6 Ways to Hire the Best IT People

Article by Robert Gillette on November 27, 2018
Robert Gillette
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If your organization is set on hiring an IT professional instead of a Managed Service Provider, you are not alone. Many businesses and organizations under 100 computer users go this route. Managing IT in-house has a single most important strategic factor that will impact business security and operational efficiency – getting the right talent.

As a service company, we have to find, train, and keep the best players to stay at the top of our industry. This means that Endsight has to be a better recruiter than Robert Half and a better trainer than a local union. And to throw one more element into the loop, unemployment is at an all-time low. Last year we reviewed over 1200 applications to hire one candidate for a technical position.

Here are some things we’ve learned over the past 14 years that might help if you’re dead-set on hiring IT employees instead of outsourcing.

1. Have an IT professional hire the IT professional

This may seem obvious, but I’m starting here because it’s the most common mistake companies make. Having manager and stakeholder opinions is important, but having an interviewer with technical expertise is essential.

Far too often we interview candidates with years and years of IT experience but are grossly under qualified. They’ve made their way through the marketplace because they’ve been hired in the past by people and organizations that have not had the skills or domain expertise to truly test a candidate’s knowledge.

I know this to be true as I was once hired to replace an IT Manager because I fixed the interviewer’s iPhone during the interview. The general manager simply did not know enough to test my knowledge any deeper than that. Find an expert to include in your hiring process that can genuinely evaluate your candidates.

2. IT professionals want to specialize, let them

The career path in IT is often a lot like climbing a ladder. One starts on the lowest rung (usually the Help Desk) and will climb up the ladder as high as their experience, talents, and opportunities will take them.

For instance, people who have climbed the ladder to Systems Manager move on from their Help Desk responsibilities. It’s not that the work of a Help Desk engineer is somehow below them, but that the knowledge they possess is now wasted on Help Desk work. It’s the equivalent of having an Oncologist routinely take a patient’s temperature and blood pressure. They are more than capable, but having them do so is inefficient and wasteful.

As one progresses in their career, they want to do work that is compatible with their growing skill set. Moving beyond beginner demonstrates a sign of maturity and growth. Not doing so could be concerning to the engineer’s career. Furthermore, the field of IT is just too deep and wide for anyone to know enough to serve all levels well. Instead of trying to hire a Jack-of-all-trades, hire someone who has the skills you need most. Then give them a team of vendors that can shore up their weaknesses. This will not only help your organization but allow the computer engineer you hire to maintain a sense of pride in their own IT expertise.

3. Build a better magnet

Ask yourself this tough question. “Why would top IT talent want to come work for you?” Google, LinkedIn, Endsight, Twitter, we’re also trying to get the same IT talent as you, so how can you get the top talent to come to your office?

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to compete with the pay scale or benefits. The same can be said for prestige and career path opportunities. One suggestion is to lean into the fact that all things being equal, you will not be able to hire the best candidates for IT.

Maybe you need to find candidates that will be able to grow into the position you have available. Over time, with outside education and careful management, this diamond in the rough can be a great addition to your team.

Alternatively, it might make sense to increase the compensation structure, or include other benefits you haven’t considered. It’s important to remember that there is approximately one qualified candidate for every 20 job openings in IT, and you’ll need a compelling reason for that qualified candidate to come work at your organization.

4. Prepare for turnover

The average time span of an IT professional staying in the same position is 18 months. In other words, someone who is continuing to learn and grow with the changing world of IT accepts a promotion or significant change in responsibility about of every one and a half years. Those that stay longer than three years in a position risk becoming stagnant in their knowledge and value to the overall job market. Forbes Magazine recently published a report that employees under 40 years old that do not change jobs every two years earn up to 50% less than those that do.

As you go through the hiring process, keep open lines of communication with candidates that you liked but were unable to hire or chose not to hire. Make sure that anyone you do hire is documenting all the processes and procedures they develop so that the new hire can pick up with as much effect as possible.

If your current IT employee has been with you for more than 3-4 years, make sure that you plan for a more complicated transition. Probability tells us that your new candidate will be stepping into your environment with some catch-up work to do.

5. Minimize your risk

When I was a Director of IT in 2014, I was (and still am) 100% sure that my CEO had no idea how much power he’d given me. If I wanted to, I could have read every email sent or received on our network. I could have seen every web page and every key typed on any machine. I could have seen what everyone was paid, or printed out the company’s P&L. I’m positive it never occurred to him, but it terrified me.

I was uncomfortable knowing our banking login info, but it was my job. I would even bet my next paycheck that some of those passwords are still being used because I inherited them from the last IT guy and no one wanted them to change. Having been in that position, I would highly recommend that you DO NOT put that much responsibility solely in the hands of an individual employee.

At Endsight we have a complex system of checks and balances with permission controls to hide that information from employees that do not need it. I highly recommend building a similar system at your organization before hiring anyone. You may need to pay an expert to do it for you, but that investment will be worth its weight in reduced liability, and leverage over your IT department. At the very least, agree upon password best practices for your organization, and implement them immediately.

6. Take your time in hiring an IT professional

“Haste makes waste.” Making the wrong hire quickly is one of the worst things you can do when trying to hire IT talent. By slowing down, you ensure that your candidate is really excited to work with you and is not just desperate for a job. Time gives you the opportunity to get to know the candidate, adequately test their knowledge, identify if they are a good culture fit and test for communication ability, as IT professionals are not usually known for people skills.

Take your time in finding the ones who have a great balance of business acumen, empathy, and technical ability. At the end of the day, your IT arm needs to be able to understand your business and your people.

Do these six things guarantee you will hire great people? Definitely not. But if you execute well on these concepts, your chances increase dramatically. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments please feel free to email me directly at rgillette@endsight.net.

Tags: IT strategy, IT management, Best practices

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