Editor’s Note: TechRepublic member James Spencer, an IT manager and consultant in Texas, disagrees with a recent article that discussed hiring less experienced workers and training them on the job. Here is Spencer’s reaction to the article and his strategy for hiring quality IT staff.

An alternative view
Some managers are hiring IT workers who lack the technical skills needed to get the job done. A recent TechRepublic article, “Three ways to recruit IT workers when you can’t afford huge salaries,” discussed the trend of hiring workers who aren’t well qualified with the hope that these employees will receive training to bring them up to speed. Frankly, this is the worst idea I have ever heard.

You may save money by paying less to hire less-qualified people. But these IT staff members will ultimately cost you more than they have saved. They could do more damage than just crashing the network.

In some organizations, your customers will come in contact with these “less-qualified” individuals. If customers are not happy with the service they receive, you risk losing them—a costly mistake. Plus, the morale of the rest of your staff may deteriorate if they are burdened with additional workload because you’ve hired workers who can’t do their job. The cost of turnover is high, and you will be faced with this expense if veteran staff members decide to leave.

I see firsthand the technical problems that unqualified workers cause. You don’t know how many times I have to clean up the mess made by one of these “less-qualified” people. I own my own company, working in the technical field as a contractor because companies are trying to save money by not hiring full-time people.

I understand that filling high-tech jobs can be a nightmare. Here is a typical scenario: You need to hire an IT professional. Your company is in the middle of budget cuts, and your boss is pressuring you to cut costs. Your employees are already screaming because they are shorthanded, and another IT worker announces that he is taking another job.

You are receiving lots of resumes from job seekers who are asking for a king’s ransom in salary, immediate vacation, minimum work hours, and maximum benefits. So how do you find qualified IT staff members at fair salaries? Here are a few strategies.

Consider promoting from within
First, research your actual needs by asking how the employee will actually fit into the company. Do you really need to go outside the company to replace this person, or can you promote someone from within? Promotions are great tools for retaining the talent you have.

Find qualified IT workers first and then negotiate
Forget what salary candidates are requesting for a moment and consider the fair market value of that position. IT professionals often pay for most, if not all, of their training. Just like a company has to mark up their goods to make a profit, some IT professionals “mark up” their price to recover the cost of training. CISCO, MCSE, and CNE certificates cost thousands of dollars, and IT professionals often take out huge loans to pay for them. Of course, they want a salary that will help them recoup some of those expenses.

Some are a bit overzealous in trying to cover costs and will ask for a sum you may think is unreasonable. Don’t dismiss such job candidates immediately. When a well-qualified IT pro shows interest in a job opening, try to negotiate a fair salary.

Here are a few resources to help you determine market value for an IT worker:

  • Salary.com
  • DataMasters
  • Mid Year IT Salary Survey from Positive Support Review
  • Call the competition and ask. Just like competitors go to each other’s business and do competitive shopping, you can attempt to find out what they are paying their IT staff members. This is tricky and can really test your people skills. But if you’re good, you can get a ballpark idea of what your competitors are willing to pay.
  • Use TechRepublic’s Technical Q & A. Ask other IT pros what a particular position should pay. Often, IT workers describe their job, geographic location, and skill level and ask others what they should be earning. Then other TechRepublic members provide estimates based on what they earn or based on what they know their staff members are earning.

If the candidate is asking for too much, don’t be afraid to negotiate a salary based on the middle salary range of what others are paying. Offering the middle ground gives you room to work up based on the candidate.

Let’s be honest, a fair salary should be an equation based on qualifications, years of experience, company budget, and what others in the area are paying.

Use staffing agencies as a resource
Some staffing agencies provide an invaluable service to the IT manager. A staffing agency will not only aide you in determining the fair market value of the IT professional but will also assist you in selecting a person at the right experience level for the job at a fair price.

I spoke to Kevin Gunn with Manpower Professional, the staffing agency from which I am a contractor myself. Gunn, a recruiter in the Dallas office, said his agency would help IT managers looking for information about fair salaries for IT workers. Gunn said that in most cases he would provide this as a free service for IT managers. However, you should ask the staffing agency you’re working with whether it will charge you for providing salary information.

Staffing agencies typically provide a variety of services, such as screening potential job candidates. An IT manager may also take advantage of an agency’s placement services that allow you to “audition” a job candidate, so to speak.

For instance, an agency can find an IT worker to fill a job vacancy at your organization on a temporary basis. If you later decide to hire the worker permanently, your organization pays a “finder’s fee” to the staffing agency.

Hiring an IT worker through a temporary agency provides advantages for both employer and employee. You will have a chance to track this person’s performance before you offer a permanent position. Job candidates can use the experience to see if they enjoy the work environment. This method will increase retention rates because the people you hired will likely know if they like working at your company. This outcome is a win-win situation, which is rare in the IT world.

A good, qualified IT professional will save you money by doing the job right the first time. Remember the data and job you save could be your own.

James Spencer is president of Texas Adventure Games in Richardson, TX, where he is responsible for administering the organization’s Windows NT network and Web site. He is a contractor at Manpower Professional on location at Hewlett-Packard in Richardson, TX, and has worked in the IT field since 1990. He holds the following certifications: A+ certification, Toshiba Certified Technician, HP LaserJet Printers, Customer Service certification, FrontPage Certification.

How do you find good people that you can also afford to hire? Post a comment below or send us an e-mail.