Great Tech Talent is Hard to Find

A recent article 3 must-read recruiting and retention tips for IT managers talks about shortages in tech skills and how to do better at recruiting and retention of IT workers. The article has one or two sentences that may help in retention of IT people, but the recruiting advice is missing the point. It is not “must-read” if you want to recruit real IT talent. Their only suggestion for recruiting is listed as #1. They recommend connecting with local colleges to establish a relationship for future recruits. That is fine for adding a junior tech. But real IT talent takes at least five years to develop before they are valuable to an organization. Their other suggestions are about retention and identifying talent from within.

I agree that IT talent is rare. Everyone and their brother have been getting into IT over the last few years because of the increased money and prestige. This makes the number of truly talented people in the IT pool a much smaller percentage than it used to be. There are many people to choose from, but to weed out the talent from the chaff, so to speak, is a challenge.

Using Artificial Intelligence for Recruiting

Using AI for recruiting, which the article talks about as being very valuable is the worst way to find talent, unless you are just looking for a simple list of technologies that a potential IT person has. AI tools, and most talent recruiters, look only at the list of skills and experience that a person has and compares it to the list they are seeking. Recruiting people has become more like buying a car. Does it have a V8, backup camera, Bluetooth, good gas mileage, etc.? Does my prospect have Java, or .NET, or front end experience?

If you are doing your recruiting in this manner, you will get the results that you are looking for. Then you will be surprised when the new person does not stay or is not happy after he is hired. Or worse, he may not even be good at the skills he has listed on his resume. Even tech screening is hit or miss. How can you treat people as people after you have recruited them based on a list of assets?

A truly talented IT person is not a list of assets (technology experience). They can learn new technologies very quickly even if they do not have specific experience in what your shop uses. Looking only at their list of skills misses almost all the most important values of an IT worker.

What you should look for in a possible IT recruit are these things:

Breadth of Experience

Many IT people have spent years siloed in a narrow world and have not had experience in any other area. This is a red flag, unless your need is exactly for that area and will not change. Look for someone that can move outside their comfort zone and contribute in several areas. They are the most valuable types of people in an IT organization.

Project completion ability

Most IT technologists love technology as a toy and will produce lots and lots of material, but few can take a project from start to finish for business users. That takes a certain mindset of thinking about the users of their work.

People Skills

This is very rare in IT. What kind of culture does your company have and does a recruit fit.

Mentoring Attitude

Can they teach others how to learn? Will they take the time to sit with junior people to bring them along?

Learning Ability

Do they want to learn new technologies? Have they exhibited a willingness to take on different parts of a project than they’re used to?

As far as employee retention, which is a whole other conversation, relationships are everything. If you are close to your employees and know and respect them, they will stay with you. If you have great IT talent in your organization, make sure you know their goals and dreams and make sure they know your goals and dreams for your company.

An additional benefit of knowing them well making sure they are happy at your company is that they will recommend and advertise you to their group of like minded talented people. That will make recruiting much more efficient and effective.

Jack Zoellner (Relational Leadership Speaker)

Jack Zoellner is the "Relational Leadership Speaker." He shares his revolutionary 5-step M.A.G.I.C. method for managing workers and radical company culture change through speaking, writing and consulting. For your next event, book Jack here >>