8 New Weapons to Fight the Talent Wars in '08

Luring hot prospects will require creative approaches in the coming year.

The recent uptick in skirmishes over IT talent may indicate that a full-scale war is heating up for '08. If so, the weapons this time will be different from those used in the last big dust-ups of the dot-com era. "We are seeing a war for talent, and it's been building up for the past three years," says Dan Reynolds, CEO of The Brokers Group LLC, a Princeton, N.J.-based IT staffing firm.

The current demand for IT talent is being driven by a number of factors, including investments in new projects, a dramatic reduction in the number of IT grads from U.S. colleges and the first of the baby boomer retirements, he says. Whatever the causes, experts note that savvy CIOs, recruiters, headhunters and other hiring managers are trying out new or updated weapons to fight for IT talent. Here are eight that you may want to wield in the coming year.

1. Social Networks. Although recruiters and hiring managers continue to use job sites such as Monster.com and Yahoo HotJobs to advertise for open positions, the use of social networking sites such as LinkedIn is providing employers with "a better quality pool of applicants," says William Gomes, director of human resources at Intermedia Inc., a New York-based provider of hosted business e-mail services.

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By using social networks to identify potential employees, Intermedia is "getting a better ratio of qualified applicants" than it would from the throngs of resumes it might otherwise receive from job sites that don't hit the mark, says Gomes.

2. Wikis, Blogs and Forums. Companies are increasingly turning to online communication tools to help engage potential IT employees and generate discussions with prospective new hires. The tools also help to "harmonize" values between employers and would-be employees, says JP Rangaswami, a managing director at BT Group PLC in London. BT Group has at least 70 bloggers, including Rangaswami, who says the company has found that, thanks to the blogs, IT workers "come to us because they've heard of us more and they know what we're doing," he says.

3. Trying Before Buying. Instead of posting job ads in newspapers or through online jobs services, employers are increasingly turning to other recruitment techniques, such as right-to-hire agreements. In these, an employer hires a professional contracting firm to do the recruiting for it. The employer agrees to hire qualified candidates for a few months with the option of offering them full-time employment later. "I've done this a few times with programmer/analysts," says Joe Trentacosta, CIO at Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative in Hughesville, Md. The lure of health care and other benefits for permanent workers "plays a key role" in tipping the scales, he says.

4. Global Thinking. "Those who believe the search for [IT] talent is limited to the U.S. are badly mistaken," says Bob Worrall, CIO at Sun Microsystems Inc. Smart companies think beyond national borders. For example, roughly half of Intermedia's 170-plus IT professionals work in its St. Petersburg, Russia, offices, says Gomes, and the company also finds employees in India and other non-U.S. locations.

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