IT Employment

How to recruit first-rate engineers for your IT consultancy

If you're not having luck recruiting tech engineers for your IT consulting firm, Erik Eckel offers six tips that might help with the process.

 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.

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.

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About

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 o...

9 comments
Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

As you hinted, a candidate's personal qualities are far more important than their specific knowledge. Give me someone who wants to do the work, wants to learn, and wants to satisfy customers. That person will learn anything they need to learn. Not that I'm hiring.

cnieves
cnieves

wow. this piece is useless. nothing new here.

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

Do not consider a headhunter. HR/recruiters want to add their own "little touch" (usually adding a few years the requested experience) to the description so they can claim that they found the perfect candidate. The project manager may need someone with 2 years SQL Server 2005/2008 experience, but when HR/recruiters get done it's now up to 6 years. Considering SQL Server 2005 was released in November 2005, it makes it impossible. Check Monster. No doubt HR/recruiters will toss every resume for not meeting "their" criteria. And don't let them near the description ? SLQ Server? Really? Check Monster.com for SLQ Server. Headhunters get anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 per body they place. Nowhere in the write-up did you mention hiring bonuses or employee referrals. You just wanted to raid rolodexes, but didn't want to make adjacent commitment. Quality people are easy to find - the job boards are full of them. Try finding a quality company.

Onafetz
Onafetz

I'm not sure I'd ask them. Often judjement over friends and acquaintances are biased by unpredictable feelings and relationships. Then it would be hard to escape some embarassment as well when having to decide over recruiting... These things are subtle but they end up influencing you and are to be avoided at least within your organization.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

The average experience for a recruiter is less than 4 months. How can you possibly expect them to do any better? (BTW 2nd problem was just a typo ... they spelt SQL correctly later in the ad).

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

There are hundred of recruiting firms all taughting years and years of experience. My inbox is full of them. Perhaps the author should consider Monster.com. (PS - BTW there are plenty of postings on job boards requesting SLQ. If I can't have a typo in my resume, they can't have one in the ad)

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

I can't message or send you a PM. Are you still available?

eagle747
eagle747

But Kam, I had another question for you. Would you please contact me through the site? Thanks.