October 2, 2012

Does Your IT Hiring Strategy Need a Fine Tune?

tuning upAs if IT hiring wasn’t challenging enough already, recent research from three independent resources suggest that competition for tech staff is set to intensify over the next year. Let’s start with a June survey from Dice which tells us that 73% of IT Recruiters and Hiring Managers are expecting to add more tech staff in 2012 which is an 8% increase from the start of the year. As well as this, a Duke/CFO survey points to a 5% increase in software developer hiring activity over the next year. And, on top of it all a Silicon Valley Bank survey tells us that a massive 83% of start-ups are hiring this year, (that figures rises to 90% when software companies are considered in isolation).

With demand for IT talent now set to increase, IT Recruiters and Hiring Managers will now need to up their game if they are to compete effectively in the war for talent and keep up with the competition. A talent attraction and selection strategy that yielded shortlists to die for just 6 months ago, may, over the next six months start drawing complete blanks or producing talent starved shortlists that seriously underwhelm the business.

But, its not so much a process overhaul that is needed, but more of a fine tuning of certain processes and I have outlined 5 areas you might consider looking at to enhance your IT hiring processes in readiness for the challenging year ahead.

1. You might need to pay more

The Dice survey found that the increasing demand for IT staff has driven salaries up, with 58% of corporate hiring managers noting they were higher than last year. We know that salary is not the only reason that people join and stay but we know its important. So, this may be a good time to get out and compare the market to see if your salaries are falling behind your peers. If so, you may need to put in a call to the CFO/FD to see if he/she can eek out some more salary budget.

2. Plan ahead for talent as you may need to wait longer for staff

The Dice research also found that 45% of tech recruiters noted extended hiring times over the same time last year – largely due to the inability to find qualified professionals and waiting for the perfect candidates.

So, IT Recruiters and Hiring Managers should think about developing annual resources plans, (yes, even in small businesses), so they have advanced warning of when they need to hire and can start their recruitment activity well in advance, giving them more time to find the perfect talent.

3. Hire potential stars of tomorrow if you can’t find superstars of today

But, in the face of possible talent shortages, we’d urge hiring managers not to build inflexible hiring strategies focused solely on hiring the perfect candidate. Why not consider developing a more adaptive strategy in the circumstance based around Hiring For Potential, (a topic we wrote about recently), where you consider hiring potential stars (in the absence of superstars), and develop them into top talent. This strategy worked well for one start up called Fishbowl who based their success (e.g. 70% revenue growth over the last three years and 2% staff turnover), on a hiring for potential strategy.

4. Creative Talent Attraction Strategies

Consider that most of the top IT/Developer talent will either be well looked after by their current company or will have a selection of lucrative and interesting opportunities to choose from. To attract their attention you need to do something to stand out from the crowd; deploy some creativity in your IT hiring practices. Below, I have set out examples of 3 IT companies who do just this and to great effect.

Google; Their inventive job advertising strategy of putting complex mathematical conundrums on billboards in Silicon Valley, that only top potential programmers could decipher, (and therefore find the hidden Google job advert) is legendary.

Citerus; We have previously reported on this Swedish software development company who organized a coding contest where coders must design the best Artificial Intelligence snake. It attracted hundreds of interested parties (potential hires), who came together in teams so their snakes could compete virtually.

Uncle Grey; Also worth a mention is Danish agency of the year Uncle Grey’s creative recruiting practices for IT staff (also mentioned on this site). They targeted potential programmers by advertising within the virtual environment of online games that the correctly skilled candidates were known to frequent.

5. Upgrade Your Assessment Methods

With candidates in short supply you will need to increase the reliability of your assessment processes so you can quickly identify top talent out of a pool of candidates. Along with the traditional behavioral interview, I can suggest five ways to more accurately assess IT top talent.

  1. Programmers Aptitude Test; You can use these to assess whether candidates have the skills that are often found in top coders. This is an especially useful tool if you are looking to hire for potential as mentioned above.
  2. Code Review; You’ll need to ask your candidates for samples of their code and ask your top and most trusted developers to give it an appraisal.
  3. Gild Source; think about using Gild Source, which is new hiring tool aimed at recruiters. You can search their database of programmers and your short-list will be automatically scored/ranked based on the quality of their publicly available code, making it easier for you to identify talent.
  4. Product Review; ask to see live samples of the candidate’s work, as this will show you what their end product looks like. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I have followed a link to a developer sample product/service and it simply doesn’t work or it breaks easily. It can speak volumes.
  5. Screen share and watch them in action; Why not set up a phone interview with the coding candidate using Skype, or WebEx or some tool where screen-sharing is available. Then ask them to write code for while the hiring manager watches. Ideally, you’d have them do actual tests.

With the IT market set to heat up over the next 6 months, this is the perfect time to fine tune your IT hiring strategy to stay ahead of the competition – and I hope that some of the tips I have provided will help you to do this.

Read more in Hiring Process

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.