Posted on 31 December 2022

Demand for cloud expertise is high, limiting the number of qualified candidates on the market and pushing salary levels beyond traditional IT targets. There are four proven techniques that I&O leaders can use to acquire and retain qualified, experienced cloud talent.


Talent crisis for modern day Retailers

  • HR departments are often unprepared to adapt existing IT roles and levels to fit the demands of the cloud market, preventing infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders from crafting attractive job requisitions.

  • The number of companies hiring for cloud roles has created a crowded and noisy hiring market, making it difficult for I&O leaders to get their open positions noticed.

  • Screeners with insufficient cloud experience frequently overlook qualified internal and external applicants, reducing the number of potential candidates.

  • Urgency within the company to accelerate cloud adoption can put pressure on I&O leaders to fill open roles quickly, often resulting in insufficient vetting of candidates and rushed hiring decisions.

Potential ideas to leverage

I&O leaders responsible for building a cloud organization should:

  1. Enhance their competitiveness for talent by working with HR to craft cloud roles with the right compensation, benefits and advancement paths.

  2. Attract attention to open cloud roles by tailoring job descriptions to appeal directly to different cloud practitioner personas.

  3. Widen their sourcing funnel by looking more carefully at internal candidates and drawing from a wider range of hiring locations.

  4. Select top candidates by using prescreening tools and proven cloud experts to vet candidate experience and filter out pretenders.


How to improve cloud hiring?

It is no secret that many IT organizations are struggling to develop their cloud skills. Majority of I&O leaders still indicate that lack of staff expertise and skills is the No. 1 barrier to adoption of programmable infrastructures such as cloud. The top hiring priority for IT leaders is currently to fill key digital business design roles such as architect.

Despite this urgency, these same IT leaders report that hiring externally for these roles can take an average of six months, and over 25% of leaders are experiencing recruiting cycles of one to two years. The market is crowded, with companies looking for cloud talent, while truly experienced cloud architects and engineers are scarce. This uneven supply and demand are driving average salaries for cloud talent through the roof, leaving I&O leaders looking for answers as they struggle to resource their company’s cloud initiatives.

Lacking a competitive advantage in the hiring market, but under pressure from their company to accelerate cloud adoption, many I&O leaders’ resort to suboptimal strategies. They may retain expensive subcontractors, who then take their expertise with them when they leave. Or, they may push their current staff into critical cloud roles without the right preparation, increasing the risk of failures and cost overruns.

How can I&O leaders effectively hire cloud talent in the current job market? There are four proven approaches that will help I&O leaders attract and retain more cloud talent in their organization.

Four Strategies to improve Cloud Hiring

Figure 1. Four Strategies to Improve Cloud Hiring


#1: Plan Ahead with HR to Craft Competitive Cloud Roles

Traditional I&O roles often do not offer the compensation that cloud practitioners expect. Many I&O leaders discover too late that their HR department is not willing to adjust the approved company compensation bands for IT roles relating to architecture, programming and system administration. This may be the case even when I&O leaders present credible evidence that the cloud versions of these roles have higher required salary targets. HR typically must consider a range of factors in setting compensation, including total cost to the company, impact on related or “similarly leveled” roles across the company, and desire to maintain consistency by preventing the proliferation of “custom” roles and levels.

I&O leaders must take a proactive, collaborative approach in working with HR to address these challenges before attempting to recruit either internal or external candidates into key cloud positions. As soon as their cloud hiring needs become clear, I&O leaders should gain a realistic understanding of the salary and bonus targets they will need to hit in each hiring region, using resources such as Glassdoor, PayScale and They should then work with HR to craft compensation packages that are competitive in the market without necessitating the creation of custom roles and levels.

The use of signing bonuses and restricted stock unit (RSU) vesting schedules that stretch over a multiyear period are common ways to bring total compensation to a target level without affecting the base salary of a role. I&O leaders and HR should be confident that a total compensation package is competitive before jobs are posted, and should be prepared to negotiate as needed. Qualified cloud candidates are often considering multiple offers and will move on if a company is not ready to make a competitive offer quickly.

Compensation, however, is not the only benefit cloud candidates look for in evaluating a package, and I&O leaders can use this to their advantage. A recent study correlating candidate interest with various job benefits in over 300 million job postings showed that candidates’ highest priorities, in order, are:

  • Total compensation package, including salary, bonuses, RSUs and other financial incentives

  • Health plan

  • Flexible work environments

  • Caregiver leave

  • Exercise and wellness programs

Research has also shown that, for technical professionals specifically, an additional factor is important: access to high-quality workspace technology, especially for working remotely and working while mobile. Partnering early with HR to create work-from-home and remote-office options for cloud employees — including setting appropriate expectations around family relocation, travel and workspace tech investments — will help ensure that HR does not raise objections later in the hiring process.

In addition to optimizing core job benefits, I&O leaders should work closely with HR to ensure that certain company “career advancement” programs are aligned to the needs of cloud candidates.

Areas to focus on include:

  • Clear promotion paths into management

  • The opportunity to return to school for an advanced degree with company-backed financial support

  • Formal mentoring programs with senior technical staff

  • Sanctioned participation in prominent industry working groups or open-source projects.

By working ahead of time with HR to align company compensation, benefits and career advancement opportunities to what cloud candidates are looking for, I&O leaders will take their most important step forward in solving their cloud hiring challenges.


#2: Tailor Your Job Descriptions to Specific Cloud Personas

To attract experienced cloud practitioners, I&O leaders first must know what cloud practitioners want. As in many professions, these experts often cluster around common profiles or “personas,” each of which exhibits different priorities. Among the more common are:

1.    Rising stars — “fast track” achievers trying to move up the career ladder quickly

2.    Family-friendly — road warriors seeking a better work-life balance, less travel, etc.

3.    Master crafters — senior skilled experts who thrive on cutting-edge problems, networking opportunities with industry leaders and public acknowledgment of their expertise

Despite the various personas of cloud practitioners, most companies create a single job description for each role they are trying to fill. Make your message stand out by crafting different advertised job descriptions for the same role, each targeting a specific persona:

1.    Attract rising stars by positioning the role as a stepping-stone into executive management. Offer a personal mentoring/sponsoring relationship with senior individuals and mention the potential to be sponsored in an advanced degree program.

2.    Attract family-oriented cloud experts by positioning the role as offering a better quality of life than they presently have. Often, these candidates can be found in system integrators and cloud consultancies, where they’ve been on the road for years. They are either burning out or anxious to give more time to their families. Offer flex-time, home office, virtual travel instead of physical travel and emphasize any family-oriented perks your company offers.

3.    Attract master craftspeople by offering open-source project participation, industry events and speaking opportunities, networking opportunities with cloud leaders in your company’s industry, “personal lab space,” ongoing training and certification, and internal company recognition along with a senior-level title

As you craft your message to appeal to different personas, consider also drawing attention to your company’s support for gender, racial and age diversity in its hiring. Make sure all the talent in the market is encouraged to apply.


#3: Expand Your Sourcing Funnel with More Internal and Remote Candidates

The shortage on the open market of cloud talent makes it difficult for companies to find qualified candidates, even with competitive job requisitions and a targeted message. I&O leaders must work aggressively to ensure that all reasonable sources of potential cloud talent are being considered. This includes both searching aggressively within the company for good internal candidates as well as widening the sourcing funnel for their external recruiting team by allowing them to recruit in additional markets.

To find high-potential internal cloud candidates, I&O leaders must be willing to both carefully evaluate their own team as well as look outside their own organization within the company. When searching for talent outside their organization, leaders must be mindful not to “poach” talent from other areas of the company. Rather, they should post openings and then build a target list of internal candidates who are considered by the company to be high-potential high-aptitude technical resources. Peers to these individuals within IT can then let potential candidates know of cloud openings and invite them to attend an “informational” event, like a brown-bag lunch conversation or online meeting where a hiring manager can provide more detail on the cloud team being built.

Under no circumstances should the hiring manager attempt to directly recruit a high-potential internal candidate; any decision to apply should be left completely to her or him, so as not to antagonize the current internal employer. If even this level of “open invitation” might be considered inappropriate, hiring managers can record a short presentation on the team and the open roles, and post it on an intranet page. Internal candidates can simply be informed of the presentation and invited to view it on their own time if they are interested.

When considering whether to invite an internal candidate into a cloud team, I&O leaders are often faced with a trade-off: They know an employee is talented, but they also know he or she lacks sufficient experience with cloud. Rather than asking themselves, “Is this employee qualified?” leaders should ask “Would this employee be qualified after 12 months of mentoring under a qualified expert?” Leaders should plan for active, hands-on tutoring of high-potential, but less-experienced, hires by a senior cloud practitioner until they reach a basic level of competence. If no internal mentor is available, experienced cloud consultants can be hired under temporary contracts to assist.

Often there are not enough qualified internal candidates to build a cloud team and external recruiting is the best option. When sourcing externally, I&O leaders must be mindful that recruiters are held to tight performance metrics and are often sourcing many different positions for many different clients at once. When faced with a tight hiring market for a role, many sourcers simply communicate this constraint back to the hiring manager and concentrate on filling other positions in order to hit their metrics. I&O leaders must take proactive steps to prevent their cloud positions from being deprioritized, by collaborating with sourcers to ensure an active funnel of candidates.

One way to do this is to increase the number of hiring markets available by supporting remote work locations. Although primary markets for cloud talent may be saturated with demand, secondary markets exist where talent is sometimes more available and less expensive. These markets typically have university systems with strong STEM programs, a nexus of high-technology employers and a lower overall cost of living than the high-tech meccas. Specialized staffing firm Robert Half Technology lists the top five U.S. cities that tech professionals are moving to as: Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston and Miami. The cost of living in Houston and Miami is 50% to 60% less than in Silicon Valley, and other secondary markets are equally affordable.

Typically, cloud architects and engineers are accustomed to collaborating with others virtually. By recruiting in these alternate cities and offering candidates a flexible remote work option, combined with regular travel to main company locations, I&O leaders can take advantage of many cloud professionals’ desire to balance their career goals with affordable living and quality of life. Hiring in secondary tech markets can also help I&O leaders fit their cloud roles into traditional HR salary bands: In “Hiring Guide for Cloud Solutions Architect,” We note that median salaries for this role in Dallas, for example, are 20% lower than in Silicon Valley.

In addition to remote office locations, cloud professionals also prefer employers who offer flexible work hours. In one survey, more than 40% of tech professionals would prefer to work from home or mobile locations at least half time. By emphasizing flexible work locations and schedules in their job descriptions, I&O leaders will appeal to candidates who must balance work with parenting duties, are in school part-time or simply prefer making their own hours.


#4: Use Experts to Identify Experts

A recent survey of 10,000 tech professionals found that one in 10 admit to lying on their resumes or LinkedIn profiles. Because the cloud hiring market is so hot and cloud salaries are high, many IT practitioners looking for work are “enhancing” their resumes to reflect more cloud experience than they really have. I&O leaders must uncover and discard the pretenders early in the hiring process so they can focus their efforts on finding and attracting proven talent.

There are two common types of false candidates that must be guarded against, and two types of cloud vetting that can help ensure they do not get hired:

1.    The Door-to-Door Salesperson: Typically seen applying for lower-level cloud positions, these individuals pack their resumes with cloud-related hashtags and buzzwords and use automated engines to submit themselves to any and all opportunities. Their goal is to play the numbers, hoping to knock on enough doors so that eventually they hit a prospect who doesn’t vet carefully and brings them on. An I&O leader’s goal with door-to-door candidates should be to vet and discard them as quickly as possible, with the least amount of manual effort and cost to the recruiting and interviewing team. Use automated pre-employment assessment tools tailored for tech roles to test candidates for core cloud skills.

2.    The Big Game Poacher: These individuals typically are intelligent and successful senior enterprise architects, directors of IT or even CIOs looking to remake their careers in the cloud, but who are not qualified for the cloud roles available at their current level of seniority. Their goal is to land a position of cloud responsibility without taking a step backward in their career. To do this, they will inflate their experience to make themselves appear ready to assume broad responsibility for cloud initiatives. They have mastered cloud jargon and often will make it to the final interview day — unless someone with genuine cloud experience uncovers their weaknesses. Big-game poachers are much more dangerous and more difficult to spot than door-to-door salespeople, and they are regularly hired or promoted into senior cloud positions where their inexperience can potentially do great harm.

In both these cases, I&O leaders can rely on proven cloud experts — either internal cloud architects or cloud consultants hired for this purpose — to select the screening tests and interview finalists. Use of internal experts is generally the best route where they are available and qualified. Not only do they have a better understanding of company requirements, but they can also assess whether a candidate will thrive within the company culture.

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