Tips for finding the best IT talent

Employing IT staff is not longer about filling roles, it's about finding the right person for the right job. Here are a few handy recruitment tips that every business should keep in mind.

Gone are the days where anyone could walk into a job into the IT sector.

As two recent surveys from Greythorn and Peoplebank have shown, the sector is taking a pretty cautious approach to hiring at the moment. The focus has shifted from filling roles to finding the right employees, and that task can be a real challenge.

Not only is the number of quality candidates on the market often few, the importance of IT also ensures that they’re in great demand. This is especially true for specialist roles.

However, there are some strategies that businesses can pursue to better their recruiting. These include:

Using all available avenues

Its no longer good enough to just  post an ad and expect to attract the best IT candidates. Instead, you’ll need to be proactive. LinkedIn has proved itself to be a powerful tool, with its members often advertise the fact that they’re interested in ‘career opportunities’.

That said, job sites such as Seek remain a good resource if you’re searching for generalist IT staff. By advertising, you’ll receive a flood of applications – including many from overseas – but there will be wheat amongst the chaff.

Social media is another good recruiting tool. And if it’s a specialist you’re after, specialist recruitment services are a good place to turn.

In a competitive market, it also helps to build a strong employer brand through benefits programs. If your business can become an ‘employer of choice’ candidates will increasingly come to you.

Who to find

The next obvious question, is what should your business actually look for in a candidate.

Needs vary, but to understand where your search might take you, consider the three types of IT person your recruiting is likely to encounter

1. The server specialist.

This person will have a technical or engineering focus.

On the upside, they’ll manage your business systems very effectively – taking care of updates and monitoring while ensuring that your infrastructure is well-oiled, secure and high-performing.

On the downside, their technical skills will rarely be accompanied by good customer service, and they won’t deliver a great support service to your staff.

Essentially, they may feel that helping staff with desktop problems is beneath them. They’ll sometimes be dismissive when staff need IT help – and, in the worst cases, staff might simply stop asking until things have reached a critical state.

Server specialists also enjoy working and experimenting with the latest and greatest technologies. Unfortunately, it can be to the degree that they’ll adopt what might not be the best technologies for your business.

2. The service specialist.

This person knows how to deal with people and serve a business well.

They’ll ensure that the needs of staff are met, and a user-first mentality will ensure that their help desk abilities are second-to-none. Business problems will be addressed and business teams will become more effective and efficient as a result.

On the downside, this person won’t be as technically skilled when it comes to managing servers, systems and applications. They won’t be as proactive as the server specialist when it comes to patching, system monitoring and performance, and security.

3. The strategic specialist.

This person understands IT in terms of what it can do for a business.

They’ll be able to deploy IT that creates competitive advantages, and they’ll know how to align IT systems with business need – sharpening productivity, efficiency and customer service capabilities. 

Unfortunately, they’re unlikely to have the deep technical know-how required to keep the systems they implement up and running.

The all-in-one candidate

Naturally, the above categories aren’t mutually exclusive. If you can find someone with proven abilities across all three areas, you’ve found a real gem.

The reality is however that you’re very unlikely to discover such an ideal candidate. This means compromise.

The solution is then a choice between:

(a) Hiring one person, but having to pick between unhappy staff, wobbly servers or a lack of business strategy, depending on the type of candidate you pick.

(b) Hiring two people: a technical person and a people person. You then work with them but take the lead in developing your IT strategy yourself.

Don’t drive in circles

I see many businesses limiting themselves to one person, but moving between IT staff with different competencies.

They’ll take on someone with vision until things break down, for example. Then they’ll find someone with superior technical skills, only to find that their strategy has fallen behind that of their competitors down the track.

To circumvent such trouble, I suggest that businesses who need to make a choice select the strategic thinker.

The reason is this: technical operations and help desk services can always be outsourced, whereas the strategic vision for IT is best set by the business itself.

Dave Stevens is managing director of managed IT services business, Brennan IT

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