Tech & Work

Three ways to recruit IT workers when you can't afford huge salaries

Salaries for IT workers are skyrocketing. If you don't have the budget to pay top-dollar, consider these hiring strategies for finding the people you need at the salary your budget can bear.


It’s not surprising that it takes 37 percent more time to fill an IT position than a non-IT position. The four fastest-growing occupations in the United States are in the high-tech world.

The corporate world continues to demand more IT workers, and the supply of labor isn’t keeping up with demand. In fact, a Gartner report predicted that by the year 2004, demand for IT skills will outstrip supply by 20 percent.

The critical shortage of IT professionals is also driving up salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over a 10-year period, IT salaries have risen 19 percent, compared to a five percent increase for the national labor market. (These numbers do not include bonuses, stock options, or other compensation methods.)

How can IT managers hire needed technical staff and stay within their budget? Here are three strategies that might help you.

1. Consider hiring someone who needs training
Imagine this scenario—you’ve hired a novice IT support person even though you really need an Exchange administrator. If the job candidate has demonstrated that he or she has learned other tasks quickly, you are willing to hire him or her with the agreement that you’ll pay for training.

You’ve stayed within the budget—although your new hire may require more supervision. The job candidate has been given an opportunity to learn new skills.

This scenario roughly describes how TechRepublic member Matt Rice got his job with an Internet start-up. He said the company that hired him knew he would need more training.

“They’re paying me at least $20,000 less than they’d have to pay an Exchange administrator, and I do desktop support, and I do purchasing, and I do all this other stuff. It’s pretty crazy,” said Rice.

Experienced IT professionals who are looking for jobs are understandably highly critical of this hiring technique. But IT managers who are bound to a budget will argue that they don’t have the authority to change the salary range for a particular position, and they must consider less-qualified job applicants.

Several recent TechRepublic articles have outlined best practices when hiring newcomers to IT. Here are some ideas for finding less-experienced workers who show potential:

2. Know your market
Knowing the market gives companies a starting point in regard to setting competitive salary structures. There are several good sources for purchasing salary data. These are some of the better-known IT salary survey reports:

3. Link pay to performance
Variable pay, linked to performance benchmarks, is one way a company can protect itself. There are a variety of ways to implement a pay-for-performance program. Some typical pay-for-performance programs include:
  • Setting concrete individual performance goals and tying year-end bonuses to performance measured against those goals.
  • Offering a ratio-based, profit-sharing formula that ties department or division contributions to the company’s annual earnings/revenue.
  • Implementing a recognition program for specific and/or outstanding contributions made to the business over the course of a year.

Don’t go it alone
IT managers shouldn’t shoulder the entire burden of finding IT workers. It’s such a critical and difficult task that the entire organization needs to share the responsibility. Some companies offer bonuses to employees who are able to recruit new hires. IT managers should ask if their company is willing to develop an HR hiring strategy to support the overall business plan.
Tell us about your most effective methods in recruiting. Or, tell us what you think about the controversial practice of hiring less-qualified employees in order to save money on the payroll. Post a comment to this article or send us an e-mail.

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