When hiring gets tough, IT leaders get strategic. Here's how successful organizations seize the experts their competitors' only wish they could land.
The technology industry's unemployment rate is well below the national average, forcing companies to compete aggressively for top talent. When presented with a range of recruitment strategies by a recent Robert Half Technology questionnaire — including using recruiters, providing job flexibility and offering more pay — most IT decision makers said they are likely to try all approaches in order to land the best job candidates for their teams.
"We're currently in a very competitive hiring market," noted Ryan Sutton, district president for Robert Half Technology. "Employers want to hire the best talent to help keep their organization's information safe, but so do a lot of other companies."
Robert Half's research finds that software development and data analytics experts are the most challenging to hire. Many other talents are scarce, too. "Some of the most in-demand skills right now include cloud security, security engineering, software engineering, DevOps, business intelligence and big data, as well as expertise in Java full-stack, ReactJS and AngularJS," Sutton said.
Finding qualified job candidates typically requires using a combination of strategies. But it's also important to be able to move quickly. "At the core of the labor market now is a demand for speed and efficiency in the hiring process, but don't confuse an expeditious process with a hastily made decision," Sutton warned. "Some smart options would be to work with a specialized recruiter who knows your local market well; increasing the pay and benefits package to better attract a top candidate; and losing some of the skills requirements on your job description that aren't must-haves to widen your talent pool." He also reminded hiring managers to not underestimate the power of networking. "Let your contacts know you’re looking to hire for a certain position."
Look beyond the typical sources, suggested Art Langer, a professor and director of the Center for Technology Management at Columbia University and founder and chairman of Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a nonprofit organization that connects underserved and veteran populations with IT jobs. "There is a large pool of untapped talent from underserved communities that companies overlook," he explained. Businesses are now competing in a global market. "New technology allows us to connect with colleagues and potential partners around the world as easily as with our neighbors," Langer said. "Companies hoping to expand overseas can benefit from employees who speak multiple languages."
Companies need to explore different models of employment if they want access to the best and the brightest job candidates, observed Nick Hamm, CEO of 10K Advisors, a Salesforce consulting firm. "Some of the most talented professionals are choosing to leave full-time employment to pursue freelancing careers or start their own small consulting companies as a way to gain more balance or reduce commute times," he advised. "If companies want access to these individuals, they'll need the right processes and mindset in place to incorporate contract employees into core teams." Using a talent broker to find the right experts, vet them and apply them inside an organization to solve business problems can alleviate many of the challenges people may now have tapping into the gig economy, Hamm added.
John Samuel, CIO, of Computer Generated Solutions, a business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing services company, advised building some flexibility into job descriptions and requirements. "In this tight job market, a good way is to find candidates with the right attitude and a solid foundation and then train them in areas where they lack experience," he said. Like Sutton, Samuel believes that many job descriptions are unrealistic, listing many requirements that aren't core to the job's role. "Rather than limiting your potential pool of candidates, simplify the job description to include your core requirements to entice applicants to fill open roles," Samuel recommended.
Mike Weast, regional IT vice president at staffing firm Addison Group, urged hiring managers not to rely on software searches, no matter how intuitive they may claim to be, to uncover qualified job candidates. "There’s a lot of talk about using AI to find qualified candidates, but recruiters are needed to bridge the AI gap," he claimed. "AI doesn't qualify a candidate for showing up on time, having a strong handshake or making eye contact when communicating."
Training current employees to meet the requirements of a vacant position is an often-overlooked method of acquiring experts. "It always makes sense to give existing employees the opportunity to expand their knowledge base and transition into vacant positions," explained Lori Brock, head of innovation, Americas, for OSRAM, a multinational lighting manufacturer headquartered in Munich. "The roles within IT are merging with the traditional R&D functions as well as with roles in manufacturing, procurement, sales, marketing and more," she added. "We can no longer consider jobs in IT fields as belonging to an IT silo within any organization."
It's important to pounce quickly when finding a skilled, qualified job candidate. "Now is certainly not the time to be slow to hire," Sutton said. "It's a candidate’s market and they are well aware of the opportunities available to them."
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John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic ... View Full Bio
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