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Should we be more open to sponsoring analytics talent?

Trends seen throughout the majority of 2017 persist in the current job market—low unemployment rates and rapid job growth across multiple sectors. These factors have combined to create a highly competitive hiring environment and a shortage of highly skilled professionals—especially in fields that have seen a higher than average job growth rate such as data science and the broader analytics space.

Making matters even more challenging, advanced tech professionals are now heavily sought after by almost every industry, not only the technical ones. Finance, insurance, automotive and manufacturing, marketing, food services… all of these industries now depend upon the work of data engineers and data scientists to keep abreast of a rapidly changing technological climate and maintain competitive advantage. As a result, employers face the daunting task of trying to recruit candidates with the requisite skill sets, all the while knowing that every candidate they interview is likely entertaining other job offers.

When you consider that even well-known companies located in prominent tech hubs are experiencing difficulty,  it becomes clear that companies in smaller towns or cities, or those lacking the budget to lure top-notch data scientists will lose talent to more appealing markets and industries.  

Given this environment, employers must rethink their hiring strategies in order to fill essential roles with qualified candidates and avoid falling behind.  Willingness to consider non-traditional candidates, such as those who are eligible to work with visa sponsorship can help bridge the gap and provide access to a broader talent pool – one that most companies neglect to explore.  An openness to sponsorship can provide a company with access to experienced, qualified candidates that other companies overlook due to the inconvenience involved.  

Not all visas are created equal

Keep in mind that there are several different categories of visa and work authorization documents in the United States and not all of them pose the same challenges.  In fact, some allow candidates to be hired immediately with little administrative trouble for the employer.

Yes, many employers are intimidated by the sponsorship process required for an H1 visa as there is a significant amount of expense, paperwork and uncertainty involved in it.  This leads them to reflexively screen out any and all applicants who are not citizens or green card holders. But companies that take this approach often overlook candidates that applied to the position on an Employment Authorization Document.  Not to be conflated with H1 visas, EADs are usually valid for 2 years, are renewable and are not employer-specific, therefore requiring no additional work on the part of the employer to sponsor.

Similarly,  F-1 (student) visa holders can apply to be authorized to work a period of OPT – Optional Practical Training. The initial OPT period lasts for one year, with an additional two-year extension often available for those who have earned degrees in certain fields such as science, engineering, technology or math.

Staying mindful of these differences expands the talent pool to include candidates with advanced degrees, experience and authorization to work without restriction for as many as three years before any additional sponsorship would be required of the employer.  

Flexibility is often the key to success and as demand for highly skilled tech professionals continues to grow, willingness to think outside of the citizen and permanent resident talent pool could provide not only an immediate advantage in filling essential positions, but an opportunity to invest in employees who could turn out to be lasting assets to the company.  

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