Walking the Recruitment Tightrope: Balancing Efficiency With Effectiveness When Hiring

Acrobatic abilities weren't listed as a requirement when you applied for your position as an IT manager. But the truth is that a strong sense of balance and the ability to juggle multiple priorities at once are characteristics that define the strongest supervisors.

Nowhere are these skills more apparent than during the hiring process. One slip-caused by rushing to hire a questionable candidate, for instance-and your firm is out significant time, money and resources. Stumble in the opposite direction-for example, by waiting too long to extend an offer to a prized applicant-and your overburdened staff inches that much closer to burnout.

A Tightening Labor Market

Before walking the recruitment tightrope, it's key that you understand the current employment market. Knowing the size of the pool of available talent, the types of positions competing firms are looking to fill and the skills that are in short supply in your area can help you prepare an appropriate hiring strategy.

A number of signs point to a tightening labor market that is making it difficult for companies to locate skilled IT professionals. For one, more firms are in hiring mode, increasing the competition for top talent. According to the quarterly Robert Half Technology IT Hiring and Skills Report, 16% of CIOs (in the US) plan to hire full-time staffers before the end of the year. Only 4% anticipate a decline in personnel. The net 12% increase is up one point from the third-quarter projection and six points from the fourth quarter of 2004. It continues a trend that started a year and a half ago of steady increases in hiring activity. In fact, the CIO survey results are at their highest levels since 2002.

Other statistics support these findings. For example, according to the Employment Dynamic and Growth Expectations (EDGE) Report, released by CareerBuilder.com and Robert Half International, a large majority of employers (86%) feel that it will be equally or more challenging to find candidates one year from now. The main reason: a shortage of qualified job seekers, according to 47% of respondents.

Increased Compensation

Recognizing their slight advantage in the employment market, workers are becoming more aggressive in their pursuit of better compensation packages. More than half (60%) of employees surveyed for the EDGE Report said they are more likely to push for more generous salary and benefits packages now vs. 12 months ago.

As a hiring manager, this means you should carefully consider the offers you extend to potential employees. The Robert Half Technology 2006 Salary Guide predicts a 3% increase in average base pay over 2005 levels, but in some cases, this may not be enough to attract top-level candidates. You must be prepared to spend a little more than competing firms to woo the most highly skilled IT professionals. Keep in mind, though, that balance is key. Offering a new employer a higher salary than tenured workers with similar experience and expertise could upset your department's pay scale, cause resentment among staff members and lead to a decline in overall morale.

The Need for Speed

Throughout the country, businesses are observing another noteworthy trend: More and more applicants are fielding multiple employment offers, increasing the need for firms to make quick hiring decisions. Some companies have even lost out on qualified candidates due to delays-sometimes of only a few days-in extending job offers.

However, this does not mean you should make rash hiring decisions.

Before extending an offer to any candidate, you must first weigh a variety of factors and determine if a) there is a sustained need for additional full-time staff, b) the budget and resources to support a new employee exist, and c) the potential employee can provide concrete benefits to your firm.

Also consider the following:

  • The number of candidates who have applied for your firm's opening. For example, if in six months of searching you have been able to identify only a handful of candidates who warranted interviews, you may want to act on a promising candidate sooner rather than later.
  • The amount of time your department can afford to wait for full-time help. If your staff is already overburdened and behind schedule on a companywide software rollout, you may want to more aggressively pursue a candidate who meets your criteria.
  • The skills your company seeks. Some IT abilities-including Windows administration, SQL Server management, wireless network administration, and .Net and Java development-are in especially strong demand, creating a shortage of workers with expertise in these areas and limiting your flexibility during the hiring process.

While walking the recruitment tightrope is never easy, educating yourself about trends affecting the current employment market can make the process more effective and efficient.

Five-Year History Hiring activity among CIOs has steadily increased since the third quarter of 2003. Hiring activity among CIOs has steadily increased since the third quarter of 2003.

Source: Robert Half Technology survey of 1.400 CIOs from companies with more than 100 employees.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in the North America and Europe and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.

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