In-Demand IT Jobs Demand Attention

CIOs need to get creative to overcome financial restraints and bring top IT talent on board

Candidates for high-demand IT jobs are declaring their independence. They want flexibility in the workplace. They want compensation and opportunities for promotion that astound hiring managers. And many of these top candidates have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.

This isn’t new, but with the unstable economic conditions over the past three years, companies have mistakenly come to believe the myth, “If you post it, they will come.”

Today, CIOs need to balance financial discipline with in-demand technologies. “With improving conditions comes the reality of pent-up demand, and employers need to be increasingly nimble and creative with regard to finding talent,” says Dave Ballai, CIO and vice president of commercial solutions at Reed Technology and Information Services. Rick Fabrizio, CIO at propane provider AmeriGas, agrees, adding that “the market is abundant with mediocre talent, but we’re willing to stretch further to snag the high performers.”

Finding the money for in-demand candidates isn’t easy. “Creativity is paramount to being successful in hiring in today’s marketplace,” says Guy Lavalette, a CIO at a company in the Northeast. “Partnering with business-unit executives such as CMOs and reallocating some of their internal budgets [is] a strategy that has worked for me.” For example, he says, CIOs and chief marketing officers must use social media and develop cost-effective search-engine optimization (SEO) and search-engine marketing (SEM) strategies to increase online exposure. Lavalette has successfully reallocated third-party SEO and SEM budgets to create roles that affect the bottom line. “It’s a win-win: The company saves money, and IT [or] marketing has an internal expert to work on these key initiatives,” he says.

CIO involvement during the interview process also brings cachet, as it demonstrates the role’s value to the organization. Superstars have egos, and visibility and criticality can intrigue such candidates and potentially mitigate compensation concerns.

Ballai says it’s important to give in-demand candidates access to senior management during recruiting, so they get a broader view. Fabrizio also emphasizes executive participation. “It’s great when candidates feel the excitement and energy from the interviewers themselves,” he says. “I personally want to be involved in the final round of interviews to either stop the hiring of someone who isn’t a good fit or put on the full-court press” for the right candidate.

Craft Your Message

All three CIOs stressed the importance of crafting an ­overarching recruitment message. “We describe the exciting environment, where the candidates will be challenged and rewarded for making a positive impact on the business,” says Fabrizio. “I’ll share with them the many examples of individuals advancing their careers here at AmeriGas and how they’re helping the company to transform itself.”

For AmeriGas, that approach has paid off. “We’ve hired a lot of high performers over the past year,” Fabrizio notes. “Most job seekers want to be part of an organization that’s making investments in technology and its future.”

Of course, Fabrizio counters candidate demands with requirements of his own. “Experience, competency and attitude have to be part of the package,” he says. “In the past, every department has had its mix of A-, B- and C-rated employees, but with [business] demands today, we can’t tolerate the lower-rated staff anymore.”

Don’t waste the time of good candidates for high-demand roles. Put them into an expedited hiring process, and engage their hearts and minds. If they meld with your culture, get creative on the compensation. Wouldn’t getting a product out to market faster be worth going the extra mile for an employee who’s key to making that happen?

Kristen Lamoreaux is president and CEO of Lamoreaux Search, which focuses on sourcing IT professionals for hiring ­managers.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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