If you’ve looked at the IT job market lately, you know it’s a tough situation for employers. Maria Schafer, program director at the Meta Group, projects a shortage of at least 600,000 jobs by the end of the year and notes that the government claims that number is actually 800,000.

While numbers like that deserve to be taken seriously, there are things you can do to become more competitive in attracting qualified applicants. Here are a few simple reminders that could help make the difference between landing a new employee and continuing your staffing struggle.

Re-evaluate your hiring practices
Sacha Cohen, dot-com career expert at monster.com , says that many businesses hurt their chances of filling vacant positions because of their hiring practices.

“Part of the problem is that companies often don’t follow up properly,” Cohen said. “They post advertisements and get tons of applications, and they don’t respond to even the qualified applicants in a timely manner, or in a professional manner.”

Cohen argues that companies need to follow up more quickly with job applicants and streamline the interview process.

“They’re so bogged down with running their businesses that they’re having a hard time coming up with the resources for hiring and retention,” Cohen said.

Cohen also notes that in many cases, employers’ requirements on potential hires may be unrealistic.

“A lot of employers will list two to five years of experience for an Information Architect, or three to five years experience for an online writer and editor,” she said. “Because the industry is so new, it’s difficult to find people who have that much experience.”

Cohen contends that employers would be doing themselves a service if they would focus less on years of experience and more on the quality of experience. They could also look for experience in a different industry that could apply to the Web position.

Schafer agrees “to an extent” that many employers’ requirements are too high, but believes the job market is moving beyond the stage at which few people have the experience.

“You’re always going to have a hard time finding enough people for the newest technologies,” Schafer said. “But Internet jobs have been with us for five, six years now. That’s enough time for me to see a very definite segmentation of roles.”

Evaluate your recruiting tools
In a recent research brief, Gartner researcher H. Jason Tolu recommends that IT services providers track which recruiting tools—the Internet, employee referrals, headhunters, print advertising, campus recruiting, and job fairs—are most successful.

Companies should also be cognizant of the kinds of employees each recruiting tool brings to the business. The Internet, for example, might work best for recruiting network professionals, while headhunters might have more luck recruiting executives with project management skills.

Practice creative recruitment
Schafer believes non-traditional recruitment can help a company become more competitive for qualified employees.

“Last year, less than 10 percent of the companies we survey regularly were using the Web as a major source of recruiting IT talent,” Schafer said. “This year, 40 percent say they’re using the Web.”

But recruiting over the Web is only the beginning.

In Silicon Valley movie theaters, for example, classified ads for IT workers are run before the movies. During a recent spring break, IBM went to Florida to recruit off the beach.

Cisco created a profile of their most successful employees. The profile included likes in the areas of jazz and pizza, so the company went out and recruited in jazz venues and pizza parlors.

“I think that at one point they even partnered with Domino’s and posted information about recruiting there,” Schafer said. ”They successfully recruited the thousand people they were looking to add in less than a year’s time.”

Training as retention
Schafer sees training as another retention tool.

“Training is being looked at as part of retention,” she said. “In the last couple years, people have told me they can’t afford to spend a lot of money on training because employees end up leaving.”

However, leading edge companies are beginning to recognize that they’re not going to keep everyone and that their best defense against this shortage is to have the best-trained work force. “Look at the work force and ask yourself, ‘Who do I really need to keep?’ and ’How can I craft a program that’ll keep my key performers?’” Schafer said.

Not surprisingly, money is one of the keys in recruiting and retaining employees. Both sign-up and performance bonuses are becoming standard tools for landing new workers.

“Give them goals they want to work toward, and when they achieve those goals, reward them,” Schafer said. “And if you’re doing it on a team basis, your chances of keeping people over the long haul are much improved.”
Do you evaluate how well your recruiting efforts are working? Are prospective employees less swayed by stock options and more interested in salaries? Are there recruiting tools that you dropped because they didn’t work or kept because they were a success? Post a comment or send us an e-mail.