How to hire A.I. talent in a red-hot market

May 12, 2021, 10:06 PM UTC

After a year of uncertainty brought by COVID-19, many data scientists are trying to switch employers in what is a red-hot market for their talents.

Alessandra Sala, director of A.I. and data science at stock photography company Shutterstock, said during a recent Fortune Brainstorm A.I. discussion that she noticed the increased job hopping after Shutterstock started an A.I. hiring campaign in January and saw a flood of applicants.

“What we have seen in the last few months has been so much bigger than what we expected,” Sala said. 

Prospective employers must show that they’re attractive places to work since A.I. experts have many options to choose from, she explained. Pitching jobs as having an “impact on humanity” is helpful because data scientists are more inclined to work where they feel they are focusing on cutting-edge technologies that have a big societal impact.

Daniel Jeavons, the general manager of data science at Shell, said that the energy giant hosts hackathons, at which it challenges data scientists to work on energy-related problems that they find inspiring. One hackathon required data scientists to use A.I. to create more efficient wind farms than those developed by Shell.

“People think of us as just an oil and gas company,” Jeavons said. “We got to dispel that myth.”

One benefit of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shelter-in-place is that companies are more open to hiring not just where their main offices are located, explained Marco Casalaina, a senior vice president for Salesforce’s Einstein A.I. business.

Previously, San Francisco-based Salesforce would overlook cities like Seattle or Ottawa as talent hubs, but the rise of remote workers has changed that thinking, he said. Some ex-Amazon and Microsoft workers that Salesforce recently recruited to its A.I. unit will be able to work remotely in Seattle, Casalaina said.

In hiring A.I. talent,  it’s “not where are you but when are you,” Casalaina said, referring to companies wanting to quickly hire talented workers regardless of where they live.

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