by Marc Cecere, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester

CIOs: How to secure entry-level talent

Mar 28, 2010
IT Leadership

A recent Forrester survey of IT staffing and skills shows that almost eight out of 10 CIOs hire at the entry level. Many of those hired are Millennials graduating from colleges and universities. Conventional thinking views these graduates as cheap labour with specialised but academic skills. However, as the Forrester study shows, entry-level hires bring additional advantages to IT organisations beyond providing a farm system for future managers. They provide CIOs with adaptable labour, support for projects and senior people, as well as different perspectives within IT. Recruiting these entry-level IT workers requires different tactics from recruiting experienced IT staff. SIZE OF IT DETERMINES YOUR RECRUITMENT APPROACH Large IT organisations (i.e., more than 500 IT staff) are able to provide more entry-level support than smaller shops. Eighty-four per cent of large shops reported hiring entry-level IT staff versus only 71 per cent for small IT organisations (i.e., fewer than 100 IT staff). Large shops can provide more training, career options, and human resources (HR) support. Smaller IT organisations, in contrast, need to be more selective in whom they choose, as they are limited in the resources and time they can provide to make these employees productive. Not surprisingly, the recruiting tactics that these groups use are somewhat different as: • Medium and large IT shops use sophisticated career portals on the company web site. Nearly three-quarters of all respondents reported that they posted vacancies on the company web site. Among medium (i.e., between 100 and 499 IT staff) and large IT shops, 79 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively, use this channel versus only 63 per cent small IT shops. Companies with medium and large IT shops generally have more sophisticated recruitment and career portals and, when they have a well-known brand, get more responses from publicising job vacancies. • All firms tap current employees. Existing employees are the second most popular recruiting channel. From discussions with CIOs, we’ve found that current employees provide the best-qualified candidates. Employees understand the current needs and requirements of IT and feel they have a stake in recommending the right people. • Large IT shops invest in internship programs. Internships are also a popular recruiting activity with nearly six out of 10 using them. Three-quarters of large IT organisations offer these programs to local schools, colleges, and universities whereas only three out of 10 small shops use these. Internships provide three benefits for IT organisations: cheap labour, a test environment for candidate fit, and good PR for the company. • Few firms experiment with social media – at least so far. Less than a quarter of those surveyed use social media networks, such as LinkedIn, to hire entry-level staff. As social media becomes more prevalent and Millennials move up in management, this channel will increase in importance. Click on the image to see in full screen

Forrester believes that, rather than waiting for opportunities for new talent to be created, CIOs should take a few practical steps to onboard entry-level people. They should: • Determine skills needed and match them to target candidates. To start, CIOs should match the skills gap within IT to those that entry-level hires bring. They should then attract new hires by offering internship programs and exploring traditional and new channels for finding the best talent. • Build relationships with local universities and colleges. Marketing IT and establishing relationships with local schools will ensure a strong pipeline of qualified new hires. • Provide oversight for entry-level IT staff. Putting in place a structure to manage and monitor entry-level staff allows IT managers to assess, train, and provide relevant experience to make new IT hires successful in their current and future role in the organisation. • Use entry-level staff as part of your cost-reduction strategy. Entry-level IT staff offer flexibility, adaptability, and support to the IT organisation. Above all else, they are also a cost-effective source of labor, helping to conduct repetitive tasks, such software installation. Leveraging entry-level staff for this purpose frees up the time of more-experienced staff. Forrester’s Q4 2009 Global IT Staffing Online Survey was fielded to 127 CIOs from our ongoing IT research panel. The panel consists of volunteers who join on the basis of interest and familiarity with specific IT topics. If you’re interested in joining one of Forrester’s Research Panels, you may visit us at