Subtle Recruitment Strategies That Get Results

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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Bill Gates’ recent testimony before the Senate requesting support to allow IT staff from foreign countries to work in the United States reinforced what many technology executives have already recognized: It can be very challenging to recruit skilled talent in the current market.

A recent survey of CIOs by Robert Half Technology found that it takes an average of 56 days to fill a staff-level IT position and 87 days to bring a new manager on board.

As companies vie for the most qualified candidates, “How can our firm attract technology professionals?” has become the million-dollar question. Certainly, making sure your compensation and benefits package is competitive is a good start. But to truly enhance your recruitment tactics, you may need to broaden the scope of your efforts beyond money and perks.

Applicants will begin making judgments about your organization before they even submit an application. The overall impression they have of your firm can mean the difference between someone who is enthusiastic about joining your team and someone who writes off the opportunity altogether.

Here are some strategies that can help tip the scales in your favor:

Build Industry Buzz - Draw candidates to your company by making it a place people want to work. If your business isn’t a household name, do your part to develop recognition in the community.

IT professionals seek to be a part of organizations they respect, particularly those doing interesting work. Speak to a local user-group meeting about your experience with a particular technology or talk to an IT association about a key project your department completed last year. Writing articles for technology publications, websites or professional groups also can build interest in your firm as a prospective employer.

If your company has a public relations or marketing team, tap into their expertise. Get the word out through the media about unique endeavors your department may be engaged in. For instance, if your company is the first in its industry to use a new technology, you could offer to be profiled during the implementation process. You’ll help to put your company in the spotlight.

Consider the Surroundings - Once you’ve drawn candidates to your firm, make sure you’re ready to conduct the resulting employment interviews. That means more than preparing interview questions ahead of time.

Take an honest look at your department: What are job applicants likely to think of it on a first visit? If people have to walk by cubicles filled with old furniture and cables, desktop units and other tech gear spilling into the aisles, you may get a “Wow” for the wrong reasons. Prospective employees may doubt your firm’s professionalism, organization or ability to get simple things done, like disposing of old monitors. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create an inviting work environment.

Offer a Warm Greeting - Make people feel welcome when they arrive at your company. Inform the receptionist of the candidate’s name and appointment time. Then do your best to adhere to the interview schedule.

A late start can be particularly troublesome to applicants who may be missing work for the appointment, and tardiness suggests that the interview isn’t a high priority to you. Also, re-read the person’s resume before the meeting, so you’re familiar with his or her background.

Be careful about scheduling appointments with candidates too close together. You don’t want applicants to feel that they’re part of an assembly line of interviews.

Highlight Technology Investments - During the screening process, it’s easy to get so caught up in evaluating candidates and their potential fit with the company that you don’t adequately promote the job opportunity.

IT professionals will have a keen interest in the technologies your firm uses and any future plans for upgrades. Candidates want to know if they’ll be stuck working with outdated products or whether your company is keeping up with trends. So, if your firm has made or expects to make any interesting IT investments, be sure to tout them to prospective employees.

Promote your History - Many IT professionals either experienced the dot-com crash firsthand or knew colleagues who did and want to avoid similar job loss again. They’ll be looking carefully for any warning signs of potential problems in your business.

Having financial success and a strong track record in your industry can be critical selling points. Talk about your organization’s management team and hand out printed materials such as annual reports that reinforce your firm’s stability.

Often it’s the small actions you take that can set your company apart from the competition when recruiting IT professionals. Think beyond dollars and cents to what you truly can offer candidates: Why would someone want to work for you? Playing up some of the less obvious bonuses of joining your team may give you just the edge you need to secure the best employees.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in the North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.