10 Tips For Hiring Top Tech Grads

Graduation time at colleges and universities across the nation yields a fresh crop of potential IT pros. But competition is fierce for top tech talent. Here are 10 tips from a recruiting expert on how to identify rising stars and seal the deal when hiring the best in class among recent grads.
Seek Soft Skills
Pursue Passionate Techies
Look For The Hobbyist
Leverage An Internship Program
Step Up Self-Promotion
Chart A Career Path
Offer A Senior Staff Mentor
Locate A Lifelong Learner
Capture A Cultural Fit
Move Fast With Competitive Pay

With graduation season in full swing, hiring managers for IT departments are looking to find the best and brightest in this latest bumper crop of soon-to-be tech professionals.

But be warned, it's still a jobseekers' market -- even for recent grads -- when it comes to tech positions, John Reed, executive director of recruiting firm Robert Half Technology, told InformationWeek in an interview.

According to a survey conducted by Robert Half of more than 2,500 CIOs from 25 major US markets, 60% said that it's somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals today. In some high tech hubs, such as Massachusetts, the current shortage of tech talent is worse than in previous tech booms, according to a Boston Globe report.

"While there may be more students pursing technology as a career path than years ago, it is still a jobseeker's market -- even for new grads," Reed said. "The options for leading, interesting, and innovative companies across the map have grown, and organizations have to ensure they're marketing themselves to top talent as an attractive option. Tech pros want to work with new and interesting technologies in an environment where they can grow and learn. Just any IT department will not do."

Because of the industry's shortage of tech workers, grads in this current job market have more options to be selective with prospective employers. As a result, hiring managers need to think outside the box to attract great talent.

Employers, for example, need to be much more cognizant of the fact that they have to promote their companies and IT departments, in order to be more attractive to prospective job candidates, Reed said, adding there is an increased need for hiring managers to "sell themselves" as part of the recruitment process.

"While competitive salaries, benefits and perks should always be part of the recruitment strategy, there should be a focus on ensuring tech team members feel challenged in their roles and are able to learn, grow and develop their careers within the organization," Reed said. "A team leader should be able to answer the question 'Why should I work here?'"

[See Top 10 Highest Paying Tech Companies.]

Although the job market favors grads, hiring managers should obviously not expect to get a seasoned veteran when they hire a grad. Although colleges and universities teach students to code and beyond, hiring managers should anticipate that on-the-job training will also be needed.

"While some educational institutions are helping to prepare new grads, there's certainly still an onus on each student to pave their own way throughout their educational journey in order to be a marketable job candidate," Reed said. "Technology students have the unique advantage of being able to contribute to and work on open source projects and build a portfolio, even without more formal office experiences."

As a result, employers should seek out candidates who have taken advantage of their ability to pursue technology projects in a number of ways -- from attending hack-a-thons to building games or apps.

That said, however, employers should also be prepared to account for some training with all new hires, especially new grads. The learning curve should not be seen as a disadvantage, but rather an opportunity to train a potentially crucial team member to fit into the organization.

"As long as the candidate is driven and excited to learn, this can be an excellent opportunity to start building a future leader for your organization," Reed said.

Here's a look at tips for choosing and closing the deal with the cream of the crop of recent grads. Are these some of the qualities you look for in candidates when building your tech team? What have you done to hire and retain great employees? Let us know in the comments section below.

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