Tech & Work

How David can beat Goliath in recruiting battles

Your midsize company doesn't have a big name in the industry. So how can you recruit new workers in a tight labor market? The answer might not cost you a dime.

It’s a situation that might make you feel like you’re David battling Goliath—but in this scenario, you’re standing in the IT arena withouta sling or a stone.

You are in charge of hiring several talented IT workers to fill a variety of positions. The project deadline looms. It’s a task that may seem even more formidable if you’re a manager at a midsize firm. How do you compete with in the battle to recruit scarce IT staff?

“With technology unemployment at 1 to 2 percent, especially in hot skill areas, it’s easier said than done,” said Greg Scileppi, executive director of RHI Consulting .

In this article, you’ll learn how midsize firms can gain the advantage in the effort to recruit new IT workers. While, as Scileppi said, it won’t be easy, we will show you how it can be done.
Throughout the month, TechRepublic has examined the top IT trends that will affect midsize companies, showing managers how to use them to their advantage.
“Midsize companies generally don’t have the name recognition, so it’s harder—people don’t come to them as readily,” said David Schnitt, executive vice president of IT services for Resources Connection. “Midsize firms have to go find [employees].”

Schnitt said these midsize firms often have limited resources compared to larger firms, and that affects hiring. “For an IT professional going into that environment, they can get scared off, so to speak.”

A big fish in a midsize pond
It’s easy to be pessimistic and dwell on the disadvantages when you’re competing in the recruiting game. Instead, focus on the advantages your midsize firm offers prospective employees.

Compared to larger organizations, midsize companies often offer IT professionals more autonomy. “It’s a big selling point in that they don’t have the bureaucracy,” said Schnitt.

Most IT workers appreciate a less formal management style with fewer layers of administration. This type of environment may allow a staff member to take on larger and more significant projects earlier in his career.

When your budget doesn’t allow you to compete with bigger salaries, it’s time to get creative with other attractive benefits. A recent TechRepublic survey revealed that most IT workers would prefer perks to a larger paycheck. Here’s how workers ranked benefits in the survey.
  1. More vacation: IT workers want lots of time off—six weeks without a pager!
  2. Telecommuting or job sharing: These options are geared to recruit parents looking for ways to balance work and family. Consider creating a “family friendly” benefits package.
  3.  Relaxed dress code: This is a benefit that doesn’t hurt your budget.
  4. Company-paid certification costs and educational expenses

Getting them into the tent
Finding qualified applicants to interview should not begin and end with an advertisement in the classifieds. Recruiting should be a year-round goal. Borrow techniques from those who recruit top athletes. Look for talent when they’re young and uncommitted. Consider creating an intern partnership with a local college or high school. Your interns might make good employees sooner than you think.

“A very successful strategy for midsize companies is to hire young bright people who may not have all the experience you would like but who will be willing to learn,” Schnitt said.

He advises choosing people who have already demonstrated that they’re able to master new skills quickly. A programmer who knows several programming languages will likely be able to learn new languages.

The payoff of reduced salaries for less experienced workers isn’t as obvious as it seems. The salaries for less skilled workers may start a little lower but there could be a cost associated with the need for training these workers.

Managers should make recruiting a company-wide effort:
  • Offer a bonus or even a free lunch to employees who recommend an applicant who is hired. The more qualifications the applicant brings to the table, the larger the bonus for the person who recruited the individual.
  • Post your job openings with your customers and suppliers. These groups know your business needs.
Share your secret for successful recruiting. What’s the toughest position to fill? Post a comment below or send us a story idea.
Outsource staff needs
Hiring permanent employees isn’t always feasible. The answer to your recruiting problems may be hiring an outside consultant to assist current employees.

“What we’ve found is just-in-time consulting will augment the core group of technology professionals,” Scileppi said. “We feel that’s a win-win for our clients.”

“The key to using just-in-time technology consulting resources is to be proactive,” said Scileppi.” If you’re reactive, you have a low chance of acquiring the skills the enterprise needs when you need them.”

For those organizations hiring, Schnitt believes the fit with existing IT staff is more important than skills. “When I provide a company with a consultant, it’s someone I think will fit well and work well in that environment. Skills can be taught. A lot of times, in fact too often, companies look at the current skills somebody has. That’s not as important as a fit. Are they smart? Do they have a good foundation? Are they bright and hardworking?”

Linda Dailey Paulson writes frequently about computing and technology topics as a freelance author.

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