Let IT Recruit Its Own

What's wrong with this picture?

Whats wrong with this picture? the first person to judge the skills of a potential IT hire doesnt know how to program, doesnt know the differences—or similarities—between Java and C#, and wouldnt recognize a router if one bit him or her on the nose. Further, that person is looking at candidate descriptors—frequently, a collection of acronyms or letters that mean little or nothing to him or her—that have already been filtered by the black box of résumé-scanning software. Good luck if the best candidate doesnt have the exact letter combinations, words or phrases to match what the software is seeking.

Often, the best fit for a position is quickly passed over by human or computer reviewers. The person hired is, at best, really second best; thats a shame because in todays ultracompetitive marketplace, a company needs every edge it can muster. The truth is, a human resources person with no real experience in IT simply cannot make the best recruiting decision for an IT position: Having never done the job, he or she cannot understand the necessities and subtleties of the work.

As I advanced through various levels of IT management in my career, I made a point of reviewing the résumés of all applicants for jobs in my group. This was time-consuming, but it was time well-spent because I saw candidate skills and potentials that HR recruiters would not have recognized. Some of my best hires were rejected by HR.

IT folks generally would be more than willing to do the job. They are used to walking in someone elses shoes because that is part of what IT professionals do. They facilitate for a living. They devise and propose solutions. They want to work with other good people. But they should not have to do it for less pay. The increased ROI from IT staff members hired by a knowledgeable IT recruiter would more than justify that recruiters higher salary. And IT recruiters should not become recruiters permanently. If not kept current, IT skills fade. With the passing of time, those IT pros would slowly change into HR recruiters and cease being IT people.

The solution is to rotate IT managers and staff members through stints as IT recruiters for three or four months each, every three years or so. In addition, limit the IT volunteers to those who have been with a company at least two years so that they know the corporate culture and the skills required.

Does any company have the courage to try this on a continual basis? It might take a sea change in outlook and plenty of effort to overcome the inertia of the current recruiting culture, but it would be well worth it. ´

Dennis Werner lives in Colorado and has held IT jobs ranging from programmer to CIO. His e-mail address is dr_werner@ qwest.net. Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community and welcomes submissions. Send your comments to free_spectrum@ ziffdavis.com.