Don't Hire Just Anyone

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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A database administrator has just given notice because she is leaving for a position at another company. You’re disappointed. The person is moving on, but your mind immediately focuses on what to do next. Time to post a job ad and contact a recruiter so you can fill the vacancy as soon as possible.

This seems like a sound strategy, but is it? While the loss of just one employee can severely impact a team’s ability to meet deadlines, it’s important not to rush to hire. Every time you have an opening, it’s an opportunity to analyze what skills will most efficiently and effectively satisfy your staffing needs. Here are some steps to consider before you start the recruitment process:

Think about the big picture. Look at your business plan and budget for the coming year. What are the major projects on the horizon? Are there any operational or financial changes ahead that will affect your IT department? These are critical questions to answer as you assess your hiring needs.

Evaluate existing talent. Next, narrow your focus and consider whether you have the right skill sets on staff to achieve the goals in your business plan. Remember not to just concentrate on technology aptitude, but also abilities such as communication, negotiation and leadership, which can play a role in the team’s success. Identifying skills gaps can help you target your staffing efforts.

Note the workload. It’s also valuable to take a thorough look at personnel levels. Where are the pressures greatest within your group right now and where are they expected to be greatest in the future? Are you noticing any signs of burnout, such as increased absenteeism or a growing number of mistakes on the job by good employees? These can point to where your hiring need is most critical.

You can gain a clearer idea by analyzing workload trends. Calculate the number of hours a team works each month. One person working eight hours a day, with 20 workdays in the month, works a total of 160 hours. So, if you have a staff of five in a particular group, you’d have access to 800 “person hours.” Don’t forget to reduce the number of person hours in the group about to lose an employee. 5.

Next, you’ll want to compare this number to the anticipated workload. Take a look at key monthly initiatives and determine the amount of time required. In your Web group, website updates and maintenance might take 25 hours, designing new web pages 40 hours, and so on. Next, think about special initiatives, such as a major revision to the corporate website or new functionality being introduced on the site. If the workload is expected to exceed the person hours available for a significant period of time, it can indicate a need for a new full-time hire or even multiple hires.


Develop your strategy. Now, concentrate on the vacancy. Is it a priority to fill this particular role or is there a more pressing need for talents in another area of your group? Your analysis of your business plan, employee skills and workloads can help you better answer this question. Also consider whether you might distribute the responsibilities of the open job among existing members of your team and supplement their efforts with contract IT professionals. Solicit input from managers and employees on your staffing plans. They’re on the front lines and may see needs that aren’t readily apparent to you.

Don’t look to the past. If you decide to fill the vacancy, be sure to create a fresh job description that reflects current requirements and long-term objectives. For instance, your previous network administrator may have been there when your firm was growing and launching larger IT initiatives. Now that business has slowed down, you may need someone who can focus more on recommending cost-saving tactics and maintaining existing technology, and less on implementing upgrades and developing strategy.

Taking the time to assess your needs carefully before filling vacancies can ensure you’re investing your payroll budget wisely. You’ll find that you’re making smarter staffing decisions that not only address your short-term demands but also position you for success in the long run.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.