Interview With Susan Harker, VP of Global Talent Acquisition at AmazonIt began as an online bookstore just over 20 years ago and is now one of the world’s largest ecommerce retailers, a key provider of enterprise services, and a recent Emmy-winning network. No question, Amazon’s journey has been remarkable.
For Susan Harker, the internet giant’s head of global talent acquisition, the continued success of that journey depends heavily on people. In a fiercely competitive market, Amazon needs to think creatively about how to attract the best tech talent and overcome a shortage of candidates.
Tara Sinclair, Indeed chief economist, sat down with Susan to talk about the research on how tech candidates search for jobs, and how employers can reach there. Here are some insights for tech employers that emerged from their conversation:
Give top talent ownership of what they’re working on
Susan explains that ownership is something that impresses many new hires at Amazon, and attributes their success in recruiting to this model. “They have a broader scope to their initial roles than they have experienced elsewhere…People get to work very hard on challenging problems but they get a lot of ownership,” she explained.
Empowering new employees to take on and own the development of difficult work is one tactic tech companies are taking—not only to attract and retain talent but to add team members who can approach a problem in new and creative ways.
Be thoughtful about where you place tech jobs
Our research shows that tech job seekers are primarily focused on well-known tech hubs and that their interest in those cities is growing. Amazon is based in Seattle, WA, surrounded by many other tech firms. This kind of competition creates a compelling atmosphere for candidates, and it also provides a community of like-minded professionals for them to join.
But employers’ need for tech talent is outpacing the availability of candidates. As Susan explained, “We have to view technical talent as a global talent pool.” For Amazon and many other global companies, identifying international clusters of talent is crucial to driving growth. “We’ve done a fair amount of research on that and what we’re trying to be is thoughtful and strategic, setting up locations where there already are clusters of talent. We want there to be opportunity in these locations, namely a good education system that can feed that talent,” Susan shared.
Forge strategic partnerships with talent pipelines
A key tenet of Susan and Tara’s conversation was the need for employers to identify and develop tech talent. This is not only because there is a current shortage, but also because the skills needed are always evolving. To be truly successful in recruiting tech talent, employers need to invest in the education of those candidates and ensure their diversity.
As Susan explained, “What we’re trying to do is work with organisations that impact this space such as Code.org and their Hour of Code, Girls Who Code, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, and the Anita Borg Institute. We’re partnering with organisations that are focused on bringing talent to the field that has typically not been coming to the field.”
For an in-depth analysis of tech industry employment in Europe and the UK, read Opportunities & Challenges for European Tech Employers: Hiring Insights for a Competitive Sector.