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Closing the IT Skills Gap One Candidate at a Time

Back in 2009, we wrote about hopeful signs for IT despite high unemployment and a job market in flux. The outlook was complicated by an IT skills shortage in some areas, such as business intelligence, database management, security and virtualization.  The skills gap has far from closed and IT jobs are steadily climbing. With several years under our belts bemoaning IT skills shortages, it’s time to take action. So what can you realistically do to close the IT skills gap?

Hiring isn’t getting easier but you can take action

With an IT unemployment rate of less than 2%, companies opening up IT jobs post-recession find themselves spending an awful lot of time interviewing people who aren’t a good fit. An out-of-sync internal team can add to the challenge. Getting all the stakeholders to agree on the must-have requirements of the job first is critical.

In the wake of 2009 and ’10, everyone’s striving to keep their human resource investments error-free. So, while you’re getting stakeholder consensus on the job description, emphasize the ultimate business goal for the individual you’re planning to hire.

To that end, verifying a skill is critical; but, be efficient about it. Pinpoint the areas to verify and avoid a protracted interview process with lots of scatter-shot screenings, tests and homework. Otherwise, your competitors who focus on key skills will move quickly and win the hiring race.

Simple tips to evaluate/improve your hiring process:

1 – Begin with the end in mind

Establish a realistic start date and outline the necessary metrics you will use to determine a successful process. Ensure agreement from your team on the requirements that define the successful candidate. Line up your interviews, get feedback from stakeholders right away and make a decision. Above all, set appropriate expectations. Waiting for perfection is not always a winning strategy.

2 – Don’t look now, but your brand is showing

Your process will either help or hurt your brand. If you want it to help, present a unified and organized front to candidates. Let them know how many interviews to expect, the role of each interviewer and what other screening activities are included. If you’re recruiting for three positions – a .Net, a PHP and a mobile developer, for example – know that these IT candidates may be getting multiple other opportunities to pursue as well, and they’re comparing notes. Be assured their experience with your company during the hiring process will be shared with their IT community network.

3 – The laws of attraction

Don’t just think, “How will we find the best IT candidate?” Think, “How will we make this opportunity attractive to a top-notch Java engineer?” What technology will they work on? What’s the background of your leadership? How do you compensate? What are the continuing education opportunities? These things are of critical interest to successful IT talent.

4 – If you build it, they will come

Be proactive; don’t wait until you have a need. Always be sourcing. Cultivate a pipeline of available IT talent by building your own community to tap when the need arises. With a LinkedIn group, you can create your own buzz. Invite people to stay connected and engaged and to keep your company in mind for future IT searches.

What candidates can do to position themselves competitively

Think like a recruiter. Make it easy to see how qualified you are for the IT job you’ve targeted. Why not state the job title and company name right in the objective at the top of your resume?

Optimize your resume. Read the job description carefully and pull out three things you can emphasize in your resume to elevate it for IT recruiters who are trying to match resumes to requirements.

Mind your manners. Follow up proactively, but not too aggressively. Treat your LinkedIn network with respect and don’t foist a connection on an unsuspecting hiring manager. After the interview, send a thank-you note customized to the conversation.

Take stock of social media assets. Whether you’re a CIO, System Architect or Developer, you have a personal brand. Do your social media profiles reflect it consistently? If not, align them and avoid confusion.

When to work with an IT staffing firm

For IT candidates:

If you’ve been searching for a while, you may not be aware of how many IT openings we have access to that never get listed on the job boards. Plus, an agent who knows the market can negotiate efficiently on your behalf, especially industry experts like the specialists at Thompson. We speak your language.

For clients:

A staffing firm’s direct access to hard-to-find IT talent saves time and improves results. Once a candidate is placed, our guarantee protects the company’s investment, whether contract or direct hire. For specific tips on working with a staffing firm and things to watch out for – read one of our most recent blog posts: Staffing Firms: Finding the One.

Want to take the next step in a smarter hiring process? Find out how we can help you identify hard-to-find IT talent that will contribute to your business. Give us a call at 770-794-8380.


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