5 IT hiring mistakes leaders are in denial about

Why is IT hiring so hard? Bad news, IT leaders: You’re to blame for believing in unicorns and allowing drawn-out interview processes that keep good candidates waiting too long
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The strong demand for IT talent shows no signs of abating, while the supply of skilled IT professionals remains limited. So when it comes to hiring to fill open IT positions, CIOs and other IT leaders need every leg up they can get.

However, some common hiring blind spots may be exacerbating the problem, like thinking one perfect candidate is going to fill out a role completely, that someone better may be out there, or that is more important for the interviewee to be organized than the team doing the hiring.

[ How do you screen candidates for soft skills? Read 8 unusual IT interview questions and approaches: CIOs share. ]

The Enterprisers’ Project talked to some leaders in the IT recruiting space about the biggest issues IT leaders need to get real about if they want to hire better.

1. Desperately seeking unicorns

This is a persistent problem for IT hiring managers, says Ryan Sutton, district president for Robert Half Technology. “When you believe the right hire needs to fit a long list of skills, experiences, and certifications as job qualifications,” Sutton says, “you’re likely looking for the wrong candidate as it relates to best corporate culture fit and long-term employee.”

IT leaders may be trying to cover all their bases, but these kinds of kitchen-sink job descriptions don’t work. Sutton suggests editing lists of requirements down. “We advise IT leaders to take a step back from the job description and consider what four to five things are the best fit for what your team needs,” Sutton says. “Is it a certain skill set? Experience with a specific software? A new certification? Make those your priority when hiring and list them as required in the job description.” If a candidate appears with additional skills, consider it a bonus.

2. Comparison for comparison’s sake

When you have a qualified candidate who is willing to accept, waiting to see others can be a costly mistake.

It’s almost ingrained in hiring managers to want to see several potential job seekers for every open role. But in today’s market, hesitation can be dangerous. When you have a qualified candidate who is willing to accept, waiting to see others can be a costly mistake.

“Tech professionals are among the most in-demand candidates in the best job market in half a century. They don’t stay on the market for long,” says Will Stanbrook, team lead for technology services at LaSalle Network. “If you’re hiring for a routine position, and you have someone you know could do the job well, you run the risk of losing them if your only hesitation in making an offer is that you haven’t seen additional candidates.”

This is especially true for niche or hard-to-fill roles given the small talent pool available. “Even if you only have 2 candidates and you feel good about their qualifications, you’re better off deciding between those two, rather than waiting for comparison,” Stanbrook says. “You may end up losing them both to other opportunities or from waning interest due to a drawn out decision making process.” If you’re not willing to risk losing the qualified candidate, make the offer.

3. Hiring for experience, rather than potential

The demand for tech talent is so great in many organizations that IT leaders are naturally eager to bring on seasoned staff who can hit the ground running. It’s a great instinct in theory, but those folks may be hard to snag. And that mindset may result in missing out on valuable team members with great potential.

If a candidate doesn’t check off all the boxes in an interview, don’t instantly rule them out, says Sutton. Instead, consider whether you can provide training to round them out missing skills. That’s a win-win because it meets the resource need and also provides benefits to the new hire – which can result in increased engagement and loyalty.

4. Sloppy interviewing processes

“It’s a job-seekers market, which means hiring managers need to be cognizant of how their hiring process – or lack thereof – may be attracting or deterring candidates,” says Stanbrook. Some tips:

  • Get all your ducks in a row before bringing in a single interviewee.
  • Make sure budget for the position is approved by all key stakeholders.
  • Include everyone who needs to sign off on the decision.
  • Determine how many interviews and what types of interviews you’ll give candidates.
  • Create a timeline for the process.

“If candidates find themselves being brought in for additional interviews when they thought they were done or end up being told they have to wait until the hiring manager gets budget approved, it can portray that the company is disorganized and deter candidates from wanting to work there,” Stanbrook says. ”Additionally, adding extra steps means the process will take longer, and you’re likely to lose out on a candidate to a company that can get them to the offer stage more quickly.”

5. Failing to assess soft skills

It’s much easier to assess someone’s technical skills and experience than factors like the ability to have difficult conversations, manage change, or demonstrate cultural fit. “While [technical skills] are crucial for IT positions, you also need to look for soft skills and corporate culture fit,” Sutton says. In fact, around nine out of ten (91 percent) of U.S. managers said that a candidate’s fit with their corporate culture is equal to or more important than their skills and experience, according to recent research from Robert Half.

“So consider the professional’s communication, leadership, critical thinking skills, and whether they’d work well with your current team,” Suttons says. “If you don’t consider these, you could be making a bad hire – and wasting a lot of time and resources in the process.” (For additional tips, see 4 ways to hire for soft skills: Boston CIO of the Year winners share.)

[ Arm yourself for IT job interviews with winning tactics and relevant data. Get our new eBook: IT job searching in 2019: A practical guide. ]

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.


This is actually true! Most of the candidates are lost due to the delay! I work for Talent GPS, a Placement Company, http://www.thetalentgps.com/ - here we follow there is never a delay to revert to any candidate.