7 IT Recruitment Challenges
The best system admins, database experts, product designers and developers have special skills and talents. If you’ve ever worked with someone who couldn’t quite do one of those jobs, you know that having a bad performer in these jobs is worse than leaving the job empty.
Finding the right IT staff isn’t just about having money. Despite having a larger budget, big companies still struggle to find and hire the best IT professionals. It takes experience in the industry, a knowledge of technology (yes, even for the recruiters), and the right package of special incentives.
Let’s assume a large company has the budget to pay a decent salary to everyone in the information technology department. What other problems could be blocking them from finding great people?
Talented IT staff is hard to find
A lot of corporate recruiting has focused on mining résumé and social networks for keywords. Doing this will help you find a list of people with the right degree, certain certifications, and enough experience. But that’s just a small portion of the story. With this approach you’ve probably come up with some good leads, you’ve really only found the people who know how to write a properly formatted résumé.
Great workers have experience and knowledge, but they also have good soft skills, passion for the technology, and creativity. With most larger departments, you’re not just hiring a person, but you’re forming a team. Teamwork can’t be judged from a résumé or a LinkedIn profile. Passion is not always visible in a portfolio.
The most direct way to assess teamwork, passion, or a person’s energy level is through in-person interviews with the potential future teammates. Without being able to capture an impression of that energy through a good candidate qualification process, you can find yourself sitting across from some people who look good on paper but aren’t a good fit.
The best people are already employed
Traditional (OK… old-fashioned…) methods of recruitment was pretty straight-forward. Figure out the qualifications necessary for a job and post an ad. Then the candidates come to you.
But today, that’s just not enough. Corporate tech jobs average 550-plus résumés for each position, but companies still can’t manage to find the right people. A recent Harvard Business Review article noted that the majority of people who took a new job in 2018 were passive candidates. They weren’t looking for a job, but someone – a recruiter who knew where to look – came along and convinced them to apply.
It turns out that these people make better candidates. They already have a job, so they don’t need to exaggerate their skillset or embellish their experience. They can also be selective, so any job they try for is one they will be enthusiastic for.
So, the trick, many large companies find, is enticing these potential candidates to respond to your job posting. But doing so can be a skill that requires years of experience to develop.
Corporate structure and benefits aren’t flexible enough for top IT “rockstars” and “ninjas”
In technology, a some of the best and most talented people are attracted to smaller companies. The image of the rapid-growth entrepreneurial startup appeals to people with a passion for their work. It’s a tough environment, so those that succeed tend to be able to produce a little better under pressure or wear “multiple hats” in their roles.
These multitalented individuals likely have all the characteristics to succeed in larger companies. They are willing to go the extra mile and pick up additional responsibility outside their traditional area. They also might thrive when they are afforded the greater resources that a big company can deploy. But convincing them to adapt to a more defined corporate structure can be a big ask. Convincing your existing corporate culture to adapt to the presence of a new hotshot might also be a big ask.
The specific more traditional benefits and perks at a large company might also not appeal as much to these types of talent. Yes, a free lunch or an Asteroids machine might actually make a difference to someone considering a move from a startup to a more established company.
Even big companies struggle with IT recruiting. This can lead to understaffing and overworked people who aren’t happy and can’t produce the quality you’re looking for. There just aren’t enough quality candidates for some roles, and it’s usually not a good idea to seek out a warm body just for the sake of filling a job.
The source of an understaffing problem can be a lack of recruiting resources or simply a lack of experience in recruiting for specialized tech roles.
But it can also come down to the fact that not everyone is a great estimator of the time, effort and person-hours needed to complete a task. When you’re spinning up a new project, you’re – by definition – doing something your company hasn’t attempted before. So, there is no concrete answer on how many people to hire. Proper estimation of workload and total seats required to support a project takes experience and the kind of industry-standard tools that aren’t available to every project manager or team lead.
On the other side of things, a big project can also quickly become bloated and over budget.
When faced with a lack of great candidates, some organizations seem to just gather as many people as possible, get them started working to begin making progress and then wait for a cream to rise. This approach can help you find people you might have overlooked, but it also can lead to having to a large number of nonproductive staff on salary as project budgets spiral out of control.
Having a bunch of “also-rans” on staff can also steal time away from the truly productive workers as they try to train or coach their less capable colleagues.
You might also actually find that you’ve managed to hire a lot of great people, but you don’t have enough work for them. Having bored workers who aren’t being challenged can be a wide-spread issue at a lot of large companies that don’t have the management support to fully engage their people.
Screening for IT staffing by non-IT people
A lack of specific expertise dogs a lot of IT recruiting processes. Human resources personnel may not be familiar with the complex requirements of a highly technical job. As a manager, you spend a lot of time on churn as you go back and forth trying to help them learn enough about the project to prequalify candidates before they land on your desk.
But then you also run the risk of misidentifying or missing out on good people because the recruiter couldn’t identify that they had a relevant skill that applied directly to the role. Does your recruiting staff know the difference between a business analyst and a systems analyst?
One way to solve this is for the project leads to take a more active role in hiring and selecting candidates in the early rounds. But, of course, this is more time spent not working on the actual project.
The process takes too long
Finding the right people can quite a long time. The time-to-hire for tech roles can be upwards of 45-60 days on average at a larger company. That’s up to 50% longer than for nontech roles.
Big companies enjoy the benefits of a wider reach for candidates, but then find themselves flooded with résumés for people who might not actually be good for the job. One study shows that big corporations receive an average of more than 550 applications for tech roles, with up to 25% passing forward to a phone screen.
Internal recruiting staff members at large companies also average about a dozen requisitions at the same time – often for totally different departments. Is it any wonder that it takes so much extra time to complete a thorough search?