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'Don't mention the cost of living': How firms are pitching Ireland to foreign tech staff

An event will be held in London next year to lure talented staff to these shores.

Image: Giuseppe Milo/Flickr

AS IRELAND EDGES towards full employment, many of the country’s most successful indigenous and foreign tech firms are looking abroad for talented staff.

But it’s not necessarily an easy sell. Dublin, where most of the biggest employers are located, has been ranked the second most expensive city in the eurozone for relocating expats.

Most recently, the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland – which represents many of the country’s major US-based employers – warned that foreign investment is in jeopardy due to issues like the skyrocketing cost of housing.

Next year, a number of major tech outfits will pitch their stalls at 404 London, an event being held to promote job opportunities in the Republic to workers in the UK capital.

The event is being backed by Tech Life Ireland, a €2 million state-supported initiative launched last year to promote the country as a destination for international tech talent.

So how will Ireland be pitched as a base for foreign workers?

27398501192_014083eb12_k Dublin's Silicon Docks Source: William Murphy

The barriers

Despite increasing cost-of-living pressures, particularly in Dublin, none of the employers interviewed by Fora said they had an issue attracting staff to Ireland.

Nevertheless, Michelle Daly, a technical recruiter at Demonware, acknowledged the housing crisis is a “barrier”.

She added that improving economies elsewhere in Europe meant there were often fewer foreign workers who were forced to relocate to places like Ireland to find jobs.

Her colleague, Tom Shaw, an engineer at the games firm, which has 65 workers in Dublin, said that there are certain topics to avoid when chatting to prospective hires.

“I don’t mention the cost of living, that’s something that really puts people off,” he said.

Shaw said he instead encourages potential staff to do their own research into what it’s like to live in Ireland or to chat to people they already know working in the country.

Suzanne Whelan, ‎talent acquisition manager at Version 1, agreed that accommodation is a difficult issue at the moment, but she said Ireland has many other things going for it.

“I think the stronger euro against sterling has helped when we’re talking to prospective hires in the UK. I think being in Europe and talking to European candidates has also helped in light of Brexit.

“I don’t have to gloss over anything though. Yes, rents and accommodation is the one thing you do have to slightly… play down.”

The average price of a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Dublin is now more than ten times the average household income in the capital Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The pitch

A common theme was that many recruiters don’t sell Ireland as a destination – despite Tech Life Ireland’s focus on the country’s ‘vibrant’ lifestyle offering. Instead they primarily focus on pitching their company as the place to be.

Deborah Donohoe, a Dublin-based recruiter at US software firm Pivotal, said the company focused on the quality of work staff would be doing as “the major selling point”.

However Ian Huston, an associate director at the same company, said he does differentiate the Irish capital as a city with a more relaxed pace.

“People are making a decision about where they want to live and where they want to work, and as a smaller city Dublin can be an easier place for people to start a new life. Some people prefer that to larger-scale cities like London.”

Donohoe added that many of her company’s workers happily choose Dublin over London – despite the firm having offices in both locations.

“When I’m speaking to candidates based in other countries I would say there are opportunities in both London and Dublin,” she said.

“A lot of the time they would pick Dublin because of the fact it has that reputation of being a smaller city. It’s more manageable and close-knit.”

Another big draw for engineers and developers coming to Dublin was the city’s vibrant meet-up scene, according to Demonware’s Shaw.

“Whenever I’m talking to engineers at conferences and meet-ups, I tend to focus on my own experience about how I moved to Dublin and the opportunities here compared to other cities,” he said.

“The meet-up scene is really vibrant, with events on every night. The opportunities to grow in Dublin are second to none; I don’t think you would find a community of tech companies that put themselves out there like this anywhere else in the world.”

1 - DogpatchLabs Ground Floor A meet-up in Dogpatch Labs Source: Dogpatch Labs

How to make it easier for recruiters?

Aside from fixing the housing crisis and somehow magically slashing the cost of living, there’s no switch that could be flicked to make it easier for tech firms to bring in staff.

Huston said more events, like 404 London, are what recruiters really need to help bring talent in the door. It gives them a platform internationally to get in front of workers who might not have been considering Dublin as a place to work.

“There are so many companies in Dublin and Ireland now looking for great people that really the most important thing for us is to make sure we’re visible,” he said.

“Any support governments and local authorities can give to people trying to create those events and sustain them, that helps companies with hiring.”

Whelan said the Irish government needs to make it easier to bring foreign workers in from outside Europe, particularly in smoothing the visa process for South Americans – many of whom were happy to bring their skills here.

She added that there also needs to be more initiatives like Tech Life Ireland to put Ireland in foreign workers’ minds and make sure they think about the Republic as a good place to work.

“You need to show it’s all happening here. I think now is the time to do it with Brexit nearly upon us. As a joint force we need to go out and sell Ireland and sell the opportunities here. We need to go as a big voice.”

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Written by Killian Woods and posted on Fora.ie

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