Successful Recruiting in a Tightening Market

Aug 12, 2005

David Bair

The budget cuts and hiring freezes that characterized the early 2000s meant that CIOs were often able to select potential candidates from a sizeable pool of readily available talent, draw out the hiring process, and still wind up with their top choices.

Not anymore.

With today’s expanded choices in the employment market, candidates are scarcer, less willing to wait for an offer and are more likely to be considering opportunities with several companies.

As a result, CIOs must be prepared to move quickly when the right candidate comes along; accept that recruitment tactics that worked two years ago may not work well today; and be willing to take a candidate-centered approach to their recruitment strategies.

That first issue — accelerating the hiring process — is actually the easiest to address. Once the decision is made to hire, everyone who will be involved in the process should be made aware of their individual responsibilities and the timeframe for completion of the process. This ensures that interviews can be completed and an offer made in a timely manner.

What Works Now

As for what works today, compensation levels are increasing along with demand for talent. As such, it is unwise to base compensation levels on rates from a year (or even six months) ago unless they are still equitable with the market.

According to a survey by IT research firm Foote Partners, pay increased an average of six percent in the past year for networking positions, 4.5% increase in groupware/messaging, and four percent in applications development and programming languages.

If you aren’t basing your compensation packages on current rates, it’s unlikely your positions will be considered by the caliber of candidate you need to attract.

At the same time, top IT talent today is still smarting from past staff cuts. They are re-focusing interest on long-term opportunities rather than big compensation packages that don’t come with a commitment to helping them expand their skills and advance their positions within the company.

Demonstrating a commitment to potential candidates will go a long way toward setting your offer apart from others they may be considering.

Successful Tactics

The first thing to do when it comes successful recruiting in today’s environment is to fully define what skills and characteristics the perfect candidate should possess.

The second thing is to accept that, with everyone competing for the cream of the IT crop, that perfect candidate may not be available. As such, it’s smart to be flexible in the screening process; be willing to talk with individuals who match the majority of but not all your requirements and who have demonstrated a capacity for learning rather than waiting for the perfect employee who might never apply.

Get more creative with recruitment strategies. For example, expand internal recruitment efforts through an employee referral program. Some companies have even expanded referral programs to include customers, vendors and employee families. Or by networking with other managers and supervisors to identify good candidates.

Develop new sources to tap for candidates, such as partnerships with universities and graduate schools or implementing programs designed to speed the development process to move potential candidates up the career ladder more quickly. Another strategy is to look toward professional associations for candidates.

Finally, establish or strengthen relationships with staffing firms. Doing so now ensures recruiters are knowledgeable enough about your company’s culture and special needs so they will be able to identify potential candidates who would be good fits before your needs become critical.

Also, by fostering a long-term relationship with a firm, it’s more likely that your company will be a priority if you experience a surge in projects and need consultants or temporary help on short notice.

The Budget

No matter how well designed your recruitment strategies are, they are doomed to fail if you don’t have an adequate budget to back them up. If you haven’t already done so, take a hard look at your current and future staffing needs and how close your budget is to meeting them.

If you are still functioning under a budget left over from the bust-days, it’s time to start negotiations with the CFO to bring it up to date. Ensuring you are well positioned financially for future hiring needs is the best recruitment strategy you can have.

David Bair is vice president-Flex for Kforce Technology Staffing, a division of Kforce Inc. He can be reached at .


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