Improve IT recruiting with the four Ps

IT recruiting is tough given the demand for IT talent, but companies that use the four P's along with long-term vision can find the right IT talent.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Finding the right IT talent can be one of the most complex problems a business can face, but there are a few tactics that can improve IT recruiting.

It's getting harder to fill IT jobs with qualified candidates, and the gap between the growing demand and available supply will likely grow into the foreseeable future. This puts pressure on businesses to think about IT needs more strategically and over a much longer term.

Long-term success isn't just a matter of meeting a series of bulleted pre-requisite skills or experience.

To really benefit the business, the goal is to find an appropriate IT candidate to fulfill long-term business goals -- and then take the right steps to develop and retain that hire.

It's a tall order, but at Gartner's IT Infrastructure and Operations Management Summit 2014 here this week, research VP Diane Berry laid out the basics for attracting and retaining IT professionals with the right stuff.

Meet IT staffing challenges

Demand for IT skills far outstrips the supply of IT talent, with a critical need for talent in such roles as information security, enterprise architecture, information architecture, business IT consulting, business process architecture, technology innovation and others, Berry said. The onus is on recruiters to fill the gap between demands and the number of qualified candidates.

One common problem with IT hiring is that organizations fail to take the long view with too little sense of IT and business needs. For example, it's common for an organization to hire an Oracle expert for an upcoming Oracle project, but there is no consideration of the underlying business strategy or business value of the effort. A new hire certainly cannot be sensitive to business needs if the hiring process doesn't include a long-term business perspective.

Berry cites recent survey results reporting that 37% of hiring managers only perform staff planning for six to 12 months into the future -- hardly a decisive strategic planning timeframe. Plans will certainly evolve over longer time frames, but Berry advises planning for talent needs out to two or three years in accordance with IT's support of the business.

A second flaw in hiring strategies is the tendency for hiring managers to focus on limited skill sets. When employees are recruited to perform specific tasks they may be extremely effective at them. But as new projects emerge and priorities change, many organizations find themselves lacking the agility and flexibility to transition IT staff between projects.

IT professionals can be evaluated with closer attention to a broader range of tasks within the company. Not as vertical as a specialist that does one thing extremely well, not as horizontal as a generalist doing many things adequately, but doing a wider range of tasks well. This takes development over time, but the company can meet its emerging needs much faster than hiring someone new, and can pay huge dividends in staff engagement and retention by keeping the job fresh and challenging.

Follow the four 'Ps'

Technical managers and employers can utilize a familiar marketing paradigm as an effective blueprint for IT recruiting, which Berry called the four Ps: Product, place, price, and promotion.

In this case, the "product" is the role to be filled, but it's important to frame the opportunity as an IT career rather than an IT task set. Candidates should be hired for aptitude but trained for skills, as the job-based focus is often too narrow and can sometimes put off potential candidates that might otherwise be intrigued with the potential for other avenues of professional challenge, Berry said.

It's not just a matter of writing creative job descriptions. Tactics like peer-based interviews and internships can do an enormous job of drawing potential candidates into the company and garnering genuine interest in present and future projects that even the human resources interviewer might not be aware of.

The "place" is where you look for prospective IT talent, though the options have expanded dramatically in the last decade. Traditional posting locations like newspaper advertisements have been heavily supplanted by websites like Monster.com and even more recently by professional-grade social networking resources like LinkedIn. Traditional recruiters, job fairs, on-campus recruiting and employee referrals are often augmented by expanding internship programs. Even revolutionary concepts like crowd-sourcing are helping fill open roles. The trick is to get the attention where the talent is. Creative or innovative recruiting tactics may reveal excellent candidates in unexpected places.

"Price" is about compensation, though Berry is quick to note that it's about more than money. Direct compensation is just one aspect to consider, and potential candidates can often be enticed to a prospective position by adding the discussion of indirect compensation, such as medical benefits, vacation time, flextime options, telecommuting and other attractive offerings beyond a paycheck.

Another area that is often underutilized in the compensation discussion is professional and career development. This is tied to the original posting -- framing the role as a career rather than just a job -- and carrying the discussion forward in an interview by illustrating the ways in which a candidate can grow within the organization and the potential career paths available. Younger or entry-level IT candidates may be particularly interested in the prospect of work experience, though more seasoned prospects may find this interesting when responsibilities are notably different than prior assignments.

The final "P," promotion, ties everything together, effectively pitching the opportunity with a great company including corporate culture, vision and performance; a meaningful career with challenge, learning and growth; comprehensive compensation; and talented and collaborative people.

This was first published in June 2014

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