Covid-19 Cutbacks

Covid-19 Ended the Heyday in the Israeli Tech Job Market

Hundreds of applicants for each position and senior managers who are taking pay cuts; recruiters and HR managers reveal the new norms in the newly competitive job seeking scene

Maayan Manela 12:1310.05.20
The coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis that has led to mass layoffs and forced leaves in the Israeli tech sector has upended long standing job recruiting trends. The crisis has brought about an eightfold increase in job applications, with hundreds of resumes received every day and experienced ‘talents' who used to be passive job seekers not only moving to active job hunting but willing to compromise on salaries and benefits. Positions that had been open for months are now being filed within days. The differences are especially noticeable when it comes to senior management positions that require experience.


A few short months ago, industry talents wouldn’t even bother showing up to hear about positions in companies that weren’t a perfect fit for them and talk of salary cuts was unheard of. Tech companies would go out of their way, enlisting headhunters, sourcing companies and placement firms to seek out passive job seekers. In some cases, recruiting budgets equaled development allocations. But today, at what looks like the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 crisis, everything has changed. Demand for employees has shrunk since fewer companies are recruiting while the supply of candidates, particularly of experienced workers, has grown.


CAndidates are lining up to apply for jobs. Photo: Shutterstock CAndidates are lining up to apply for jobs. Photo: Shutterstock
“If in the past it would take three months and we would only receive medium-level applications, today we get to choose between four outstanding candidates. We are getting more applications in general, and specifically from experienced candidates,” said Yael Fainaro, the head of operations in Synamedia’s Israeli development center.


The company is also seeing an uptick in direct approaches to the company via social media, many of them from people who were fired from other tech companies.


“The quality of candidates who are approaching us about senior positions in management and technical leadership has increased and a majority of them are coming from companies who have forced workers on leaves or whose future looks uncertain,” Fainaro said.


At automotive cybersecurity company Argus, which has conducted more than 150 remote interviews over the past two months, recruiting 20 new workers, they also detect a rise in the supply and activity level of applicants. “Every day we receive five applications for senior positions. In the pre-Covid-19 era, we would have received 10 over the course of a month,” said Rivi Heller, Argus’s vice president of HR.


Israel Aviation Industries (IAI) has also seen a 30% rise in applications by experienced engineers, compared to a gentler increase by junior applicants. “The veteran engineers, those with 15 years experience, are bearing the brunt of the crisis because companies that are slimming down, calculate that those people cost them the most,” said Adi Ben Shushan, the head of IAI’s recruitment unit. “When it comes to senior management roles, comparable to CEOs in other places, there is less demand on the market. It’s not like CEOs left companies at the time of a crisis.”


In addition to the increase in the number of applicants for each position, there is also a shift in the candidates’ attitude. Talents, who in the past wouldn’t respond to “corporate courtship” from companies like IAI are now far more responsive. Job seekers who experienced the shakeup of the crisis are looking for more established and stable companies.


“What works in our favor is that talents that used to come to hear about positions, but weren’t really interested, are now taking a greater interest. It is also easier for us to reach people for complicated roles,” she added.


Mobile video ad development company Fyber also noted a change in the number and quality of candidates. “Over the last two months, we have received double the applications than the two months preceding the Covid-19 crisis, especially for technological and development roles, “ said senior vice president in charge of HR at Fyber, Zurit Golan. “When it comes to traditionally hard to fill development roles, in March and April we saw a spike in applications by strong candidates. Traffic to our website and LinkedIn profile has also increased substantially. In addition to the people who approach us, we are also seeing a 20% increase in responses from passive candidates that we reach out to for roles in all of our offices around the world: Israel, San Francisco, New York, London, Berlin, Beijing, and Seoul.”


The executive placement market has been relatively less impacted by the Covid-19 crisis than the rest of the market, but companies that had started recruiting or had planned to recruit senior executives are hurrying their efforts now.


“One reason for that is the characteristically less volatile nature of that sector. At a time of crisis, senior executives aren’t looking for adventure in terms of their career at a time of such uncertainty and prefer to stick with safe havens until the storm is over. Senior managers are unlikely to turn their back and abandon a’ sinking ship’ that they had a part in steering,” said Roni Laviv, a regional manager at Danel Human Resources, who also heads its executive placements department.


There were few cases in which senior managers were laid off. Some organizations chose to cut senior management pay by 10% as an act of solidarity or keeping up appearances. Senior managers who were planning to leave prior to the crisis put their plans on ice for tactical and strategic reasons. That said, non-C-level managers who were fired or sent on unpaid leave, are now looking for jobs.


“We have noted a very steep rise in good candidates. In the past when we advertised for product management roles, without using the services of placement companies, we would receive on average two applications a week, now we got more than 40 CVs, 16 of them highly relevant, for a single posting,” said Avital Slutsky, a talent acquisition specialist at cloud-based IT management platform Atera. “We are also getting applications by very senior candidates for junior positions. People with lots of experience are open to taking on junior or part-time roles.”


Aside from the trend of applications by overqualified candidates, Slutsky also noted that people are willing to compromise on compensation, agreeing to accept 10% less than they did prior to the crisis. For the first time, male candidates are applying for part-time positions.


Recruitment time has also been cut shorter because of market conditions. Candidates who used to have five or six alternatives now want to pounce on any offer they get, rushing to sign on.


At Diagnostic Robotics, the average recruitment time was cut from around two months to 10 days because candidates receive letters of recommendations from the companies that fired them, which makes the process faster, and because candidates have fewer options to weigh.


“The negotiation stages, prior to signing, which usually take a long time because candidates want to compare offers and examine one thoroughly, is different now. People have fewer alternatives and when an offer comes through they respond quickly,” said Galit Minkin, the company’s vice president of HR. “In addition, the candidates are simply more available because they are out of work so the recruitment and orientation process is faster.”


The stream of job seekers that are flooding the market increases the need for candidates to stand out if they want to get the job. “There is no doubt that candidates’ determination and creativity is incomparable to the pre-coronavirus days and all means justify the ends. Some candidates send us presentations or complete projects they prepared for a role. We even got a few quarterly plans. Some candidates approach the CEO or me personally so we will examine their application. Candidates are finding different and creative ways to showcase their skills, experience, and motivation,” said Galit Zucker, Chief People Officer at Sodastream.