Should you hire a contractor or employee? How CIOs should decide

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CIO_Talent War_1

Hiring IT professionals is never easy in today's competitive marketplace. Given the challenges of finding good tech talent, should you be looking to engage a contractor, or bring in a full-time employee? It's a tough question. In an interview with The Enterprisers Project, Blake Angove, director of Technology Services at the recruitment company LaSalle Network, shares some answers.

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): Deciding whether to hire a full-time IT employee, engage a contractor, or work with an IT outsourcing company is always tricky. What factors should go into the decision?

Angove: When deciding whether to hire contract or permanent, the first step is to identify why the role is open. Is it open because a project needs to be completed, is there a skills gap, or did someone exit the role?

For project-based work or a skills gap issue, hiring a contractor allows hiring managers to be very specific when it comes to their requirements. Budget also needs to be considered. A short-term contractor with a niche skill set can initially be costly but the long-term savings in executing the project right the first time usually makes up for that upfront investment.

If there's a long-term need, then it usually makes sense to hire someone full-time. If there is time and room in the budget for continued education, that's also a good time to hire a full-time candidate. If the candidate has great communication skills and a good portion of the initial requirements, company-paid training can really help secure and retain a top candidate.

TEP: Tech talent is far from evenly distributed across the country. Are there special challenges to hiring IT employees in areas outside the major tech centers?

Angove: Any time there is a smaller pool of candidates in a competitive space like IT, there will be hiring challenges. The key is to have well-defined job requirements but know where they can be flexible to get the right people on the team.

TEP: Conversely, hiring in places where there are major tech companies means you have to compete with all they offer. Does that make things more difficult?

Angove: Hiring in places where there are companies like Google and Facebook can actually provide an advantage. The average tenure of an IT professional in companies likes these is one to two years, so employers should consider targeting these companies to recruit from.

TEP: What are the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to hiring tech talent?

Angove: Companies often focus too much on the technical requirements and not on communication skills or culture fit within the existing team.

TEP: What advice would you give CIOs around talent acquisition?

Angove: Know middle-management staff. Role-play interviews with them. They are doing the majority of the hiring, and it's important that they are able to identify the profile that will be right for the organization.

TEP: You have a unique perspective on tech hiring — how do you see this evolving over the next few years? Is it going to get easier? Even more challenging?

Angove: As technology continues to advance at a pace faster than the candidate pool can keep up with, companies will need to be more creative in hiring. They will need to look at candidates that might not necessarily be the perfect match on paper and determine how fast they can get them up to speed through specialized training programs and continued education.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.