Finding Hard-to-Find Talent

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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The hiring environment is not nearly as competitive as it was during the dot-com era, but that is changing quickly. In fact, you may already have noticed that finding IT professionals with the skill sets you need is no easy feat these days.

If you're looking for candidates who not only have strong technical expertise but who also possess excellent communication abilities, business savvy and certifications, the field narrows even more.

That's not to say it is impossible to locate hard-to-find talent. It just takes more creativity and an understanding of how to maximize the recruitment tools available.

What follows are some of the most useful sources for tracking down qualified applicants and advice for getting more out of these methods:


Nearly every company uses print and/or online classifieds during the recruitment process. However, many organizations make critical mistakes with their ads that yield poor results.

Some include either a vague or too-brief description of the available position, which can generate an overwhelming response from unqualified applicants. Others do not list their company name, which deters working candidates who may fear they could be responding to their current employers.

To reach in-demand IT professionals, consider going beyond just the large online job boards and your local newspaper. Resources that focus on specific industries or fields, such as technology Web sites or publications, often post career opportunities and can be an excellent way to reach a targeted audience.

When creating your ad, don't forget to "sell" your firm. Why should that network administrator with sought after systems security skills take the time to apply to your opening? What makes your firm an attractive employer? Give candidates a compelling reason to send you their resumes.


You can never be sure who might be able to help you find skilled IT talent. So, mention your search to each person you know, even if he or she has no direct involvement in the technology field. Your next-door neighbor, for instance, may have a niece with the perfect background for your job opening.

You can also attend industry association and user-group meetings. Most include brief networking sessions at the end where employers and job seekers can mingle.

Employee Referrals

When our company polled CIOs to find out what they consider the most effective way to find qualified IT candidates their top response was employee referrals.

Why is this method considered so reliable? Most people will not recommend someone who they feel will not succeed in the role. Research also suggests that the turnover rate among staff who have been referred is lower than the rate among employees recruited through other means.

Encourage those in your company to make referrals by providing incentives, such as bonuses or vacation days, if their contacts are hired and remain with the firm a specified period of time.

Job Fairs

Job fairs are typically sponsored by groups with a narrow focus, such as associations or colleges, and can provide access to a targeted audience.

To be sure your business makes the right impression with candidates, send a senior representative from your IT team to the event. That way, you will have someone there who can evaluate applicants and answer specific questions about your firm's technology goals and available positions.

Providing face-to-face contact with an IT professional at your company can also help you stand out from competitors whose booth staff is limited to human resources representatives.

Staffing Firms

Many organizations rely on staffing firms such as RHT to find temporary and full-time employees with the hottest skill sets. In fact, CIOs in our survey ranked this strategy the second most effective way to locate IT talent.

Staffing firms typically have strong connections in the business community, giving them access to the hidden talent pool -- candidates you might not otherwise find because they are not actively searching for new jobs.

However, for the best results, it is critical to select the right recruiting partner for your company.

Solicit recommendations and visit top contenders to make sure they have the IT expertise to make successful matches. Be wary of any firm that will not spell out fee arrangements and business practices during your discussion, as well as those charging applicants fees for finding a job.

Once you select a firm, give your contact as much information as possible about your hiring needs and expectations so he or she can evaluate candidates appropriately.

Locating IT professionals with sought-after backgrounds and expertise may take time. However, with a diverse approach that gets the most out of recruitment options, you will increase your chances of finding qualified talent.

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.