Dull Web sites turn off hot- shot recruits

Companies hunting for hotshot young IT staff, be warned! If your corporate Web site looks stodgy, your star candidate probably won't bother turning up for the interview. That's because topping up salary packages with toys, training and stock options is only part of the recruiting game these days.

Today's Generation W (for Web) recruits have a special set of hot buttons that need to be pressed, says Lynn Cochrane, CEO of Leaders IT Recruitments.

Would-be employers who don't understand those buttons aren't even in the race to hire the brightest and best.

"Australia has been a buyers' market in the past and a lot of our clients are still living in that golden yesteryear," said US-born Cochrane, whose Brisbane company recruits for employers around Australia and overseas.

"They think they can just wave a flag and people will beat a path to their door.

"The smart ones are doing very targeted advertising campaigns aimed at the hot buttons that turn kids on.

Even after they get the attention of potential staffers, "Many companies are still dropping the ball because they have next to no interview skills for selling their company," Cochrane said. "You have to sell excitement and they don't know how to do that."

Some of the sharpest competition in a supply-starved market is reserved for smart young software development engineers whose weakness for the toys of their trade can be exploited by canny employers.

"They like the latest and greatest whether it is the coolest palmtop on the market or the latest software tools, and they all love Java," Cochrane said.

Their salary packages are going up 15 per cent to 20 per cent annually with levels of $60K common compared to $40K commanded by similar jobs three years ago.

They are also starting to follow the lead of their US counterparts and asking for stock options in companies whose intellectual property they are helping create. A boring Web site is a handicap for companies trying to hire this type of programmer, she says.

"These guys just feed on information and the first place they go to check you out is the Web. If they go to a site and find it dead boring, that reflects the nature of the company as far as they are concerned."

The reward structure and career ladder for technical staff is altering too. Technically excellent staff no longer need to shift into management in order to reap greater remuneration and prestige.

Companies like international billing systems software developer Saville Systems, which maintains a large Australian research and development establishment, is among those acting on the issue.

"We recognise the technical excellence career path as well as the management career path," said human resources manager, Carol Griffith.

A senior software architect on a Saville project team can sit at the same salary and prestige level as the project leader.

"A project manager is expected to lead and manage his team, whereas somebody at the same seniority level is responsible for the technical excellence of the project but has no responsibilities for people, she said.

The structural change provides a means of recognising and rewarding valuable technical staff so they are less likely to be poached by other organisations.

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