4 Ways to Attract Top IT Talent

Highly skilled IT workers are in demand, and they know it. How can your small business compete with big companies for top talent?
CEO, Small Business Trends LLC
June 26, 2013

Pundits and business owners alike are watching small-business hiring trends. While small-business hiring is still fairly sluggish by most accounts, there’s one area where businesses both large and small are hiring: IT workers.

A majority of companies that hire IT workers are currently hiring or planning to hire, reports a Monster.com poll. However, they’re running into a problem: They can’t find enough qualified workers. 

Some 70 percent of those in the survey, which polled businesses of all sizes, report that there are more IT jobs available than there are qualified workers to fill them. That’s partly because IT jobs have become increasingly specialized, according to 52 percent of employers, and partly because there are fewer IT professionals in the U.S. looking for jobs, according to 53 percent of employers. 

Despite this, 49 percent of employers in the survey believe they’ll ultimately find job candidates with the skills they’re looking for. What IT skills are they seeking? About three-fourths (72 percent) of companies are looking for app developers, 57 percent are seeking employees who can handle website design and development, 56 percent are looking for employees to manage their networks, and 55 percent need candidates with experience in business intelligence and analytics. 

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Companies in the survey say they are focusing their IT talent search on jobs that will help them better align their business goals with technology, and 45 percent of them are hiring because their companies are expanding. To help reach their goals, they aren’t just looking for employees who’ve completed academic courses; 40 percent say academic training isn’t sufficient. Instead, 85 percent are looking for employees with certifications in specific IT areas. 

It’s not all about IT, however. Survey respondents say qualified candidates also need to have “softer” skills, such as good communication skills, relevant work experience, interpersonal skills and a personality that fits with the company’s culture.

One reason employers are struggling might be budgetary. More than half (52 percent) of employers report they are unable to compete for candidates on salary alone.

So how can your small business attract skilled IT workers? The following four tips can help.

Be competitive. Try to make your salary and benefits at least competitive. It’s an IT employee’s market right now, and you need to consider the advantages a skilled IT employee can bring to your business. The right person should pay for himself or herself, so stretch your budget if you can.

Play up the advantages of working for a small business. If you can’t compete on salary, promote the other advantages your business can offer. While it’s hard to compete with the mind-blowing benefits big tech companies like Google or Microsoft offer, your small business most likely has an environment where even an entry-level IT person can wear many hats, work independently and make a big difference in your small company. This appeals to many IT workers, so play it up!

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Use your connections. Tap into your networks both online and offline, including your existing employees. Let them know what you’re searching for. You never know when your administrative assistant’s cousin’s girlfriend will turn out to have just the qualifications you’re looking for.

Rely on local schools. Align with local colleges and universities that train students in IT, either degree programs or certifications. Let them know you’re seeking employees and what your business has to offer. You may be able to develop a pipeline of qualified candidates with fresh training, up-to-date skills and lots of energy and enthusiasm for using their freshly minted degrees and certifications.

If you’re looking to hire IT employees, what has your experience been? Are you having problems finding workers? If not, what strategies have you used? 

Read more articles on hiring employees.

Photos from top: iStockphoto, Thinkstock

CEO, Small Business Trends LLC