New Ways of Recruting in a Hot Market

By CIO Update Staff

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If recent staffing surveys are correct, then IT hiring is a sellers market. In response, CIOs and their HR counterparts are having to get more creative in their search for new talent.

To help CIOs with this challenge, Samuel Bright, a research analyst at Forrester, recently released Recruiting IT Talent: Adjusting To A Hot Market , which details new ways of finding and hiring sought after IT pros.

In this report Bright writes that recruiting in a tight talent market requires CIOs to shift their thinking about recruiting and broaden the places they look for talent. As part of this process, CIOs should:

Stop searching for a silver bullet solution. As talent becomes harder to find, many CIOs searching for a recruiting panacea are misjudging the level of effort required to attract and retain candidates in today’s environment.

IT leaders must quit treating employment in IT as a great honor that others should instinctively understand. Competition for talent is scrappy and the most creative, tightly messaged, culturally aligned, people-focused IT organization will win in terms both of attracting talent and of retaining it over the long term.

Take charge of IT’s recruiting destiny. Just as many CIOs who have recognized the complexity and uniqueness of technology purchasing have focused on vendor management, those who recognize this same theme in recruiting should focus on talent management as core to overall IT strategy.

CIOs cannot afford to entrust their talent needs solely to HR and staffing firms. Although these organizations play important roles in the recruiting process, CIOs must become more directly involved in reaching college students, networking with current IT professionals, and marketing IT careers to business professionals.

Approach recruiting from a global perspective. CIOs of multinational enterprise IT organizations need to think globally and act locally during workforce planning. As part of this process, they need to assess proficiencies, training demand, forecasted need, and the strategic importance of the skills possessed by their employee base in each region.

Based on the output of this skills assessment, they can prioritize their skill needs by locale and survey specific geographies to determine the availability of their high-priority skill sets. This process provides better inputs for deciding where to open new offices with IT staff.

Identify enterprise IT’s brand. Reaching the passive majority of current IT and business professionals requires branding to communicate IT’s cultural differentiators and spur interest in pursuing careers in enterprise IT. Similarly, college students and their influencers react to a strong enterprise IT brand that entices them to pursue education in IT and assures them of career prospects in an enterprise IT organization after graduation.

CIOs need to identify IT’s cultural differentiators and distill them into a brand and associated messaging that can be used to reach these audiences.

What goes down sometimes comes up. According to a recent Robert Half Technology survey of 1,400 CIOs, 16% planned to hire IT professionals during the first quarter of 2007. Only 2% planned to reduce headcount.

This figure represented the largest net hiring increase since the fourth quarter of 2001. A follow-up survey on Q2 hiring plans confirmed this growth trend, with a 12% net hiring increase projected by CIOs. So what does this hot job market mean for IT? It’s a sellers’ market.IT professionals have more options and are pickier about their choices of employment. Because there is greater demand, IT workers, especially those with highly sought after skills, require extra wooing from enterprise IT leaders. In addition, IT leaders must recognize that the candidate’s decision-making process takes into account culture, brand, advancement opportunity, technology profile, and business involvement as well as compensation.

New Challenges

With recruiting moving up their priority list, many CIOs are confronted by myriad challenges finding and attracting the right talent for their organizations. CIOs are:

Concerned about IT’s limited talent pipeline. Fewer young people are pursuing careers in IT, and many of those who do are more interested in working for a Google than an enterprise IT organization. Additionally, many baby boomer IT professionals will soon be eligible for retirement, leading either to lost knowledge or to a new class of expensive, part-time contractors.

Dissatisfied with resume quality. CIOs have trouble finding people with the specialized skills they need. When they place ads on job boards or in newspapers, they receive resumes from candidates with the right buzzwords but not the corresponding skill sets.

Recruiting firms and HR departments without sufficient IT knowledge or context fall for this ruse and refer keyword candidates to IT, lengthening the time and cost it takes to find truly qualified candidates.

Worried about pay scale imbalance. In pursuing specific skills, IT leaders might pay a premium in highly competitive talent markets that distorts compensation grades in their organizations over time. As current employees become aware of widely disparate pay grades, morale suffers and staffers wonder if their skills would be worth more in another IT organization.

Frustrated with recruiting firms. CIOs feel comfortable using recruiting firms to fill executive roles, but are skeptical about their effectiveness in finding midlevel talent, particularly for high demand roles (e.g., project managers, business analysts, and Oracle DBAs). Common complaints from those involved in finding good fit candidates include ignorance of the role of IT culture, recycling of resumes found on online job boards, and insufficient prescreening of candidates.

Burdened by geographic considerations. Although CIOs are willing to recruit outside of their geographies, candidates might be reluctant to relocate due to quality of life and spouse employment opportunities. This reluctance to relocate forces IT leaders to “cannibalize” the local market.