IT is Changing: Your Hiring Practices Need to Reflect This

Time to Read: 7.2 minutes

Updated: June 8, 2023

With IT at the core of nearly every business function and cyber threats an ever-present danger, the importance of qualified tech workers cannot be overstated. As Broadsuite Media CEO Daniel Newman says: “The modern IT worker is a tech-savvy innovator who creates change across the organization’s entirety, not just a single department.”

Hiring managers need to acknowledge that times have changed when it comes to IT’s functions, and their hiring practices need to evolve too. Understanding this and learning how to have better conversations with tech workers will help hiring managers develop strong relationships with these in-demand candidates.

In this blog post, we consider what hiring professionals can do to attract the best in IT.

Changing Role of IT

CEOs are leaning on IT to deliver a competitive advantage, Newman writes, citing “The Internet of Everything” as the reason behind it. “Since our reliance on technology increases with each passing day, IT is steadily moving to the front end—not the back—of business,” he says.

This means hiring managers need to ensure tech talent has the right skill sets. IT changes quickly and professionals need to be upskilling to stay relevant in the job market. However, as other departments become more tech savvy to fulfil their own roles, so too does IT need to grow more adept at marketing, finance, customer service, sales, and even business strategies.

“Reskilling existing teams will be necessary to maintain agility, so it’s important to construct a team of employees who can handle the peaks and valleys of business,” Newman writes.

Candidates Need to be Multi-Faceted

Sourcing expert Dean Da Costa says hiring managers don’t always build the correct teams because they mistakenly think in a mono-talented way: they source a Java expert adept at nothing else. Or they tend towards being too cross-job-talented, looking for a Java expert who is also great at networking and a skilled tech writer to boot.

In an evolving IT and tech job market, hiring managers need to think about cross-talented candidates. This means a candidate may be the Java expert the employer has been looking for, but he or she is also able to develop in other languages. The job role is singular but the candidate’s talents crossover.

Don’t Underestimate Self-Taught IT Candidates

Senior technical recruiter Joanna Mamo at Ian Martin talks about the value of sourcing auto-didacts for the IT department. Lucky hiring managers and project leaders will have met these types of workers before. They’re the ones who are always learning on their own, developing their skill sets and finding new ways of completing tasks.

This type of mindset gives them an edge over traditional specialists, Mamo argues. An important consideration these days is that many highly skilled IT workers are self-taught and may lack professional qualifications.

Hiring professionals understand the importance of official qualifications are important, but not at the cost of ignoring innovative, determined and self-taught tech workers. After all, it’s about growth potential. The right candidate will bring a certain approach to the job. The company can help shape that talent to its goals and strategy.

Make Sure Your Hiring Team Has Evolved Too

IT is changing and hiring practices should keep pace. Lauren Levine at Spark Hire writes that hiring managers are looking for a new kind of employee, regardless of the industry.

However, it is in the fast-changing IT department that a combination of hard technical skills and soft key personality traits is vital. Part of this, Levine says, is looking for candidates who can “pivot, learn new skills, and adapt to a changing business environment. Those who insist on sticking with the same old way things have always been done just because it’s comfortable will plateau and, eventually, get left in the dust.”

It is essential that hiring professionals live according to the same principles and standards they demand of their IT candidates.

Broaden the Search

Headlight CEO Jason Shen organized a global hiring study of 200 hiring managers, recruiters, engineers, designers, and product managers to understand how hiring decisions are made and job searches conducted. The takeaway was that most no-hires stem from candidates lacking sufficient technical abilities.

To overcome this, hiring professionals need to broaden their searches. Do more than post jobs on their company careers pages, LinkedIn and Glassdoor. To find the best and most relevant candidates, hiring managers need to look in new places, such as Tech Ladies — a community of 20,000 women in tech — or Vettery and Underdog to find passive candidates.

Analyst Jeff Pollard says companies struggling to hire for cyber roles should consider cross-training current staff members — particularly those in IT. Job rotation programs are a good way to test current employees’ aptitude for cyber. In addition to current employees, recent graduates, veterans, and women are all untapped cybersecurity resources.

“Prioritize which specialized skills are most important, and hire for those positions,”

Pollard writes. He adds that hiring a service provider or vendor partner can also help augment the skills gaps you have on your security team.

Test For Technical Ability

Stanford professor Bob Sutton argues that getting the best IT professionals requires assigning work sample tasks. These, he says, are accurate predictors of on-the-job success.

In addition to or instead of tests, candidates’ portfolios, side projects, and GitHub reports are also useful ways to gauge candidates’ skills, interests and work done. These can be weighed against the tasks the job demands.

Hiring Managers Need to Embrace Tech Themselves

Sourcing tech workers means hiring managers need to embrace tech themselves. Simon Bouchez at D!gitalist Magazine writes that social media and recruitment software have become essential in finding qualified candidates. The problem is, as Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte found out, that 47 percent of companies have HR software that is more than seven years old.

Indeed, understanding tech and data is so crucial to recruiting professionals that industry expert John Sullivan called 2017 “the year of the algorithm.” He says that recruiting will move from decisions being made based on past practices and intuition towards data-driven decisions.

A Long-Term Hiring Strategy Is Key

You can have all the tech in the world but, without a clear strategy, it won’t result in better hiring practices.

Mark Clark, an associate professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business, says planning for the long-term is vital. “If you can visualize where you want to be in five years, or even by next quarter, it will be significantly more natural to see how a new employee fits into that matrix,” Clark writes.

A good way to work towards that strategy is through writing future-oriented job descriptions. Define everything required of the new hire before assigning a title to the position. In an agile working environment, where departments cross over, adopting this approach could help define the IT role and hone the selection process.

Cyber Threats Grow More Ubiquitous

No talk of the changing IT landscape would be complete without addressing cybersecurity. Cybersecurity professionals are in demand and the talent gap is widening, with predictions that by 2022 there will be a shortage of 1.8 million cybersecurity jobs.

ISACA found that in the US, 55 percent of organizations take a minimum of three months to fill cyber positions, 32 percent take more than six months and 27 percent can’t fill them at all. Indeed, statistics from Bluelock’s IDG Research survey shows 64 percent of respondents say that disaster recovery and security plans should be aligned.

Jeffrey Ton at CSO notes the speed with which IT has changed. Ten years ago, for instance, the cloud to most people were the white puffs in the sky. These days, it’s where we store business-critical data without any hardware to be seen. Perhaps most important is how fast cyber threat are evolving. New forms of malware, ransomware, phishing, DDoS, SQL injections, cross-site scripting are not only more prevalent, but far more damaging too.

It’s for this reason, Ton argues, that hiring managers need to be aware of the merger between disaster recovery (DR) and cybersecurity. They are not longer respective specialties: Cyber threats have caused them to merge.

IT security professionals focus on quick incident responsiveness while DR professionals are committed to safeguarding data. Together, their skill sets are clearly advantageous. “IT security must have a two-pronged approach to risk mitigation: a balance of preventative and restorative measures,” Ton writes.

Whether it’s combining vital skill sets into one IT role or searching for multifaceted talent, hiring professionals have to up their game when sourcing IT candidates. They can do this by ensuring they evolve as quickly as their candidates.

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Shanil Kaderali

Shanil Kaderali is a strategic talent acquisition leader with global experience. He's managed and led recruitment functions at companies like Cisco Systems, Symantec, WellPoint, as well as having worked for several Baker's Dozen RPO winners.

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