Education

It's a IT job seekers' market: Employers need new tactics to recruit IT pros

With unemployment in the tech sector at a 3.3 percent low, employers need to restructure their game plans for recruiting and retaining top talent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for tech professionals is at a low 3.3 percent.

"This is what is keeping C-suite executives up at night," said Kathy Harris, managing director at Harris Allied, which provides executive search, technology and Quant Analyst placement services to the financial services and tech industries.  "Employers need to get up to speed about the new rules of engagement to successfully attract the top tier of the high tech talent pool--the thought leaders, the innovators, the people you have in mind when you consider succession planning and filling the next generation of executive positions."

Here are her suggestions for how employers need to look at recruiting and retaining top tech talent differently than in previous years:

Streamline the hiring process: Employers need to execute this process more quickly than in prior years because the competition is ready to make your top candidate an offer now. Engage your best job candidates: Candidates should leave the interview feeling engaged and already connected in some way to the organization. Give them a big picture of the company and where it stands in the industry. Offer them a closer look at the team they will be working with sooner rather than waiting for the third round of interviews. Let them meet with their future colleagues to demonstrate they will be part of a high quality team. Put on your sales hat: Ensure that all who are part of the interview process are consistent with their messaging and how the company is positioned. Share information about high profile projects if the candidate will be working on them and talk about the company's investments in special corporate initiatives that pertain to the position. But never overhype details or oversell your organization because that can backfire as soon as they are part of your organization. Be flexible: Be willing to expand your search to look for the best of the best, which may be found outside of your immediate area. Take the search for the right candidate nationally if necessary. Fly people in for interviews and be willing to be flexible on such enticements as signing bonuses, bonus guarantees, corporate housing, and benefits, if possible. Offer the opportunity to work on diverse and challenging projects to retain top talent: Many companies offer special programs for HIPOs. Sometimes called "stars programs," they allow employees to become involved in high profile projects that afford them access to leadership, even if only for a few hours a week. These programs allow employees to provide input on higher level corporate initiatives and contribute in a meaningful way while underscoring their value to the organization. Communicate often and openly: Maintaining an open line of communication and providing consistent feedback is important to employees who want to make the most of their career opportunities. Clearly lay out a career path that includes mentoring and training and development that will position them for the long term. These high powered tech employees are mindful of not letting their career flatline. Get some real-time perspective on compensation: The benchmarking tools of yesterday are no longer a good bellwether for how to compensate today's high tech employees. Employers need a current view of what is happening in a dynamic market. Keep your ears to the ground and know where the potential threats (in the form of competition) lie. Stay current on what the market is really paying and adjust your compensation program as necessary. They are not resources: These are people, not a commodity. Treat them as valued members of your team, not as if they are dispensable or interchangeable. This is often the deal breaker for a high tech employee when he or she decides to look for a new opportunity.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

24 comments
ray
ray

In order to hire the best you have to communicate with the best. You do this through "direct approach" recruiting and not running ads on job boards. At best, the "laundry list" jobs you see posted appeal to the person looking to make a lateral career move or they are unemployed for whatever reason. Recruiting is a contact sport. An employer cannot expect to even get the attention of the 'best of the best' employed candidates without someone to open a dialog with them on their behalf. Running an ad and hoping is not a good strategy. It's not even a strategy.

smarttechi
smarttechi

While there may be some strength in certain sectors of the IT market relative to the rest of the economy, it is way over hyped in the media and certain corporate halls to help corporations drum up the case for cheaper worker visas from overseas and further justify offshoring of many of these positions. I wish someone at TechRepublic or other media outlet would regularly tackle the worker visa subject in an objective manner that quantifies the numbers for us. I have seen it in my work place and other places where positions are filled using a worker visa resources while others who are more qualified and experienced were passed over in favor of a cheaper newly arrived worker visa person. This should not be misunderstood as a hostile or negative sentiment against those workers who come from somewhere else to work in the US, rather an objective criticism of our corporations who range from having little allegiance to full out distain for this country. Another point to consider; while many companies are posting open positions implying a need for resources, they are actually not planning on filling those positions at this time; rather they have, some may argue maliciously, used the current economic climate to force those of us who have a job to work to the bone to the same work previously done by 2 people; not only that but they also kept the pay down; all this while corporate profits are soaring to record highs. The government corruption and corporate influence on all branches of the government leaves us with little hope any substantive change will take place. I believe whole heartedly this is a time of pivotal change for this country and unless we step up to claim it back it may soon be too late ...

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

is for management to stop lying. I was RIFfed from an agency with the very last IBM Mainframe anywhere in the entire county, because the IT managers thought they could get away with absolutely no Systems Software support for the next seven years. As you may know, the two IT Managers married to each other control 85% of the people in IT, but beyond that, in spending millions of dollars redeveloping the same software over and over with no particular reason but to keep themselves in jobs, the two Yahoos use public resources for their own private purposes. For example, the Development Manager trades stock on his work PC provided by the County during the day at work while his wife, flirting with her male employees, is on the Board of Directors for the Chihully Art Museum downtown and they both use their salaries for their yacht for parties to woo people for their political asperations. All this is in direct violation of the law against conflict of interest. But what can you say -- it's a conspiracy throughout the entire County to preserve the status quo. Now then. Is this typical? One only need read "Moral Mazes" by Robert Jackall or "The Management Trap" by Dr. Chris Agyris. Or better yet, just read the news post Enron. It gets worse all the time and yet the reaction is, "So?". Unless everyone cleans up their act, it won't be just IT Jobs disappearing for competent people. All jobs are going to become crap jobs for the U.S. work force. But for the short term, for those managers, directors, VPs, CEOs and Chairmen, it will be GLORIOUS and that's all that matters.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

BLS is apparently making a serious bid for the most disconnected from reality agency in the federal government. There's a lot of serious competition for that title, but with work like this, I think BLS has a good chance of taking the crown!

Professor8
Professor8

* include e-mail addresses, voice telephone numbers, work-place street address in every job ad * actually, gasp, read and answer every query * actually read resumes and talk with candidates via e-mail and telephone * offer to fly in the best of the candidates (expect to pay for round-trip air-line tickets, hotel/motel and rental car for 1-2 days), and * to relocate (transportation, movers, temporary accommodations while they find a more permanent place to live, deposit/closing assistance, assistance selling old house and buying a new one), and * train (2-15 weeks) those you decide to hire * also invest in on-going training (2-4 weeks) for retained employees

tbmay
tbmay

...unemployment as a whole....not only with regards to IT....is MUCH worse than the measured figures simply because it measures the ones drawing unemployment.

50-50
50-50

After the mass RIF madness of recent years where experienced IT pros were replaced en masse by offshore newbie contractors fresh out of school, the reason that stated unemployement rate is so low is because so many former IT pros have given up on their IT careers completely and switched to other kinds of careers for their daily bread. I know many former IT folks now self-employed (after being laid off) with small businesses doing eco-tourism, catering, baking, pet-sitting, truck driving, personal concierge-style project management, boutique musical instrument manufacturing, rental property management, etc. They're willing to try almost ANYTHING to avoid IT where in recent years they were misunderstood, mistreated, disrespected, and considered to be easily replaceable cogs in organizations that no longer gave even lip service to rewarding loyalty. Early in their careers, corporate IT was a good gig and practitioners were respected and valued even when not understood. Now, they're so disillusioned that even their kids in college are refusing to consider careers as engineers. Some of the unemployed / RIFfed / outsourced IT folks still looking to get back into IT are being offered so little, they're staying with their intended-to-be-temporary jobs selling lamps or waiting tables or whatever. Of course, these under-employed folks don't count as unemployed. Meanwhile... Many of the managers responsible for the dramatic declines in software quality and speed of problem resolution don't even realize what they've done because they're managing to the wrong metrics. All they see is the (less dramatic than anticipated) short-term savings on human resources expense (resources, NOT capital). They're also mistaking run-off customers for victims-in-general of the Great Recession... instead of recognizing the fact that their customers are fleeing due to poor quality and poor service. Finally, there is a lot of unofficial age discrimination in IT hiring and firing. The population of RIFfees is decidedly skewed towards the older, more experienced (and therefore presumably more expensive) fraction of the IT worker population, due to the fact that many big RIFs were actually mass exercises in age discrimination legally covered by the thinly disguised fiction that the jobs were "eliminated" (only to be replaced by otherwise identical contract positions). FWIW, that's the same legal fiction that covers far too many H1B visas (which can be issued only after the sponsors swear that the "can't be filled locally" positions are not the same positions formerlly held by their recenty laid off FTEs).

Professor8
Professor8

STEM unemployment rates are more than double historical levels of between 1% and 2% (1.8% in 1983, 1.5% in 1990, 1.1% in 1997). IOW, there's still a huge talent glut. But at least it's down a bit from the record 6.1% unemployment rate of 2010Q1 (5.5% in 2003, 5.9% in 2009Q3). (Architecture and engineering unemployment rate is 5%, down from the 2009Q1 at 9%, 2010Q1 at 7.2%, but still far above the historical healthy rates between 1% and 2%; while science and medical unemployment rates have been very volatile.) We'll see in a couple weeks, when the BLS quarterly report by detailed occupations comes out. http://www.kermitrose.com/jgoOccupation.html http://www.kermitrose.com/images/UnEmpRatesCSOcc.jpg

John_LI_IT_Guy
John_LI_IT_Guy

When I see the low salaries being offered out there for various IT positions I can't agree with this article. It is definitely a buyers market. Are you talking about software engineers?

fred
fred

Exactly WHERE is this "market" happening? NOT in New England as far as I can see...

tbmay
tbmay

Demographics. Areas of expertise. I see a lot of adds wanting A+ techs for $10 per hour. I hardly call filling that job a success for "tech pros." Nor do I call a slew are part-time high school kids imaging computers a "success for tech pros." So, where is this 3.3% figure derived?

tlinde00
tlinde00

Here at nexus IT group, Inc. we have seen the same supply and demand issues when it comes to talent acquisition of IT professionals. There are certain pockets where you still see individuals having a difficult time finding a career, but overall IT is very strong in the US. @jrussell - I would be happy to talk with you about your job search. We don't service the NJ/NY area so we can't be much help there, but at nexus IT group we take a consultative approach to assisting others. You can drop us a line at info@nexusITgroup.com if you would like. www.nexusITgroup.com

ramnet
ramnet

For a very , very small percentage of the IT Market place this may be partially true . For most mainstream IT support staff - they are treated as a commodity , misunderstood and disrespected by management and non IT staff who believe that an IT persons skillset is a lot of mumbo jumbo or hocus pocus which for anyone decent in the industry is laughable if it was not so common. I worked for 30 years in big government agencies and also for Fortune 500 companies. I am very respected by hardware and software vendors and the industry in general but I will NEVER go back to any type of corporate role ! There is a greater sense of living a quality life making my own decisions , instead of being directed by managers who really have very little idea about technology as a tool and as a benefit and who in the past 10 years have presided over atonishingly poor decisions that have left many business units close to broke. As a consultant I resent having to cash flow or fund agencies who delay payment for 30-60-90 days leaving me to fight with my suppliers because I have not been paid for work carried out 3 months ago. In terms of government this is common but a disgrace. My income is considerably less these days because I have all but walked away but my quality of life is 2000% better and I expect I have saved at least 10 years off my life by having more time with my family , being less stressed and having much greater control over what I choose to do for whom , when , how and why and for how much and being appreciated by those who I work with rather than for .. big distinction. Corporates are only going to attract the very desperate going forward and the results they get will reflect that. They have only themselves to blame for this and personally the whole IT industry is at the cross roads right now - it just does not realise it yet ! Ken McAvoy IT Director

jrussell_fl
jrussell_fl

when you're in technology and have been out of work as long as I have these statistics are hard to believe and frustrating to say the least.

Professor8
Professor8

Good points. The BLS unemployment rates don't count the STEM workers who are in survival jobs as being part of the available pool of STEM talent. The actual pool of STEM talent is much larger than what BLS considers it to be.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Pity the economic conditions are the sheer antithesis of the claim we need more people educated for STEM fields... we have the "talent". And the skill. And the laborers.

james_dono
james_dono

The only specifics the article gives is talking to people who are talking about succession-planning - high tech companies who are looking for CEOs who willh have the ability, background, and personal connections to take the company to the next level. i agree that is a narrow range of candidates. But other than money, none of the advice given is useful for what I would call "IT". That's a common mistake reporters make - they mistake the job for the company. A janitor or accountant at at IT company is said, for government reporting purposes, to be in the IT business, but a programmer working in the back office of a law firm is not. The skill shortage this article seems to be talking about is in the Executive Suite, not in the server room or worker-bee cubicles. Yet the complaints of the workers saying, "What shortage?" are people who do not have a golden rolodex. So, when you say there is a shortage if IT professionals, can you be more specific? Platforms? Languages? Skill sets? Job descriptions?

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

Are you willing to relocate? I had to. It gets harder as you get older but people do do it.

tbmay
tbmay

You're probably right.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Meritocracy is pretty much going the way of the dinosaur. Because "'good enough' is good enough"

Professor8
Professor8

How willing are execs/hiring managers to relocate STEM talent within USA? Or even to interview US citizens currently living out of town? Nowhere near as willing to do so as they were in the 1980s. These days, getting an interview more than 10 miles away is difficult, what with the batteries of telephone screenings (a.k.a. trivial pursuit/human compiler quizzes, pretext seeking). Jen/Jan Barton of Cohen and Grigsby: "if they don't like the salary, if they don't like the work location, they're not interested. Or if they just don't like the job itself, they're not interested. Um, those are ways we can disqualify them and get them out of the market, and focus on the ones who might be more qualified. If it gets to the point where they're, somebody's looking like they're very qualified, we ask them to have the manager of that specific position step in and go over the qualifications with them. If necessary schedule an interview, go through the whole process to find a legal basis to disqualify them for this particular position. In most cases that doesn't seem to be a problem... you can eliminate them..."