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Ten Tips For Snagging Hot IT Hires: Improved Handling Of Peopleware Needed

August 2, 2000 -- To compete successfully in today’s business world, most companies rely on sophisticated computer hardware and software. They also need skilled information technology (IT) workers to use it.

But finding talented IT professionals is tough — hundreds of thousands of IT jobs nationwide are going begging. And turnover rates are edging toward 20 percent: IT professionals who don’t like their jobs feel no qualms about looking for new ones. And they’ll often boost their paychecks on their way out the door.

"Peopleware is the number one issue for managers today, particularly given the role that people play in solving virtually every problem," said R. Ryan Nelson, director of the Center for the Management of Information Technology (CMIT) at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce.

With colleague Peter Todd, a professor at the University of Houston’s College of Business Administration, Nelson has studied issues of recruiting, hiring and retaining IT workers. The two business professors have identified best practices that offer common sense guidelines to harried IT and human resource managers. (See 10 Tips for Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining IT Employees, which is located at the bottom of the page.)

Two qualities are key in the hiring process: communication and speed. Because the labor market for IT employees is so hot right now an employer must communicate interest quickly and clearly to a job candidate or the candidate will move on to the next job offer.

Internally, communication and speed also are important. IT managers must communicate their needs clearly to human resource officers, who may need to move faster — and pay more — for IT hires than they’re accustomed to.

While hiring IT employees can be frustrating and expensive, the alternative is worse. Failing to hire needed employees puts companies at a competitive disadvantage and can lead to lost business opportunities.

"Running out of people in the information age would be like running out of iron in the iron age," said Nelson, who coordinates the McIntire School’s master’s degree program in Management Information Systems (MS/MIS).

The Center for the Management of Information Technology promotes research and education in the management of information technology through a program that brings together business and higher education.

ComputerWorld magazine has ranked McIntire's master’s degree program in Management Information Systems one of the top such programs in the country.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal (804) 924-6858




10 Tips for Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining IT Employees

Most of these common sense suggestions boil down to one word: communication. To hire and keep IT employees, managers must communicate with current employees, with those who can help identify potential employees, with job candidates throughout the hiring process — and afterward, with new employees. While these tips are especially important for responding to the current labor shortage in the IT field, they can also be applied to a broad array of professional service businesses.


1. Develop partnerships and widen the candidate pool — For entry-level employees, establish contacts with faculty and career officials at colleges and universities. For higher-level employees, widen the pool of talent from which you draw. Get in touch with recruiting agencies and employment agencies. Consider aptitudes and competencies as well as specific technical skills -- some job descriptions are so specific they discourage good candidates from applying. Investigate nontraditional sources of labor, including older workers and military veterans, through contacts at senior centers and public affairs or community service offices on military bases. And don’t forget current employees as sources of referrals for new employees.

2. Keep in touch — Maintain ties to people you offered jobs but who went elsewhere and those you interviewed but didn’t hire. Also, stay in touch with employees who leave. They might consider returning in the future or recommending a future CIO.

3. Hire from inside — Consider hiring people from inside your organization who know your business and corporate culture and who would like to upgrade their career opportunities by learning new skills.

4. Work with human resources — IT people are not experts in personnel issues nor are HR staff experts in IT. The two groups need to work together. People in information technology must educate the human resources staff about the pressures of the IT labor market, including multiple job offers and the escalation of salaries. HR should support the hiring process and take care of the details; IT should make the decisions.

5. Sell the organization — Develop an interview process that sells your organization to the job candidates as much as it assesses them. In today’s labor market, prospective employees have options and need to be courted. Think of the process as a dating game, especially with younger candidates.

6. Bring the work to life — Give people a chance to get to know your organization and the kind of work they’ll be asked to do. Show them around so they can see the stimulating work environment your company has created. Introduce them to coworkers. Show them exciting projects.

7. Involve peers — Encourage a wide range of employee participation in the interview and selection process. In particular, job candidates’ peers can give a realistic view of work life in the organization. They will also be good at assessing candidates’ fit with particular work groups and may elicit more candid views about the organization.

8. Follow up — After the interview process is complete, follow up with the candidates as quickly as possible. Keep them informed as the decision process unfolds to ease the uncertainty of waiting. Open lines of communication may also let you know about other offers the candidates are entertaining.

9. Make decisions quickly — Offers need to be made as soon as possible after the interview process has been completed. Delay signals uncertainty and in the current labor market is likely to lead candidates to accept other job offers.

10. Follow through — When an offer is made, follow through with answers to candidates’ questions, providing the information they need to make their decisions. Be sure to deliver on your promises even after a candidate has accepted an offer. Otherwise, your hiring problem may become a retention problem.

Source: Peopleware: Managing IT Human Capital, by R. Ryan Nelson, McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, and Peter A. Todd, College of Business Administration at the University of Houston, May 2000.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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