Tech & Work

Why HR gets in the way of IT hiring--and how to change it

Communication between IT and HR is the key to getting the best qualified IT pros.

While overall hiring is still slow, a lot of businesses plan to hire IT pros, according to CareerBuilder's mid-year job forecast. Among the IT hiring managers surveyed, 55% plan to hire full-time employees in the next six months, putting the rate of IT hiring more than 10% above the national average. In addition, 46% of companies added IT staff in the second quarter of this year.

That increased completion for tech employees means it's imperative organizations make smart IT hires and choose the best talent that's available to them.

Unfortunately, not every company does that, and those organizations waste time and money correcting hiring mistakes and fail to employ the best and brightest IT pros out there.

One reason: HR and IT aren't on the same page during the recruiting process. That could mean the most ideal applicants aren't being forwarded to the IT manager, or the best candidates aren't even applying to the jobs in the first place.

It's not either department's fault - it's just that HR and IT are very different areas. IT hiring is often a lot different from what HR usually does, so it takes some extra effort to coordinate.

Top IT hiring challenges for HR

The HR department is the first stop in the process for filtering out job applicants. Typically, an HR manager or recruiter looks through at a stack of resumes and forwards the best candidates to the hiring manager. For most departments, that usually works out fine. But in IT, the HR person often has an especially tough time picking the best candidates from the pile.

One reason: People who don't work in technology have a tough time understanding all the acronyms and terminology that fills up a typical IT pro's resume. Acronyms in particular can pose a big challenge if the HR person doesn't know what the initials stand for, or what acronyms an applicant might use instead of certain phrases. That can be an issue especially when recruiters search resume databases online, or use software to filter resumes using keywords.

The skills needed in IT are also quickly and constantly evolving. For example, if you're looking for a security professional, you may want someone with knowledge and experience in cloud or mobile security, which wouldn't have been requirements a year or two ago. Things in the tech world change so fast, it can be tough for IT pros to keep up - so it's that much harder for someone who works in HR.

Another reason IT hiring is challenging is the variety of systems and technologies that companies use. That means, for example, that a network admin at a different company won't necessarily have the skills required to do the same job in your organization.  HR people with the habit of picking out resumes with appropriate job titles might need to be told to take a different approach with IT applicants.

How can IT help?

HR can help IT find the best new tech hires - but the big key to making things work is communication. Here are some ways IT can get better at working with the HR department to improve the hiring process and land better tech talent for the department:

  1. For each position you're hiring for, give the HR manager or recruiter detailed lists of the key words and phrases - including both acronyms and the phrases they may replace. Make sure you keep those lists updated and clearly distinguish between absolute requirements and attributes that are nice to have.
  2. Form a miniature IT recruiting department by finding a current IT employee who enjoys recruiting and appoint that person to work closely with HR during the hiring process. Depending on how much hiring occurs, that may be too much extra work for one person - if so, rotate based on who's most familiar with the position being filled.
  3. Review job descriptions periodically. That's important for any department, but especially so for IT given how quickly IT jobs change. If HR only updates them as often as other departments' job descriptions, IT may be missing out on quality hires.
  4. Urge HR to move quickly with IT applicants. That doesn't mean they need to prioritize IT over other departments' needs, but given the strong IT job market and the competition for tech talent, especially for those with in-demand IT skills, any delay in moving forward with applicants could mean losing them to other organizations.


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.

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