Cultural Fit A Critical Component in Technology Hiring

November 29, 2018 – It’s not news that today’s tight candidate pool is creating hiring headaches for companies of all sizes that are hiring for all types of jobs. While a definitive skill set is the top priority in hiring, a cultural fit is equally as important, especially for information technology staffing.

Being laser-focused on finding the perfect candidate can lead to bad hires, especially in the technology arena. I equate the challenge of hiring in today’s job market with a batter facing a full count. When the pressure is on, the tendency is to grip the bat tighter which changes your swing. If you stay relaxed and hire the way you should, you’ll have a much better chance of getting on base.

When hiring for technology positions, I believe you have a couple of ways to acquire talent—you pay for it or you go after the candidate that is 80 percent skill set but 100 percent cultural match.

Companies hiring in the IT and engineering space typically have a wish list of skills and a fixed budget with little flexibility. Understanding that, hiring managers should initially establish their list of must-haves vs. nice-to-haves and be willing to give up a want to find someone in the established price range.

It’s also important to understand the IT mindset and subculture. When someone chooses a path in IT, their passion was typically a part of him or her well before going to college. More than most other professions, information technology is not just a job, it’s truly a part of who they are as individuals.  Beyond work, technology is their passion and their hobby.  Before beginning to tackle your IT hiring conundrum, it’s important to recognize that.

IT professionals also tend to have a subculture within an organization. Most IT departments still feel a disconnect from other parts of the business because, for many years, they have been viewed as a cost center rather than a contributor. While many studies show revenue attributed to efficiencies and uptime made possible by IT staff, the cost center perception remains.

Here are a few other considerations for those hiring in the IT space:

Look at how you reward your employees. A common theme with companies is standardization. Every year, for example, many companies give a standard 2% to 3% salary increase across the board. That may not be enough to retain IT talent.

Companies should consider evaluating, on a regular basis, how they compare salary-wise in the marketplace. Reach out to trusted resources, and not just Retaining talent should be your first goal, not attracting it. The hiring process will be far more costly than giving an IT associate a 7% increase.

Remember that rewards can go beyond pay. For example, working from home a couple of days a week is an attractive reward, especially in the development community. Determine those things that motivate your IT staff and tap into it.

Be mindful of how you present the role. I typically recommend that hiring managers get more engaged in the creation of the IT job description so that it is an accurate reflection of the role and responsibilities. It is critically important that the talent acquisition team and hiring manager are on the same page.

Tap into IT networks. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to get recommendations for potential employees from your staff. Most people tend to be hesitant to put their professional reputation on the line should it not work out. But you can tap into IT networks via LinkedIn, IT workgroups and local technology centers.

Support and get involved in STEM programs. Companies should consider taking a more active role in educating high school and college students about careers in computer science. There is a growing emphasis on STEM programs; however, studies show that only 19% of all STEM students enter a computer science major in college. With more than 51% of U.S. jobs related to computer science, more STEM students could be making the connection and companies can help.

For candidates searching for jobs in the IT space, here are a few considerations:

Do not follow conventional principles when writing a resume. Recruiters use online systems to find people looking for keywords. If you remove redundancy from your resume or online profile, you remove your ability to be found and matched. Don’t focus on resume length, rather on using your resume as a guide for conversation. List what you truly know and highlight those skills in the appropriate roles where you’ve used them. Lastly, eliminate the vanilla statements often called “objectives” from your resume. Your objective is to get the job.

Know what you’re looking for beyond a raise. If you like everything else about your current position except the pay, you should find a way to have the salary conversation with your manager. You don’t want a situation where you take an offer simply to receive a counter offer from your current employer. Counter offers rarely end well for either party. Once you’ve told a company you’re willing to leave, a trust is broken. Most of the time, the counter-offer employee is no longer there in 12 months.

Do your homework. This seems obvious, but many candidates skip this important step. Know the company and the job before going to the interview. Review the company’s website and study the job description carefully. Try to determine the company’s work environment and be prepared to ask questions about company culture.

By Blake Coleman, FGP Technology

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