Skimming the cream of IT talent

Recruiting in a tight market doesn't require that you lower your standards.

By VIDYA SHAKER

RECRUITMENT

We've been hearing about this IT labor force shortage for a couple of years now, and it's about time we fess up: It's even tighter than projected, especially in hot niche markets. As director of recruiting for SeraNova, a global e-business and mobile solutions firm on the East Coast, I am as guilty as the next guy of ripping out article after article, turning over every stone, and groping for any straw to improve the numbers without compromising quality.

Our company's business model includes an offsite/offshore global delivery model that helps ease the pain. But despite training efforts in every stream of recruiting, including college recruiting, on almost every continent, I think it's time we recruiters begin to face the realities and strategize creatively. Some of the approaches we've taken at SeraNova may help your business.

If all we do is track the hire and requirement numbers, we are of less value than if we are knowledgeable on actual needs, who we hire, and what they can bring to the table. Hiring a multitasker who wants to multitask is not just a single hire. He or she is an asset. What steps should you take to determine if a person is a multitasker? Represent your opportunity clearly and accurately on the first call. Don't try depicting your company as being better, nicer, or cooler. Rather, you should honestly discuss the challenges that your company is facing and gauge the candidate's response. If you are in a niche industry, highlight that challenge. If you are a startup without branding, emphasize that challenge. If you are a large organization and things get chaotic, try using that as a test of strength.

Listen to how a person responds to phrases like speed, stress, high level of responsibility, wearing multiple hats, etc. Potentially strong multitaskers will tend to present their abilities in such environments without overselling. Those who are highly sought after by numerous agencies may suddenly sound very interested. On the other hand, those who will clearly not stand up to the test will begin to show their colors. When you find someone who shows interest, direct the interview to allow the candidate to show his or her ability in multiple environments, handling varied tasks at once, or dealing with assorted regions and issues.

The people you bring on board represent you as a recruiter for the company. Whoever you bring in is going to represent you for the duration of your role with the company-and theirs.

Try to ascertain a candidate's work ethic and work style as you go through the interview and references. Identify similar descriptions for your corporate culture and try to determine the proper fit.

Hiring and training will only work if you keep your bar high in terms of length and quality of candidates' previous work experience. When you start to fold to less-experienced people, you compromise your company. In recruiting, our respect will increase when we take a stand and protect the company's long-term interests, even in the case of unfilled requirements.

As in dating, if you look too desperate, you may not attract the most lucrative candidates. If you set your standards high, you look more interesting than your competitors. By the time you tell them they've made it through the challenging and mind-elevating interviews, your worthy candidates will be sorted from your average performers. Don't go through this next wave of recruiting trends without understanding the industry, the players, the service offerings of your competitors, and the financial implications of your role. It is no longer sufficient to know buzzwords. You have to go deeper if you are going to make an impact with the best candidates that this market has to offer.

Most important, be honest at all times. The people you hire have to be your satisfied customer if you expect them to help keep your recruiter's Rolodex spinning.

Vidya Shaker is director of recruiting at SeraNova, the e-business services unit of Intelligroup Inc. (Edison, NJ).

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