07 March 2022 10:38:28 IST

Dony Kuriakose is founder-Director of EDGE Executive Search Pvt Ltd., a career search firm with a trans-India presence. The company focuses on the middle to top management career moves, mainly in technology, telecom, consulting and manufacturing. Its motto is “If you’re looking for a change, change the way you’re looking,” and they deliver this through a learning-driven approach that seeks to add value to career changes. In his spare time, Dony is a keen photographer and avid reader. A former marathoner and committed dog lover, he has recently been adopted by a cat.

A four-letter word called Java

Source: Getty Images

Before I get pilloried for the negative connotation of the phrase, kindly note that Love is also a four-letter word. And there is a massive legion of whizs out there who swear passionately by (not at) Java, when it comes to code.

What’s not to love, if you’re a programmer? In the 25+ years it’s been around Java has evolved as the ultimate write somewhere, run anywhere, present everywhere software. It’s on PCs, laptops, mainframes, and mobiles, across Windows, Macs, Unix, Linux, and Android, from desktops to the cloud, from gaming to NLP, and from accounting apps to derivatives trading. Wow!

If you are good at Java and say you’re in the fintech space, it is a fair bet that your phone’s been pinging like never before. There’s a scramble for people who can bring the latest systems to life, at companies ranging from global giants to cash-flush start-ups.

Caught in a confluence of technology shifts (example: cloud and micro-services), pandemic-led business and behaviour changes (like no-contact banking), and a fast-approaching future (say 5G), there is exceptional development demand and hence pressure for the skill.

Together with that is the definite value-add shift in India from projects and services to products, which acts as a value multiplier. So if you’re a Java junkie, you’re looking at a sumptuous buffet of choices every day.

Options galore

Er…ever been to a buffet? Especially the ones with live counters, every one of which tempts the senses? I have and truth be told, there are very few I’ve come away from without feeling “Heck, I should’ve planned that better” and a missed dessert cart as an eternal regret. So, for the other kind of four-letter words — the ones with asterisks in the middle, speak to a Java recruiter.

Incessant demand in key skill areas is changing all the job rules to the point where a rulebook seems like a relic and recruiters are the first ones to both take the hit and pay the price. Unfortunately, for them, a resignation that used to be the culmination of a search has now become the start of a 90-day game with multiple offers and counter-offers till the date of joining — and sometimes beyond.

For a while now, especially after the pandemic disruption, candidates have been open to exploring available options even after committing to an offer. However, now there is a crucial change in high demand, fast-moving tech skills such as Java, micro-services, and data design.

From a situation where the candidate started with current compensation X as a base and accepted an offer at Y, after which any future suitor would have to offer Y+, now the base itself shifts to Y for the second offer! And since it doesn’t stop at one, you could have a new base at Z after the second offer and so on.

Since the ask is usually 30-35 per cent, there are cases of candidates with upwards of 150 per cent hikes by the time they finally join. So there’s your recruiter who was cheering with five runs to get at the start of the last over, now having a meltdown, after losing two wickets for no runs off the first three balls.

Even more concerning is the detail. It’s like candidates aren’t measuring reward against risk at all. Many times that last decision at 150 per cent would have been taken against another at 140 per cent with a much lower risk profile and several intangible benefits. It used to be said about salary negotiations, that no company pays you more, they just borrow from your future to pay you in the present. How else can companies increase their own original offers by up to 50 per cent?

Value escalation for the skilled professional is always welcome, but are these levels sustainable? The market mix includes companies of varied risk profiles and many whose track record in a downturn took a lot of PR to airbrush. Sure, skills will always have a price, but that as the parrot said, is about supply and demand.

As cycles unfold, demand always tends to level off, and supply surges to catch up. Companies are already getting more rigid with issues like joining dates. “On board by this date, or offer withdrawn” is already a standard and non-negotiable clause, given all the last-minute offer-jockeying.

Five P’s to ponder

Besides present culture and future growth, candidates are discovering that more money carries a real cost — usually more work and greater risk, which may not work for everyone. Despite the emphasis on openness, candour is in short supply during interviews and a screen-saver mentality could turn expensive moves into costly mistakes. In our market, we also have some specific behaviours which could kick in if you want to backtrack.

For instance, very rarely does a future employer have a positive view of a candidate who is seeking to move at a lower than current (or last-drawn) compensation. Maybe not suspicion, but there is surely concern that she or he will always look for opportunities to recover the delta, which could dent chances of selection.

So, rather than focus purely on the numbers, it’s best to have some ‘Caveat Emptor’ at play when looking at the move. Here are five P’s to ponder while they’re waving that paycheck:

·  Parity: Is the offer consistent with the structure? A company that’s going overboard for a new entrant over existing talent could well do that to you tomorrow

·   Past: The company’s HR and compensation background? Look for consistent practices and policies that are people-oriented

·  Pedigree : Check out the company’s brand name and core values. What do they consistently stand for?

·   Products: Are the company’s products top-technology, ensuring that your skills will stay at the edge?

·   People: The background of the leadership that sets the company’s direction.

Much of this should be possible to glean during your discussions with the company, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and a little checking around. Careers are streams not ponds, so before you dive in, look where it leads.

Happy hunting!