by Kristen Lamoreaux

How to Fish for (and Land) IT Talent

Oct 23, 20144 mins
CareersCIOIT Jobs

CIOs need to be deeply involved in writing IT job postings -- not just leave it to the HR admin -- to lure great hires.

fishing for it talent

Organizations tend to fall into two categories when it comes to posting job openings: those with crappy job ads and those that have a clue. CIOs who have a clue are involved in the process rather than relying solely on an HR admin to “post something on the site.”

Steve Heilenman, CIO at Computer Aid, a privately held global IT services provider, not only has a clue; he successfully hires 20 to 30 people each year for his IT team, in a company that annually hires 300 to 500 employees overall. How? Steve writes the job descriptions for his direct reports and reviews every IT job posting.

“We try to include as much as possible from actual descriptions in advertisements so that the candidate can get a good understanding of the role and our expectations,” Heilenman  says. “It is just as important for the candidate to feel comfortable with the role as it is for us to feel good about the candidate.”

Similarly, Larry Bilker, senior vice president and CIO at Continuity Logic, says job descriptions for a CIO’s direct reports should be written by the CIO. “If this responsibility is delegated, what the CIO is really looking for in his or her direct reports can easily be missed.” Bilker says HR should help by reviewing job postings and ensuring regulatory compliance.

Sorting Through the Pile

Of course, these days résumé overload is a big problem. “No matter how accurate and specific you are, with today’s online and social media networks, you are always going to be plagued with thousands of applicants, the majority of whom do not meet the requirements you so carefully crafted and communicated,” says Mark Sander, former CIO at Church and Dwight. “Finding ways to effectively and efficiently sort through the pile is the challenge.”

So should you cast a wide net, or be ultra-specific to avoid being buried? Sanjay Khatnani, managing partner at J2 Solutions, a technology and business consulting firm, recommends “specific but not granular” job descriptions to ensure a sufficient flow of job candidates and yet limit the off-target résumés. “Don’t say ‘six years of Oracle Database expertise’ say ‘six to eight years of experience using relational databases, with Oracle preferred.'”

Sander says technical skills become outdated very quickly. “Software offerings change faster than you will change your employees. You need someone who can learn quickly and adapt,” he says. “In my experience, fit with the company culture, an innovative and driven can-do attitude, and a well-rounded set of industry-relevant experiences, are much more accurate predictors of success than a specific technical skill or experience.”

For lower level positions, job descriptions will naturally be more specific about IT tools, but every job description and advertisement should mention soft skills and company culture, too.

“Soft skills can tip the balance between two candidates, so let your candidates know the profile of who will be successful inside your organization,” Khatnani says. “Technical skills can always be advanced through training; soft skills are ingrained qualities of the individual.”

Candidates are looking for companies that provide not just career growth but “environments that are energetic, offer work-life balance, and have positive value systems,” says Khatnani. “I have seen more prospective employees decline offers based on these factors than on technical tools.”

When you think of your job ads, are you giving candidates a reason to join your organization? Don’t let social media and disgruntled employee sites be your candidates’ only clues to corporate culture. Craft your strategic vision into a story that’s accurate but also focused on what’s important to them. Every candidate wants to be seen as a person, so acknowledge that life exists outside of work; if you don’t, prepare to watch your retention rate plummet.