IT hiring process just keeps getting longer

They say a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.

And if that one bird in the hand has the right IT skills, you’re better off making it a job offer it can’t refuse than trying to interview the other two as well, according to a recent report from Robert Half Technology, a recruiting firm for IT professionals.

In fact, the market is so hot that IT professionals with up-to-date skills would need to be seriously lacking in “teamplaying” and “interpersonal” skills, RHT regional vice-president Sandra Lavoy said Thursday.

The survey of more than 270 CIOs of Canadian companies with 100 or more employees found it takes an average of 48 days to fill a staff-level IT position and 74 days to hire a manager.

“If you had said to me in 2001, ‘I’ve got a C++ developer,’ the guy could have walked on water and he’d have been struggling to get a job because all the development in most companies had stopped,” says Lavoy.

Today, though, she says, “If I had 10 .Net developers I could get them all out on a job tomorrow. We interview in the three digits just in our Ottawa office every week. I have multiple orders I am struggling to fill.”

And if those 10 .Net developers want to work at home, so be it.

“If you look at high-tech firms today they have to be competitive because they recruit on skill sets that are hot,” she said. “If a .Net developer can work from home as well as at the office and he’s excellent, they’re (the employer) going to let it happen.

“That’s really key for IT people today. They don’t want sweat shop environments.” 

The delay companies face in hiring is due to the fact they are still hiring in downturn mode, rather than today’s development mode, she said.

“In late 1999 and early 2000 our clients were hiring at first interview — if you had a pulse and knew IT you’d get a signing bonus,” said Lavoy. “When the downturn happened people took a step back.”

But organizations have yet to adapt to the fact that business is booming, the unemployment rate is low (5.8 per cent in Canada) and most companies are now undertaking many projects they had put on hold. 

Often what happens, said Lavoy, is RHT will offer one candidate for an interview, but companies will want to see three more. That’s a challenge, because there is a shortage of good – and available – IT professionals these days, she says.

Then it can take at least two weeks to do the interview process, followed by psych tests and reference checks. Then, if the company wants to make an offer, the candidate usually has to give two weeks’ notice at their current place of employment.

“We make an offer to a candidate and it’s been three weeks since the first interview and they’ll say they have another offer from another company,” she said. “They’ll play one against the other.”

Susan Parsons, a principle at HR consultancy Mercer Human Resource Consulting, said HR departments can reduce the time to hire by doing a little workforce planning.

“They need to look at what the needs of the organization are today and what they will be going forward,” she said. “They also need to know where to source the talent they need … so they can have a pool of potential they can call on prior to the need. What tends to happen is someone in a business line will say, ‘I need a project manager’ and then they’ll start the search.”

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Parsons also recommends that HR departments have their job postings ready rather than waiting to create them every time they’re needed.


But many of the headaches related to the hiring process could be avoided if HR departments were more proactive about keeping the talent they have, she says.


For example, rather than conduct exit interviews just to follow process, HR departments should mine employees’ feedback for ways to keep staff, she advises.

Usually they don’t.

“Then they (complain) that this is happening to them,” she says. “If HR was doing its job they would be looking at the stats on turnover versus time to fill jobs and looking at ways to bring that number down.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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