Sep 13 2007

Working With a Recruiter

What every IT manager should know, and how to keep employees from falling prey.
Coley Perry
Photo: Grant Kessler
Coley Perry
Recruiter, Solutions Partners

The reality for many small and medium-size companies is that it is easy for IT staff, even IT superstars, to hit a career ceiling. In privately held or family-owned businesses, executive leadership positions are limited.

Ambitious employees will find ways to improve their skills or work in areas that complement their strengths. But when these attempts fail, they will look elsewhere.

And when it comes time to replace them, it seems supply can’t keep up with demand — especially when shopping for that rare talent that understands technology and business and has the necessary soft skills to be an integral part of your team.

Attrition may be inevitable, but it can be controlled.

Chances are good that a recruiter like myself is already trying to cherry-pick your best and brightest — offering them more money, more responsibility and more challenging assignments. If you want to keep your existing superstars from taking my call, here are a few proven preventative steps that you can implement in the next 30 days.

• Provide Career Planning: For your existing employees, especially the ones you want to keep, invest in career planning. If you give your current and future employees a road map to follow, they will better understand how they fit into the big picture.

• Offer Education: Training doesn’t need to be expensive. A few classes per year or even an allowance of $50 per month from Amazon.com for technology books will often satisfy an employee’s craving for knowledge.

• Create Opportunity: Certainly, working on new technologies and keeping up with the newest trends should be part of the job description, but opening up new opportunities or projects to your employees will help keep their interest piqued. Changes in landscapes can be refreshing.

If you need to work with recruiters to fill jobs, here are ways to make sure they attract the right talent for your company.

• Require Social Interviews: Technology work is no longer just about technology. You don’t want to hire someone simply because they have great .NET skills. Business and soft skills matter more than ever. It pays to put a candidate in an atmosphere where you can observe social skills. By conducting a social interview, you can see how the candidate interacts with the rest of the team. And it allows the entire team to observe behavior and measure chemistry.

• Demand Screening: Ask about the specific screening processes the recruiting firm will use. The recruiter should meet and vet candidates through either personal interviews or reference checks — or both.

• Communicate Information: Spend time helping the recruiter communicate your company’s culture. The better a recruiter understands the culture of your company, the better he or she will be able to find a good fit. Have a detailed explanation of the project, business drivers, whether or not you use project teams and political issues (if any). The information should include a specific job description and social or soft skills that are necessary.

• Specify Career Path: If you simply need a body to fill a spot for a period of time, an emphasis on technical skills should be conveyed. If you need someone to fill a critical role on a team, an understanding of the firm’s core competencies must also be communicated.

• Provide Feedback: Make a commitment to the recruiting firm about how you will provide timely feedback. An agreement on a feedback channel and the timing (win or lose) is valuable to the recruiter.

Human capital is a company’s most valuable asset. If you can keep current valued employees satisfied by constantly raising the ceiling, you will be able to reduce attrition. But if that’s not possible, knowing how to get the best results from a recruiter will help you find that next superstar.

Coley Perry is a recruiter with Solutions Partners in Naperville, Ill.