Just about everyone agrees that it’s tough to recruit IT talent. Whether you’re the CIO of Adobe or you’re launching a tech startup, people with the right IT skills are just about as scarce as unicorns (the mythical creature that is, not the tech companies with billion dollar valuations). A recent study by Indeed found that 86% of tech recruiters said hiring technical talent is challenging.

But there’s more to the problem than a lack of qualified talent. The way companies approach and hire also keeps many from achieving their hiring goals. Problem areas include less-than-competitive salary packages, slow hiring cycles, and a tarnished employer brand.

So how big is the problem—and more importantly, what can you do about it?

What Does Scarcity Really Mean?

What exactly do we mean when we say that IT talent is scarce? Is the problem that we’re not producing enough new talent to fill open roles? That’s partly to blame, but the challenge of IT scarcity extends even deeper, with ramifications like:

  • Longer time-to-fill—Waiting to find the perfect candidate or simply not attracting qualified talent at all leads to positions going unfilled for longer periods of time.
  • More open positions—As technology needs grow, companies need more tech professionals than ever before—but they still have trouble finding them.
  • Insufficient recruiter training—Not all recruiters know how and where to find quality IT talent with the right qualifications.
  • Lack of innovative thinking—As technology becomes more complex, companies need tech professionals who can span multiple IT disciplines and learn new skills quickly. But those skills are difficult to find.

Underlying all of those issues, of course, is the fact that there simply aren’t enough job seekers on the market to meet the demands of an increasingly digital workforce.

So what can companies do about it?

Solve the Problem From Within—And Without

To meet the growing need for IT talent, hiring managers will need to utilize all the resources at their disposal, both internal and external. Here’s what you can do to re-invigorate your IT hiring strategy:

Invest Your Internal Resources

The people you already have on your team may be good candidates for promotion or training in new skills. Learn to engage and retain your current high performers so they can become star players:

  • Cross-train—Rotate your best talent to other IT domains so they can learn how various functions interact. Learning to think cross-dimensionally benefits your IT and Development departments while also helping tech professionals bring greater value to the organization.
  • Support passions—The best employees are the ones who love what they do. Prevent burnout by giving your IT people the opportunity to work on interesting projects or chase down new solutions.
  • Provide opportunities to swap ideas—Interaction with others in the industry gives your IT team a chance to explore new technology and learn how others address problems or challenges. It also gives them a chance to network with the IT community—and that benefits you as well.
  • Promote from within—As often as possible, promote from within to give your IT team members a reason to stick around.

Cultivate Your External Resources

Of course, it’s not possible to address all your talent challenges internally. When it’s time to look outside your own team, use as many resources as you can to address your talent shortage:

  • Work with a recruiter—Professional recruiters know the IT market inside out, and they have access to large talent databases that can help you find qualified people faster.
  • Use skills-based hiring initiatives—Traditional resumes and interviews often don’t showcase the right things when it comes to IT. Skills-based hiring initiatives like hack-a-thons and coding challenges showcase a candidate’s ability to solve real problems—even if he or she doesn’t perform well in an interview.
  • Think beyond skills, too—Look for candidates who have a broad range of abilities, including collaborative problem solving and the mindset to achieve company goals and initiatives as a value contributor.
  • Build buzz—Your network can be one of your most valuable resources when it comes to hiring IT talent. Encourage your current IT employees to network with others in their field, and offer incentives for bringing others on board.
  • Go off the traditional talent grid—Some of the best IT talent is already working somewhere else, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be open to a change if the right offer came along. Recruit passive candidates and use predictive analytics to find the best candidates quickly.
  • Make your company an awesome place to work—Google notwithstanding, IT professionals aren’t just looking for a company culture that includes ping-pong tables and nap pods. They want to work with a cutting edge technology stack and contribute to exciting projects that utilize their full range of skills. They may also be looking for great benefits, flexible working hours, or a better salary package. Polish up your employer brand by focusing on what you can offer them, not just what they can offer you.

The war for IT talent won’t be won with 20th century recruiting strategies. Companies will need to ramp up both their technology and their methodology to solve talent shortage problems.

It’s a tough nut to crack, but the payoff is well worth the effort.

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