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More Bang for Your Buck, Tips for Recession-Savvy IT Hiring

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Nov 20, 2008


Drew Robb
With the state of the economy being what it is, it might be a little disconcerting for some employers to discover there are actually more people employed today in IT than there were at the end of the 1990s. According to the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses (NACCB), IT employment in the United States is at an all-time high — 3.8 million.

Career and Staffing: Good news for those with unfilled headcount -- it's an employer's market out there. Learn how to make the most of it.

"Despite widespread economic concerns, IT employment remains strong," said Mark Roberts, chief executive at the NACCB. "Outside a handful of sectors, demand for IT professionals remains robust."

In such a climate, skill in IT hiring becomes more important than ever. So how do exactly do you add technical staff without paying an arm and a leg?

In recent weeks there has been a constant stream of announcements from financial, IT and other sectors about planned layoffs in the coming months. That means there could be some experienced hands entering the job market in the very near future. So patience might be in order. If you have a hot project that needs someone NOW, go ahead and pay top dollar. But if you have some breathing room, a few weeks might mean several new applicants who are able to do as good a job for considerably less money.

Also take into account the job-hopping culture that continues to pervade IT. Whether the job market is up or down, restlessness in employment seems to remain a staple of the technology world. Whether its boredom, oppressive corporate cultures or chasing a girl/boy to some other state, younger IT folks in particular don't seem ready to settle down to one company.

So the resource pool may not be as thin as it appears. It's times like these that you have to get inventive in finding avenues to get your message across.

Many companies, for example, get stuck in the rut of same-old, same-old. They put out a couple of ads in the usual rags, post a notice on the Web site and wonder why they don't attract a ton of potential resources.

The answer is to freshen up your approach. If the usual methods are producing plenty of inquiries and resumes, fine. But if not, inject some vitality into your personnel procurement methods. Test the waters in a new publication, try regional rather than national magazines (or vice versa), go online to Craigslist or industry job boards, organize an open-house/job fair — anything to get some attention and attract the right kind of candidates.

Trade shows, for example, are a fine way to find new talent. Instead of just sending Joe, Ted and Dorothy to generate some sales leads, also send your recruiter. Maybe the organizers will frown on all-out-recruitment at their event. If they police it heavily, which is almost impossible due to the crowd, you'd be surprised how easy it is to find people to talk to sitting outside having a smoke. Alternatively, set up shop in the cafeteria. A steady stream of people will come your way eager for a chat or a cup of coffee.

Demand, Demand, Demand

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Finally, let's discuss positions that just don't seem to get filled. When it comes to sales or delivery, employers are generally pretty savvy about seeing through excuses and turning on the heat. However, they can be surprisingly mild when it comes to lack of recruitment results.

The HR person may well be telling you, for example, no one is available or that the few that are in the market cost an arm, a leg, and massive sign on bonuses. Don't accept such chatter. Find out what the recruiter has actually been doing. Typically, you'll find they resorted to same old, same old — a few letters, a few postings, and otherwise some studious fantasy football shenanigans or filing of the nails (or both).

Insist the amount of communication increase by a factor of ten. Insist on creativity. Urge the person out to go and talk to a real live person — or get them on the phone to arrange for candidates to come in for interviews.

It is never the case that nobody is available. Almost always, a stagnant recruitment line means that things must be shaken up a little to re-energize the HR department.

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