The market for top talent is tight, especially for IoT, big data, data analytics and other new tech. Here are Joe Topinka's tried and true IT recruiting tips.

In today’s marketplace, finding talent has become a core skill for CIOs and IT leaders worldwide. The talent shortage and the dizzying pace of change in technology has created a strategic and competitive challenge when it comes to recruiting.

Sourcing strategies for many CIOs have taken on national and global dimensions, especially when recruiting for emerging new technology skills in areas like big data and IoT.

My own approach to finding talent has evolved considerably over the years. The advent of LinkedIn, online video, and social media have all contributed to a titanic shift in recruiting and candidate vetting techniques.

The most significant challenge I face today is finding highly specialized skills related to IoT and embedded software. Our company, where I serve as CIO, manufactures networking gear, surveillance equipment, and power products such as surge protectors. These products have embedded software and are connected to our built from the ground up cloud-based platform. This solution enables our customers to interact with these devices from anywhere in the world using a smartphone or web browser. It has been strategic and game-changing for our company, transforming us from a traditional manufacturer and distributor of products into one that is driven by software and ongoing services. The result though, is that there is more pressure than ever to find the right talent -- people who can help us make the strategic shift to a managed services provider.

Despite all of the changes in both recruiting and technology, there are some tried-and-true aspects to finding talent that have stood the test of time. Here are four that still work well for me today.

Tried and true IT recruiting practices

  1. Tap your network -  Not only is networking good for you and your personal career growth, it is also a must when it comes to finding talent. We posted a managerial role in IT recently and had more than 200 applications on the first few days. Sifting through such a large list is a daunting challenge. I turned to my network of CIOs to help me find the candidates that fit our needs. Over the years, my network has been instrumental in helping me land the right roles and finding the right talent. 
  1. Partner with the right recruiters – With so many employment options available to top candidates, recruiting has taken on an even more important role in the process. Getting the right recruiting partner on the job can make all the difference in the world. Recruiting specialty IT skills requires expertise and know-how that not all internal teams possess. I have come to rely on people who know how to find talent. The key is to make sure you articulate the skills, knowledge, and cultural attributes you are looking for.

    I have also seen external recruiting organizations work very effectively when it comes to finding scarce resources. Even when you have an internal recruiting team, marrying them up with a top-notch recruiting organization can make all the difference in the world. Some HR teams can be a bit prickly about using outside recruiters, so you must be sure to position them as business partnerss to the HR recruiting teams, rather than a threat.

    One way to do that is to focus on the costs of unfilled positions which goes well beyond typical recruiting fees. HR and IT can create a united front to the C-suite when viewing vacancy costs holistically. For example, estimate the cost of not having talent on board and the corresponding impact of slowed progress against strategic initiatives. At the end of the day, time is money and finding the right talent quickly can make all the difference in delivering on strategic goals. Conversely, taking too long or hiring the wrong talent is extremely costly, both in terms of your reputation as a leader, and in terms of real dollars.  
  1. Listen for self-awareness – Deciding which candidate to make an offer to when more than one of them fits the bill can be tricky. Trying to predict how each candidate will behave over time is a little like fortune telling. To help with this, I look for candidates that know themselves well. Specifically, I favor candidates that know clearly what they are good at, the areas they want to develop in themselves, and what they want to try from a career perspective. Candidates that are open in the beginning about their own interests and skills have a higher chance of becoming your best performers down the road. 
  1. Clarify the role – Defining the role clearly for candidates is crucial. Spend time making sure you review and edit the job specifications, and that you understand them well, and take time to highlight the keys points of the job with all viable candidates. It is easy to forget this aspect when recruiting, but when you do, you miss an opportunity to ensure that role clarity begins even before the candidates take the job.

    I use a career matrix framework that defines each new role and lays out for shows candidates our expectations and what skills they need to advance their career here. Check out this project manager job matrix to get an idea of what has worked for me.

    DOWNLOAD Skill_Matrix_-_Project_Management

Recruiting is a strategic differentiator

Recruiting has become a strategic skill for most organizations. Getting and keeping talent can make or break your company’s strategy. The competition for talent has never been more challenging, especially when it comes to scarce global IT resources.

Be sure and turn to your network to recruit and find talent. Proactively leverage professional recruiters with the know-how and methods to find top talent quickly. Look for candidates that know themselves well. And be sure to spend time reviewing and refining the job specification. It is surprising how often hiring managers spend too little time getting this right from the very beginning. Good luck in your recruiting efforts. Please share your recruiting ideas, experiences, and the techniques that have worked for you. Drop me a line any time.


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