At last! HR pros who understand IT

As the market for tech talent heats up, some companies gain competitive advantage with HR staffers who specialize in IT recruitment.

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Given those stakes, it's no surprise that companies like Philips, with approximately 2,100 IT employees around the world, including 460 in the U.S., are using in-house experts to smooth the process.

"It is certainly more efficient, because I don't have to ask questions A through Z every time," Magliozzi says. "I understand 20 of those 26 answers already. I know where we're going because I know what we've done in the past that worked, and what skill sets work within IT."

Tracking IT's Many Changes

Retaining an HR professional who specializes in IT makes sense given the current demand for certain tech skills and the generally changeable nature of IT, says Bruce Ballengee, president and CEO of Pariveda Solutions, a Dallas-based IT consulting firm.

IT is full of specialties with unique skill requirements, and every discipline and technology seems to have its own set of acronyms that only insiders understand. All of that could easily confuse and overwhelm an HR rep who's assigned to help on a one-off basis, says Ballengee, a founding member of the Society for Information Management's Enterprise Architecture Working Group. What's more, he adds, "IT specialties come and go, so that puts an extra burden on HR recruiters, more so than in other types of business disciplines."

It's not just hiring managers who benefit from having IT specialists in HR; candidates themselves may prefer to work with IT-conversant HR reps, and that in turn helps companies attract better talent, says Scott Hajer, a recruiting manager at Pariveda.

"These are people who are getting pinged by lots of recruiters, and being someone who speaks their language is going to allow you to engage them better and leave them with a better impression," he says. That enables the company to land sought-after candidates who may have been less impressed with other companies' generic hiring processes.

Bryan Banks, an associate manager of talent acquisition at Aflac in Columbus, Ga., has an IT specialist on staff and was himself an IT recruiter for 15 years. The value of the position comes from being able to really understand IT-speak.

"It's not just understanding acronyms, but understanding hardware, software, and the [differences] between, for example, a network engineer and a system administrator," he says. "Someone who is not an IT recruiter, it's not that they can't learn, but there is a heavy learning curve to understand all the systems."

That insight allows IT-focused recruiters to be proactive. Because they get to know the hiring managers, their teams, the culture and the department's road map, they're able to scout for talent before their company needs it, Banks says, echoing Philips' Magliozzi.

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