How to Win in the Battle for IT Talent

FRAMINGHAM (07/17/2000) - If you don't think the hallmark of a well-run IT department is its ability to hire good people, take a tip from the major IT services firms like IBM Corp., EDS and Andersen Consulting Inc. These companies spend about half of their marketing budgets to support recruiting. Apparently they have less trouble finding projects than people to do the work.

Your company is probably in the same boat. With project deadlines getting squeezed and new e-business applications being driven by top management, your IT department's ability to hire good people is arguably the most important factor for long-term success.

One of the keys to good hiring in this frenetic market, it turns out, is keeping accurate statistics and metrics on the hiring process itself. This was confirmed last year in a survey conducted by International Data Corp. (IDC) and Computerworld of more than 70 recruiters of IT professionals. Keeping stats on the hiring process helps make it more orderly. After all, each hire isn't an emergency.

It all starts with knowing how long it takes to hire a person. Even a well-oiled recruiting machine will take almost two months from identifying a need to hire someone to receiving an accepted offer. And this implies that the company has a source of leads and a quick turnaround on interviewing. But having a clear understanding of the hiring time line helps managers throughout the company approach hiring in a systematic manner.

You must also know how many applicants you need in the pipeline to generate a hire. In the IDC/Computerworld survey, it took the average company 26 qualified résumés to yield three interviews before hiring someone. Your company may have different ratios, but you need to know what they are in order to meet your hiring plan.

But then, you must also know where your best hires have come from so you can go to the same source again. Did they come in over the transom? From employee referrals? Headhunters? The survey found that the most efficient channel for hiring - in terms of offers accepted per résumés gathered - was employee referral, followed by third-party search firms. The least efficient was the recruitment job fair. If you consider the costs of recruiting through each channel, then employee referral and college recruiting look pretty good.

These metrics will vary by company. But it's important to keep and use them to refine your process.

Look at it this way. Most companies have elaborate forecasting and tracking systems for keeping the sales pipelines full. They know lead times, visits or calls per sale and costs per sale. They segment their customers in different demographic and statistical groupings, and they pay for leads. They call lapsed customers and try to win them back. Why should recruiting be any different with people who rejected your job offers? Aren't you trying to sell your company to the best potential employees?

If you're a manager looking to hire IT professionals, your first action item is to find out if your HR people keep such statistics. If not, push them to do it, or do it yourself. Until you have a process and ways to measure its success, you can't hope to improve your recruiting record.

John Gantz is a senior vice president at IDC in Framingham, Mass. Contact him at

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