Looking to Fill an IT Job? Avoid These 10 Mistakes

FRAMINGHAM (07/24/2000) - When I managed IT projects, I remember being incredibly annoyed with the human resources department when it tried to "help" me find programmers. My experience wasn't unusual, according to top headhunter and best-selling author Nick Corcodilos, whose Web site (www.asktheheadhunter.com) is something of a mecca to high-tech job seekers. In a recent conversation, Corcodilos described the worst mistakes that's he's seen while watching dozens of companies struggle through the hiring process.

Here's my summary of his observations, in the format made popular by David Letterman:

10. Being too passive. Recruiters passively run newspaper advertisements, then sort through the résumés. Top talent, however, is unlikely to be looking in the want ads and will probably have to be recruited from other companies.

9. Focusing on HR. Recruiters spend time reading HR journals and going to HR conferences instead of learning about their client companies' industries.

Recruiters should read industry trade magazines and go to industry conferences then use what they learn as research to build contacts.

8. Asking dumb interview questions. Recruiters often have a set of pat questions like "What do you want to be doing in five years?" Such queries seem irrelevant and silly to technical gurus.

7. Depending on résumés. Technical people revel in the details of their work and often write résumés that are clusters of acronyms and jargon. Recruiters often reject such résumés in favor of well-written, but less substantive résumés that are the hallmark of the professional job hunter.

6. Using a résumé-screening program. Such programs are easily fooled.

Unqualified candidates can get on the short list merely by writing a résumé that includes buzzwords from the job description.

5. Assigning paperwork. Recruiters often start the interview process by handing out a pile of paper forms. This makes technical people feel like they're applying for a loan rather than offering their valuable services to a company that needs those services.

4. Underutilizing the Internet. Recruiters typically use the Internet only to post job descriptions and gather résumés. Instead, they should use the Internet to search industry-specific newsgroups for people who have the knowledge and experience to become potential employees.

3. Forcing hiring managers out of the picture. In many companies, HR won't let the hiring managers get involved until recruiters have selected a short list of candidates. But the hiring manager is often the very person who has the best industry contacts.

2. Not spending time in the trenches. If a recruiter is going to help hire people for a certain department, he needs to know what that department is like and what kind of people thrive in that environment.

And the No. 1 mistake:

Never breaking the rules. Most HR departments become collections of rules that continue to grow in size and complexity. I remember that at one of my former employers, pages of paperwork were required to open a job requisition, let alone actually hire somebody.

IT managers need more control over the recruiting and hiring process, helping HR to locate top candidates who aren't currently job hunting. Meanwhile, IT must spur HR to eliminate needless paperwork and bureaucracy. The alternative is to let valuable "human resources" end up working for the competition.

Geoffrey James (www.geoffreyjames.com) is the author of numerous books and articles on high-tech business.

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