4 tips for plucking top IT talent from a sea of candidates

Talented IT staffers are being wooed constantly by recruiters. Is your organization prepared to snag the best candidates?

Great IT is essential for organizations to drive innovation, make smarter decisions and increase revenue. So it should come as no surprise that the market for IT professionals is highly competitive -- particularly among organizations that lead their industries.

In a recent TEKsystems Talent Management study, IT staffers reported receiving an average of 23 recruiter solicitations a week, and 91% said that they are open to the idea of moving into a new position even if they aren't actively looking for a new job. Given this dynamic, organizations need an IT talent management strategy that includes four elements.

1. Talk total package. Although many recruiters would love to rely on a "post and coast" job board strategy to source talent, posting a job description and a compensation rate range in cyberspace won't suffice. The focus needs to be on developing and discussing a total "employee value proposition," which will detail not only job requirements and compensation, but also company culture, the work environment, career development options and opportunities for advancement, and other noteworthy other perks and benefits.

To communicate that proposition, it's best to have a recruiting partner or experienced hiring manager talk with candidates about open positions. That approach allows job candidates to select positions that best align to their skills, goals, interests and values.

2. Dig in. IT leaders can't afford to make bad hiring decisions, but there's rampant opportunity to do so. Thirty-five percent of IT leaders say most IT resumes contain outright lies, and 77% believe most IT resumes exaggerate the job seeker's work experience. Perhaps most troubling is that two out of five IT professionals agree that their organizations have hired vastly unqualified IT staffers because their screening process was inadequate.

To be effective, the candidate-screening process should assess a job applicant's personality and behavioral traits in addition to his technical skills and past performance.

3. Start fast. Onboarding is crucial: The first 30 to 90 days after a new hire joins your team can determine whether the employer-employee relationship will be successful. But while 83% of IT leaders say onboarding programs are important to a new hire's success, just 13% rate their programs as extremely effective.

Best practices include a formal plan that entails frequent and direct manager-employee interaction. They also focus on helping new hires learn the business, understand the strategic value of their roles, and build relationships with their fellow team members.

4. Keep your eye on the prize. After working so hard to get great IT professionals in the door, organizations must focus on their retention strategies. A higher retention rate translates into a workforce made up of highly productive employees with a good deal of business acumen. And, ultimately, it will yield a strong crop of IT leaders with line-level experience that enables them to identify and overcome obstacles to critical IT initiatives.

To retain employees, managers need to speak with them regularly -- beyond their formal annual reviews. IT professionals welcome frequent, informal feedback; it helps them set expectations and stay focused and motivated.

Retention strategies should also take succession planning into account. To ensure that you're prepared to replace talented employees who choose to move on, dig deep into the organization to identify people who are strong performers with exceptional skills and a good deal of experience.

While it's exciting to think of the competitive edge that a superior IT department can give a company, it's the individual people who make the difference and achieve results. Great talent management practices will facilitate great IT -- and deliver a competitive human resources advantage that's difficult to imitate.

Next: How we chose the Best Places

Rachel Russell oversees research at TEKsystems, an IT staffing, IT talent management and IT services provider. Visit teksystems.com or follow @TEKsystems on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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