Finally! HR reps who 'get' 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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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 an acronym but understanding hardware, software, and the nuances between, for example, a network engineer and a system administrator," he says.

Tech-centric hiring professionals have insight into an organization's overall IT environment and strategy -- whether it's a mainframe or distributed environment, or whether the company is moving toward iOS or an Android platform, for example.

"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 in place," he says.

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 roadmap, they're able to scout for talent before their company actually needs it, Banks says, echoing Philips' Magliozzi.

Getting inside IT's head

Companies that are too small to justify paying a full-time IT hiring specialist can still benefit by cultivating a close relationship between their outside recruiters and their IT managers, says Claire Schooley, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Inc.

"I've worked with companies where the outsourcers were almost like employees because they knew the company so well," says Schooley. "Companies that need very, very specialized IT people make sure the recruiters really talk with the managers and get inside their heads and make sure they understand what they need."

Schooley says many companies don't foster that kind of relationship -- with either their in-house recruiters or their outside headhunters. "The recruiting people see the job description and that's all they see, and they don't understand what the IT manager wants," she observes. "But the closer that relationship, the better the end product is."

Publix Super Markets of Lakeland, Fla., takes that recommendation seriously -- its tech staffing and training function resides within the IT department. IS workforce manager Melanie McClellan, who reports to the director of IT Finance, has a staff of three that works with IT managers on recruiting and hiring as well as training and development for the IT team of 1,050.

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