of Norwegian companies are in need of IT resources.

According to Rune Buseth, partner at the recruitment firm Birn & Partners, that shortage of IT staff will continue for several years, regardless of the economic situation. 

The need for the right people will continue across the IT spectrum, but even in such a market, Norwegian companies still expect self-driven people – people that can take a broader responsibility and handle the job: not just work through a list of tasks.  

“Generally, Norwegian companies tend to be very good at taking care of their employees,” he said. “And most companies have greatly improved their EVP [employee value proposition] over the past 10 years. More and more, they make sure people are given tasks that they like, and they make sure people get the career development they want.”

Norwegian companies know they need to keep good staff, because they are painfully aware of how much time and money it takes to replace somebody.

Companies need to allocate resources to train a new employee, which takes away internal resources. The overall time spent, and resources allocated, are a big cost in salary and lost production. 

One of the features of the IT job market is that salaries are always going up, according to Buseth. “An ongoing problem is that top managers of IT companies need to adjust their own salaries upwards to keep up. We occasionally find it challenging to get a manager to accept the salary levels in the market – especially when they make less than what the candidate is demanding.” 

Overwhelming demand for qualified candidates 

Most qualified candidates are overwhelmed with messages from recruiters, he said, and they get a lot of questions that aren’t relevant for them. As a result, some IT specialists list in their profile what they are not interested in, hoping to minimise solicitation. 

“When they’re contacted by so many people for so many things, it’s hard for them to know who has something interesting,” said Buseth.

“For recruiters, it’s challenging to get through to somebody who already has 50 unread LinkedIn messages or emails from other headhunters,” he said. “The trick is to get the dialogue right and to show them you understand their competence and what they like to do. Ideally, I like to call whenever possible as it allows for better communication.

“I am genuinely interested in the jobs and the candidates – and get excited about what they do. When people who work on something specific see that you are excited about their job, they get excited, too.”

Read more about IT recruitment in the Nordics

Buseth’s expertise lies in filling a mix of executive and IT roles. He covers a range of job categories, from developers to chief technology officers and other C-level tech jobs. Many of his clients are scaleups.  

“When I recruit for Norway, I look both in Norway and elsewhere in Europe,” he said. “For people considering relocating, I’m honest with them about the cold weather and the snow in the winter. Snow looks magical when you see it on TV, but when your trousers are wet past your knee because you stepped in wet snow, it’s a different matter.” 

But people are still attracted to Norway, because of the work-life balance, the nature, the safety and the salaries. As a result, there is an influx of people with the right IT skills, which is fortunate, because the Norwegian educational system doesn’t produce the amount of people companies need. Moreover, those they do produce tend to get picked up very early. 

“Before summer 2022, I was already in dialogue with highly skilled Master’s degree students that are completing their education in 2023,” said Buseth. “I need to be on it now. During the autumn, the big companies come in and scoop up the rest.”

The high demand for IT specialists is a global trend that affects Norway, but in the country, the trend is accelerated by a booming oil and gas sector, which has always been one of its blessings. Oil and gas stimulates economic activity and creates a demand for home-grown high-tech offerings tailored to that industry – especially robotics and hardware-type services.  

There are several good examples of successful Norwegian startups that now have a global footprint. Nordic Unmanned, a company founded by people laid off in the oil and gas sector, markets drone services, AutoStore sells robot technology for warehouses and the Black Hornet drone was developed by Norwegian company Prox Dynamics, and later acquired by Teledyne Flir.

Advice to students and young graduates in Norway 

“When I talk to students, I advise them to do internships and projects during their education, if possible,” said Buseth. “They get a taste of working life and a better understanding of what they’d like to do.

“Something I always ask when I interview people is: ‘What did you do besides your studies?’ Such things show motivation and drive. I get stars in my eyes when candidates tell me they built their own drone. It’s fantastic. Anybody who says they have built their own solution or app demonstrates interest, motivation and drive besides just doing their studies.

“I’ve hired candidates who had average or poor grades,” he said. “But it turns out they had been working on projects, where they learned much more, and developed extreme capabilities, which allowed them to ace the code tests for the interviews.”

Buseth advised job seekers to avoid focusing only on salary or on a specific project. Look for an appealing company, and a manager who understands you and is willing to help you find the right career path.   

“Candidates in IT have every possibility to set some demands as well,” he said. “But they should stay humble. Have the dialog just to understand how the company develops people and moves forward in general.”

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