How to find - and keep - your company's next great IT hire

Employees sat around together discussing business issues.
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If you asked me about hiring in IT last year, and again today, my answers would have been vastly different. 

This year, job markets are in flux and it’s confusing for hiring managers and candidates alike. We hear about the massive layoffs in tech, then get hit with an extraordinarily strong jobs report. ZipRecruiter’s stock recently plummeted due to what they called a “softening hiring environment”, despite unemployment hitting a 50-year low. 

Yet while it’ll take more time for the dust to settle, I still have roles to fill and I still want the best candidates. 

In my world — the world of information technology — competition remains fierce. Layoffs or not, by some estimates there are still well over 100,000 IT jobs unfilled. As one CIO told the Wall Street Journal recently, “The war for talent is very real.” 

One thing I know for sure is that my competition has changed. No longer am I simply competing with other local companies where I live in Arizona, but now I have to compete with companies based in places like California, New York and Texas who offer remote-friendly or hybrid opportunities. 

And the Great Resignation may actually accelerate this trend in the IT sector, rather than slow it down. According to Gartner, as many as a quarter of cybersecurity leaders are likely to change jobs by 2025.

Shannon Wilson

Shannon Wilson is the Vice President of Information Technology at the University of Phoenix.

The demand on IT teams isn't going away — neither is the demand for talent. 

Organizations who aren’t able to fill roles, or find the right talent for those roles, are spending money, time and resources spinning their wheels instead of meeting business goals. 

What if I told you that you can build a foundation that keeps IT hiring humming without sacrificing other priorities? The key lies in seeding, which means building a talent pool before you need to fill an opening. Seeding prepares your organization for growth as well as turnover and unexpected change. 

Using these strategies, I recently received over 100 applications for 10 internship opportunities, and the candidates were so good that we doubled the open roles.

Here are a few of the approaches we’ve found beneficial. Could these work for your organization?

Build an employer brand

Even before a position is open, strong candidates should know of and want to work for your organization. By partnering with your marketing and communications teams, you can ensure IT is represented in your employer brand. 

To build this profile, your careers page should list great benefits, as well as blog posts and content that show a fun and inclusive workspace. It doesn’t stop there. A strong employer brand also relies on word of mouth and socializing in your networks. When current employees are telling their friends about how great it is to work there, you gain trust and interest from strong candidates.

Promote when it’s warranted, not on strict cycles

I spend more time finding entry-level candidates than I do senior ones. Why? Because many of our senior roles are filled by people who have been here for years and proven their merit. 

Too many organizations hire during an annual cycle. I believe that when an employee shows the skills and capacity, they should move up to open positions. We’ve moved to a continuous hiring cycle to offer more opportunities to top talent. Wait too long and there’ll be another company which is happy to snatch up that strong candidate. 

This also means building robust training and development programs so you’re building desired skills internally. That might mean programs in new technologies that you know you’ll use in the future or working on softer skills like people management. Google offers one of the most respected training and development programs out there. In fact, they even offer peer-to-peer learning, which has become more popular than instructor-led training. This allows them to look internally when an important role opens.

Organizational buy-in

As a VP I make sure I offer my time for those who have questions about skills, resumés, or what it’s like to work for our organization. I know for a fact not all VPs take the time to do this, but they should. 

The time it takes for me to engage and build up the potential talent pool is much more cost effective than if I were to hire the wrong person and waste valuable resources on restarting the search. 

Seeding takes buy-in from across the org, no matter how big or small you are. From the CEO to new hires, everyone should be a champion of a proactive approach. Success for the business starts with finding the right talent, which everyone should care about. 

The real secret to seeding your IT talent pool is making sure that all these seeding initiatives work together. When your employer brand, promotion cycle and organizational buy-in strategies collaborate, you will have a robust ecosystem of candidates. You might even find yourself with more demand than you need — a problem any IT leader would be happy to have.

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Shannon Wilson is the Vice President of Information Technology at the University of Phoenix and has over 20 years of experience managing and hiring for IT teams.