IT consulting is exponentially more difficult than working in corporate IT. It's one thing to manage crises, help desk operations, deployments, upgrades, migrations, costs and budgets, and project management for one organization; it's another challenge altogether to manage all those tasks simultaneously for dozens if not hundreds of clients.
IT consulting calls for an IT pro who can embrace the chaos that inevitably arises when supporting thousands of systems, hundreds of sites, numerous networks, and clients from all industries. Technology engineers who consult must be truly comfortable multitasking and managing multiple projects, deployments, upgrades, and crises simultaneously. IT professionals must thrive on the fast-paced nature of the consulting business; individuals looking for regular hours and a steady-as-she-goes workday will not last.
So how can consulting groups recruit IT professionals who will succeed? My consulting office (faced with double-digit growth each year for the past five years) has been challenged with this very issue. Here are six recruiting methods that work. Keep in mind this list isn't exhaustive; if there are practices that have worked well for your consultancy, I'd like to hear about them in the discussion.
Ask who you know
Have you worked with sharp IT professionals, technicians, and engineers at previous employers? Have you met other consultants, particularly lone wolf practitioners, who might make good additions to your consultancy's team? If so, drop them a line. Sometimes good hires take months or years to culminate, so be sure to regularly have coffee with the sharpest engineers you know. Don't assume someone's happy in their current role, either. That's a big mistake.
Get the word out
Certainly there are other professionals -- physicians, attorneys, accountants, financial services types, and others -- you meet whom you trust. When your office is looking to add a seasoned Windows server engineer, a network guru, or some other post, let those professionals know you're looking and ask them to pass you the names and contact information for anyone they feel you should meet. Quality breeds quality.
Ask your engineers
Chances are current employees may know colleagues with whom they attended college, completed bootcamps, sat with in technical training or certification classes, or worked with at other gigs. Let your current engineers know the types of candidates you're seeking and ask them to spread the word.
Consider a headhunter
Headhunters earn their pay for a reason. Some recruiting firms will even structure their contracts to be paid in installments, requiring that the new hire work out well and stay with your organization for three, six, or even nine months before the recruiting firm is paid in full. With such consultancy-friendly payment structures, consultancies may opt to let others perform the heavy lifting chores when it comes to recruiting; this frees the consultancies to focus on other core business tasks.
Talk to subcontractors
If you've been subcontracting projects to another outfit or individual, and if that party has been performing well, consider how they might fit within your organization. Often a cable installer that terminates Category 5 Ethernet cable to patch panels and tests modem, CSU/DSU, and similar equipment may be able to configure routers, too. Such an engineer might fit the role of a needed network technician within your firm. You won't know unless you ask.
- Related: Five tips for subcontracting out work and Establishing effective partnerships with subcontractors.
Keep your eyes open
Even if you're not in the market for a new Exchange administrator, always be cordial when engineers with those skills contact you asking to forward a resume. Even if your current Exchange expert is rock solid, there's nothing keeping him/her from deciding he/she wants to try making it as a rock star or backpacking across Europe for the next two years. Always keep fresh resumes on hand. You never know when you might need them.Get weekly consulting tips in your inbox TechRepublic's IT Consultant newsletter, delivered each Monday, offers tips on how to attract customers, build your business, and increase your technical skills in order to get the job done. Automatically sign up today!
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.