How to Find and Select IT Staff

IT pros are among the most sought after experts and it is crucial that you find the right people. People are your main asset and they make or break a company, especially in areas that are as knowledge-dependent as IT is. Good IT experts have many offers to choose from and this is something you should never forget when looking for new IT employees.

Define What You Are Looking For

The first step in the process of finding and selecting IT staff is to define what you are looking for. If you have a job description for the position, then your task is almost done because you have already defined what you are looking for. But if you don’t have a job description, or if the job description is too outdated to be of any use, then you should brainstorm a bit and think of what kind of tasks your future employees are supposed to do.
In addition to what you are looking for, you also need to state what you offer. Job ads without specific requirements, detailed description of the responsibilities of the position and the compensation package usually receive times fewer responses than ads where all this is clearly defined. If you can’t disclose the exact annual salary, a salary range and a brief description of the bonuses will do.

Channels to Reach Top IT Candidates

After you have a clear vision about what exactly you are looking for, the next step is to start the search. There are many channels to reach potential candidates and the tactics are different for different positions – reaching a suitable candidate for a Junior System Administrator position is very different from searching for a CEO. The main channels at your disposal are as follows:

  • Your resume database. Many companies maintain a database of resumes of candidates, who were impressive but for some reason were not employed when they applied. If you have such a database, this could be the first place to look at when searching for a new employee. However, have in mind that if your resume database is old, the rejection rate could be high and the whole procedure could be a waste of time. Therefore, you might want to first try some of the most recent applications first because with them the chances of success are higher.
  • Job boards. If you can’t find good candidates in your resume database, you can publish an ad. There are many sites where you can do this. Sites such as Monster, craigslist, or specialized job boards, can literally bury you in resumes, if what you offer is hot. You can post your ad at one place first and see if it gets enough responses, or you can post your ad on 3-4 job boards simultaneously and reach at once as maximum candidates as possible.
  • HR agencies. If you prefer to spare yourself the pleasure of browsing through hundreds of resumes, most of which might not be a good fit at all, or if you don’t want to announce publicly the vacancies within your company, you can resort to recruitment agencies. The assumption is that a recruitment agency will preselect the candidates for you and you will be offered only good matches. Well, in practice this does not always happen but you can give it a try and see if it works for you. HR agencies are an especially good choice as head hunters – i.e. when you are looking for somebody very special and there are only a few good candidates in the area, an HR agency could “hunt” the candidate for you. Head hunting is especially good for top positions, where the number of potential candidates is very limited.
  • Social sites and personal contacts. Personal networking is another great way to find IT staff. If you don’t have the right connections, you can ask your people if they can recommend somebody – a friend from college, or a former colleague. Sites such as LinkedIn, where you build your network of professional contacts and where you can access the networks of your contacts and their contacts are also very helpful. However, have in mind that when you are using personal contact as a channel, very often everybody whom you contact is unavailable, does not plan to change his/her job, is not interested, etc., so if you get many rejections, don’t take it personally.
  • Internal transfers. If your company is a larger one and you have several IT departments and/or operate in several countries, internal transfers are also an option. Internal transfers are especially good for managerial positions, where you can’t easily find an external candidate, who has all the skills you need.
  • College job fairs. College job fairs are a good channel for entry level jobs, so if you need somebody young and not very experienced, a college job fair might be the place to find him or her.
  • Other. If everything else fails (and you’ve got nothing to lose) you can try some HR 2.0 approaches – for instance posting in forums. These channels actually work, especially for IT people, so don’t underestimate these new ways to contact potential candidates.

Now, when you have (hopefully) gathered tons of resumes and wonder what to do with all this stuff, the next step is to read them and sort the great candidates from the rest.

How to Select the Right People

Getting tons of resumes of people who are willing to work for you is only part of the process. Selecting the right people out of the dozens or hundreds who have applied is more time-consuming than gathering resumes. There are many things you need to consider when you select the right people and here I will briefly outline the process of filtering the candidates.

  • Resume screening. If you have posted a job ad, you might receive hundreds of resumes. Take the time to read them and pick up all the candidates with relevant experience. If your ad was well targeted, chances are that you will not have many resumes of candidates, who are totally inadequate for the job. It is best if you narrow your selection down to 3-5 very good candidates for the position, whom to invite for an interview. If the good candidates are more than that but their number is still reasonably low (i.e. 10 or 15), just contact them all. Even if you don’t hire them right now, you can have their resumes in stock and contact them when opportunity arises.
  • Technical tests. The technical skills of a candidate are very important and you can’t make compromises with that. If you frequently hire people for a similar position, you most likely have developed technical tests. Just give the test to the candidates and see how they perform. If you have the resource, you can perform in-person technical interviews. This is applicable when the number of the preselected candidates is reasonable because then it will not take a lot of time.
    You can skip technical tests for internal transfers because more or less you have an idea about the skills of the candidate. However, if the transfer is to a position that requires a completely different skillset and you have no idea about how the candidate might perform, he or she shouldn’t be exempt from the test.
    The certificates a candidate has can also give you a clue about his or her skills. However, don’t trust certificates blindly and if you can, always try to make a personal assessment of the candidate’s technical skills.
  • Psychological assessment. In addition to technical skills, interpersonal skills are also important. For instance, how will the candidate fit into the team? On the other hand, if the candidates are pros, they should know how to behave at work, so unless you spot some very disturbing personal flaws, usually the personality of a candidate is not something to worry about.
  • Administrative chores. When you have narrowed your choice down to a single candidate, the last step is to formalize the hiring. Most likely you have already discussed all the major points, such as compensation, benefits, leave, notice, etc. but if you haven’t, do it now, before you sign the contract. Signing the contract is the final step in the selection process and now you can congratulate yourself on the hot new addition to your team!

Finding and selecting IT staff is not so difficult, though at times it can be very time-consuming and this is why larger companies have HR managers on payroll who deal with all the recruitment intricacies. However, if you don’t hire new IT people all the time, having a dedicated HR manager just for the sake of it is pointless because you yourself can do the job in a much better manner and it will not take you a lot of time and effort.

Posted in Management | Tagged , , , | Comments Off