The Recent Talent Crunch in the Semiconductor Industry | Kerry Consulting

    The Recent Talent Crunch in the Semiconductor Industry

    Speaking Semiconductor with Michelle Lee

    Michelle Lee
    Michelle Lee

    Speaking Semiconductor is Kerry Consulting’s semiconductor industry blog. In this edition Michelle Lee, Semiconductor Practice Lead, covers current industry recruitment conditions and the related demand for high-quality talent. 

    Despite there being some signs of redundancies and hiring freezes in the semiconductor industry, the job market remains highly competitive in 2022. Global MNCs in semiconductor are experiencing unprecedented demand and multiple issues have converged, leading to a global chip shortage, the ramifications of which have affected all industries. As a key pillar of the digital revolution, the appetite for semiconductors is bigger now than we have ever seen previously.  

    Reasons for the chip shortage are multiple. Electric vehicles, 5G applications and AI are all demanding a significant amount of resource. So too is the pandemic, which has necessitated chip-needy devices for millions around the globe to be able to work remotely. 

    More organisations are deciding to enter the chip development space. The likes of Google, Amazon, Meta, Alibaba, Tencent, Ford and Tesla are all building chip design teams to control key parts of their supply chains. In the same vein, countries want to localise their supply chains and are building their own fabrication plants.  

    The immediate need for semiconductors is not expected to change for some time. In line with this we are seeing relentless competition for personnel. In the U.S., Taiwan, Korea, China, and Japan everyone is searching for the same type of talent. There is an abundance of choice available for semiconductor professionals, and candidates know they are in short supply. 

    “The P Word” 

    You could play ball with your competitors and pay more. That is one proven solution to the problem. Yet while it plugs the gap in the short-term, paying more may present other issues down the line. Your margins could be affected and you could also find pay imbalances with existing employees, or those in other business units.

    If you want to hire from tier one competitors, I believe that increasing the pay and building a solid employer value proposition will be advantageous. It is crucial, however, that you also place a meaningful focus on employee integration. 

    While I recognise it as a viable solution, I find that the industry can be blinkered when it comes to talent acquisition. During the crunch we need to consider different approaches together. Paying more can work, but in a tight job market it may have limitations. 

    Other Solutions 

    Upskill and Reskill 

    To build an effective and flexible staff, organisations should spend time appraising their talent retention strategy. This includes talent management and succession planning. The best offense is a good defense. It is an old cliché, but the sentiment remains accurate. 

    The semiconductor industry considers investments in areas like STEM education to be a crucial longer-term solution to the talent crunch. Upskilling and reskilling should not be overlooked either. Firstly, by retraining and providing education opportunities you are pursuing a defensive talent retention strategy. Secondly, you are qualifying your existing talent base for internal promotions. If you train your staff effectively and provide crucial educational opportunities, you will keep them motivated and concurrently prepare them for upcoming opportunities. This can be a sustainable mid-to-long term solution as well. 

    Look to Adjacent Industries 

    If time-sensitive hires have limited talent pools or budgets, you should consider extending your search to adjacent industries. For example, with the recent shortage of service engineers, many organisations have hired talent from Display, LED, Solar, Automotive and other relevant industries.  

    Appropriately compromising on qualifications can help in this regard, as it will expand your talent pool significantly. However, it is important to acknowledge that for certain roles having experience in the semiconductor industry is critical. You should consider this approach on a role-by-role basis; it is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

    According to the job requirements, its budget and urgency, you may need to adjust your hiring strategy, especially in candidate-driven market conditions. Remaining open-minded and understanding adjacent industries may help to fill gaps within your timeline.  

    Be Timely 

    When the market is candidate-driven, time is critical for the semiconductor industry. In pursuing an exemplary candidate, you may find that suitably qualified candidates pass you by. Making appropriate compromises quickly may be better than waiting for the perfect candidate. Hiring managers’ decisiveness can shape outcomes. Candidates will normally have multiple offers on the table – it is not to be underestimated how much speed can play a factor in acquiring them. 

    Michelle Lee has over two decades of experience recruiting for the semiconductor industry. Prior to Kerry Consulting, she was with a leading international recruitment company as a Senior Business Manager, where she managed the overall business while personally conducting senior Technology searches.   

    As Kerry Consulting’s Semiconductor Practice lead, Michelle specialises in senior level hiring for both engineering and commercial appointments. In her current capacity she is regarded as a leading semiconductor recruiter in Asia-Pacific, with hiring mandates across South Korea, Taiwan, China, and the U.S.  

    For more information on talent issues during the semiconductor shortage, please reach out at 

    Michelle Lee

    Michelle Lee

    Semiconductor Recruiter