Straight Talk on IT Project Recruitment
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Cotgreave MBA, BSc (hons), PRINCE II, is Professional Services Director at Access Talent Ltd, with over
20 years’ experience with organisations such as BT Engage IT and KPMG.
David is currently responsible for leading the Programme and Project Management Peer Profiling team. Peer
profiling has become an integral part of the selection and interviewing process at Access Talent, enabling the
very best fit and talent to be found for clients.
ABOUT ACCESS TALENT
Access Talent Ltd is a resourcing specialist focused specifically on IT Programme & Project Talent.
Born out of the success of our sister organisation Stoneseed, (an IT Project Management Professional
Services business), we found recruiting quality IT project resources an incredibly frustrating process.
So, we created our own recruitment model/ business – Access Talent. Access Talent combines the search
capability of a recruiter, with the selection skills of IT Programme Management subject matter experts to
provide our clients with only the very best candidates using a simple, incremental low risk commercial model.
Straight Talk on IT Project Recruitment
Chapter One – Recruitment Strategy
Chapter Two – Talent Attraction & Retention
Chapter Three – Peer Profiling & Selection
Chapter Four – Interview Techniques
Chapter Five – Technology & Social Media
Chapter Six – How to pick your Recruitment partner
Straight Talk on IT Project Recruitment
Chapter One – Recruitment Strategy
“Time spent on hiring is time well spent.” - Robert Half
“Development can help great people be even better--but if I had a dollar to spend, I'd spend 70 cents get-
ting the right person in the door." - Paul Russell
IR35 – How to prepare yourself for Private Sector IT talent market shake-up
So, after months of speculation and at the time of
writing, we know more about the Government’s
intentions regarding IR35 and the Private Sector. The
Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has confirmed their
extension to the Private Sector – albeit with two big
caveats. First, the framework for implementing the IR35
changes in the Private Sector will be delayed until April
2020, as opposed to the initially mooted April 2019.
Secondly it will only apply to those PSCs whose clients
are large and medium-sized companies. Why has this
come about? The use of contractors has greatly
increased over recent years. Many firms see contractors
as a way to quickly hire the specialist IT skills they need
without having to commit to a permanent hire.
Project Management professionals have sold their skills and time on fixed contracts, allowing
themselves flexibility and variety of work, whilst generally commanding a higher rate, with lower tax
This did not escape the attention of HMRC. After addressing the practice effectively in the Public
Sector (in their view at least!) they have attention turned to the Private Sector where the cost of
non-compliance to the treasury was projected to increase from £700 million in 2017/2018 to £1.2
billion in 2022/2023.
The IR35 Private Sector impact has been limited to large and medium-sized businesses with 50
employees or more and those with either turnover or assets of €10m or more, but this is still going
to have an impact industry wide.
The rollout of IR35 into the Private Sector is, justifiably, a huge concern for contractors and
employees alike. In the Public Sector, it led to an increase in permanent vacancies and contractors
using umbrella companies.
However, with the increase in permanent vacancies, Access Talent predicts a shortfall of permanent
talent within the IT Project Management job market, as companies shake up their Project Resourcing
A recent survey by APSCo showed that the number of IT contractors out on assignment in August
2018 was 30% lower than August 2017. Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo commented, “It seems
that, against the current backdrop, businesses are locking in vital skills that ar3e becoming
increasingly harder to source on a contingent basis.” These figures can “largely be attributed to
recent changes – and further anticipated amendments – to IR35 legislation, making non-permanent
employment a less attractive choice.”
The IT Programme and Project Management sector has been functioning as a Gig Economy, in terms
of people reacting to market demands for Project flexibility, now new legislation predicted for the
Private Sector means this flexibility will become increasingly harder to source.
Companies that provide Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) solutions, like our sister company
Stoneseed, are a great resource to have on speed dial in this situation as resourcing in this way,
effectively makes IR35 irrelevant.
Access Talent also predicts further wage inflation, recruitment lag times and ultimately, employers
will act more cautiously when hiring, to ensure compliance. We saw this in the Public Sector and as a
result, Projects missed out on talent and had to seek out other resourcing avenues, such as PMaaS.
Ultimately, many who did recruit had to increase their talent budget to capture and retain skilled
There is a great window of opportunity. 2020 seems a long way off, but NOW is the time for you and
your company to review your existing contractor to permanent ratio and determine what you want
your future IT Project team to look like.
The spike in IT contractors entering the job market to find more permanent roles sounds like manna
from heaven for hirers.
Access Talent recommends brokering a good relationship with a specialist recruiter who will have
access to, and the ability to provide the best selection of specialist talent. Now, more than ever,
avoid ‘old school’ recruiters who will throw a bunch of CVs at you and hope that something sticks –
they will have more CVs than ever and the odds against finding your next perfect hire this way just
got bigger as a result.
The Treasury said: “A further consultation on the detailed operation of the reform will be published
in the coming months. This consultation will inform the draft Finance Bill legislation, which is
expected to be published in Summer 2019.”
If we are to learn anything from the Public Sector experience it is that NOW is the time to start
preparing and looking at your Project Portfolios for 2020, and how thy will be resourced.
As demand for IT talent doubles, reframe your attraction strategy in 3 steps
Figures released over the last quarter or so of 2018
have shone a bright light on the health of IT talent
recruiting and it's something that anyone that recruits
IT talent needs to think about - so these days, that's
According to the Association of Professional Staffing
Companies (APSCo), IT talent recruitment is bucking a
trend at the moment. While vacancies for permanent
professionals across the board fell by 2% year-on-year
in August 2018, demand for IT professionals rose by 8%.
Contract vacancies generally also dipped by 6%,
whereas demand for IT contractors increased by 3%.
So ... that's vacancies ... but where things get really
interesting is actual placements! Over the same 12 month period, permanent placements increased
by almost a half (46%). That's FORTY-SIX PER CENT!! Let's make that bold, in italics and underline it
... FORTY-SIX PER CENT!!
A bit of a gulf there between those increases in vacancies and placements! Surely for placements to
have increased by 46% you would expect a similar rise in vacancies? You'd at least expect it to be
greater than 8%. So, what's going on?
The increase in placements is largely attributable to changes to IR35 legislation which made non-
permanent employment less viable for talent and less attractive to employers, indeed, 30% fewer IT
contractors were assigned in August 2018 compared with the previous year. Many employers and
contractors working on a long-term (but "off-payroll") basis have chosen to do business on a PAYE
basis. In this case, obviously, there is a permanent placement but no need for a vacancy to have
This doesn't tell the whole story though.
Our experience is that a lot of talent is taking the IR35 changes as an opportunity to have a total
rethink. If you are hired as an IT Project Manager in an off-payroll capacity and you are suddenly
faced with losing the benefits of working that way, you are naturally going to have a bit of a look
around if your current employer won't increase your package to reflect the impact of the changes.
This has created a certain amount of drift and movement in the market, hence a single figure
increase in IT vacancies (while most other sectors have seen a decline) and a huge increase in
placements. Imagine it this way, your talent may be calling up your competitor and ultimately taking
a gig that even your rival didn't really know they had! When your rival's A-List IT guy calls up, you
look to find a place for them in your plans!
What happens next is interesting. As many IT hirers enter the market, some for the first time in
years, they are reporting that the recruitment landscape has changed. The old tools they may have
used before (or that they use to recruit talent for other areas of their business) are just not yielding
expected results. IT Talent, they say, just isn't hanging out in the same places, looking at the same
job boards, reading the industry journals. Unless they rethink their talent, attraction strategies there
is a real risk of a shortfall of digital skills that could impact their business potency.
This is all confirmed by PwC’s latest CEO Survey. Over three-quarters of CEOs (76%) are concerned
about the lack of digital skills within their current workforce.
What this all demonstrates is that the IT talent market is especially strong, that most organisations
don't have their recruitment strategy perfected and that for the latter to leverage the greatest gains
from the former those organisations need to reframe their approach.
Access Talent is a resourcing specialist focused specifically on IT Programme & Project Talent.
Running our sister organisation Stoneseed, an IT Programme & Project Management Professional
Services business, we shared the concerns of those 76% of CEOs who find recruiting quality IT
project resources an incredibly frustrating process. This is why WE reframed our approach.
The Reframe In Three Steps
1 - IT Is A Specialism. Treat It Like One When Recruiting!
When recruiting a new goalkeeper, a premier league football team doesn't use the same
recruitment firm it uses for other jobs around the stadium - say match day stewards or programme
sellers. A goalkeeper is pretty key to the business goals of the football club ... AND SO IS IT TALENT
TO YOURS. Let's be clear - IT no longer supports business - in most cases these days, it IS the
business. Recruit like you are Manchester United replacing David de Gea - don't use the same firm
who you'd use to recruit stewards!
2 - Reach and Speed
It has never been more important to nail this!!! Look at those figures. Placements up 46%, vacancies
(demand) up 8%. Even using primary school level maths, it is clear that talent is being snapped up
faster than opportunities are arising. As a hirer you want a partner with excellent reach to find the
right candidates quickly with candidates profiled by Subject Matter Experts, so you get the right hire
3 - Stop Paying Upfront Fees
The IT recruitment market, more than ever, is about results - the more instant the better! Paying
upfront recruitment costs and not getting a return until month 5 or 6 simply has to become a thing
of the past. Paying upfront fees and having the talent not work out and leave ... well, that was never
a sustainable business plan but, in this market, it can set you back much more than the considerable
cost of having to rehire. Business goals live and die on the quality of the talent you have in place and
a bad hire can be fatal to your business strategy.
The main take away from all this is that IT recruitment has to be seen as a specialist area. The good
news is that with the right commercial model it doesn't have to cost any more. Actually, when you
use the right partner ... and the hire sticks ... and you don't have to rehire ... using a specialist IT
recruiter can be more cost effective than using a "general recruiter".
IT talent placements are up 46%, vacancies are up 8% and 76% of CEOs are concerned about the lack
of digital skills within their current workforce. You don't need to be Carol Vorderman or Rachel Riley
to figure out that, without a reframe of your approach, the maths may not be in your favour when it
comes to IT recruitment.
IR35 - How new rules are influencing it recruitment
I recently wrote an article for Access Talent's sister
company Stoneseed, about the potential impending
rollout of IR35 rules to the private sector and how it will
impact IT Project resourcing. Since then I have had a
number of requests for my predictions about what this
might all mean for IT recruitment.
The main thing is ... don't panic ... and have someone in
your corner who knows what they’re doing!
This is a great opportunity (glass half full) to re-examine
your "perm to contractor ratio", assess what your
future IT Project talent needs look like and measure
them against your current resources. Experience from
the public sector suggests that perms may become
more scarce, so (whilst still not panicking), now would be a good time to start planning.
IR35 is, perhaps, already having an impact on recruitment.
Demand for IT contractors has fallen by 9% according to figures released by the Association of
Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).
Across all sectors, at the time of writing, permanent hires are up by 9% whereas contractor hires
have fallen 15%, indeed, the total number of self-employed workers decreased by 82,000 in the
three months to November 2017, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
All of this is congruent with our observations.
Meanwhile, HMRC’s online employment status tools which were designed to give clear guidance =
sometimes aren’t. Of five private sector contractors I know who recently took the test, three
returned an “unknown” outcome. It’s far from definitive in some cases, specialist IT roles which are
especially nuanced, in particular, it seems! Whether, a contractor can provide a substitute to carry
out their work, levels of client supervision, or the amount of control the contractor has over working
hours and how the work is carried out are still important measures but there are so many grey areas
that I recommend seeking specialist advice to discuss your unique requirements or any concerns
that you have.
BUT I was asked for predictions ... so, what will happen?
We are already seeing a few trends emerge.
1 - Some Contractor IT Talent Is Entering The ‘Job Market’
As mentioned above, demand for IT contractors has fallen by 9%. In real terms, what this means, is
that talent we previously had a relationship with through our IT services business Stoneseed may
now be getting in touch via our recruitment firm Access Talent. Some contractors are looking for a
This is mixed news for hirers.
Firstly, more talent to choose from sounds good - and it could be! However, without due care, it also
raises the risk of a bad hire. Now is the time to broker a great relationship with a recruiter with a
track record of placing the right specialist talent in the right role. Make sure your recruiter will get to
know your business and your culture and recommend only 'best fit' talent.
Secondly, you have to be more certain than ever that your vacancy is advertised in the right place.
Traditional job boards and more general recruiters may not point this new talent entering the
market your way. The more specialist the role, the better the results you'll get from a specialist IT
2 - Wage Inflation
In a poll, last summer, almost three quarters (72%) of UK HR directors said that they believe
extending IR35 legislation across the private sector would be the catalyst for wage inflation, with pay
rates increasing by 23% on average. Meanwhile, 16% were even less optimistic forecasting pay hikes
of almost a third (30%).
The experience of friends and colleagues in the public sector suggests that these fears may not be
without foundation although, anecdotally, pay increases seem to have been closer to the 18-20%
mark. It is ironic that a measure designed to increase income to the public purse has, in many cases,
cost it more.
It is worth considering whether your (perhaps less flexible) private sector budget would stand such
Inevitably, as private sector IR35 rollout gets closer, if perm talent does become more scarce, the
laws of supply and demand will dictate the price to be paid by end clients
Employers/resourcers who have good relationships with specialist recruiters in their field seem more
immune to the rises as they have a better selection of specialist talent from which to choose,
however, this is immunity is highly dependent upon availability and talent placements are happening
fast in this current climate.
3 - Employers Are Acting More Cautiously, Hirers and Contractors Are Dancing Around One
Despite all the tools and online resources from HMRC, employers and contractors alike tell me that
the rules on what falls inside and outside IR35 are rather fuzzy, subjective and open to
Fuzzy enough for contractors to decline taking on some projects, and subjective enough for
employers to think twice about taking on a contractor. Rules around liability are not as clear as they
could be and are a potential minefield.
The recent news headlines about the fines being imposed in the Public sector, for example, the
judgement against a well know BBC presenter, saddled with a £ £420k tax bill, have been a wake-up
call for both employers and contractors.
This has caused hirers to err on the side of caution and when in doubt, conclude that roles fall within
IR35 - pushing up demand for perm talent.
4 - Projects Are Missing Targets
Over a glass of wine (or two) this month a colleague and some friends from public sector IT
discussed IR35. They are convinced that the projects that they are working on will either be delayed
or over budget because of its implementation.
They say it took longer to fill roles because uncertainty around liabilities led to both employers and
contractors being reluctant to commit until they were sure of their respective IR35 status.
They're over budget as they've had to renegotiate terms. Compromise arrangements, like a slight
increase on day rates to compensate for the talent's increased tax burden, have to be financed from
somewhere. Tight budgets don't allow even for modest increases. Many contractors, with a highly
prized skill set, have increased their rates significantly, keeping their take-home pay at the same
Beyond anecdotal evidence, there are clear hints that the government may not meet some
digitisation targets. Unstaffed roles that would previously have been filled by contractors are among
the contributing factors to this. Again, it’s simply not a luxury that one has in the private sector.
5 - More Last Minute Hires
Industry colleagues report public sector employers getting in touch with vacancies that need filling
Broadly speaking, the reason for new hires would previously have fallen into two main categories ...
you needed to replace talent that has left or business growth/increased portfolio/more complex
projects meant that you had to increase your headcount.
This is still largely the case. However, whereas before a contractor may have been the go-to choice,
diligent employers are now giving measured thought to the implications of such arrangements and
eventually concluding that it is safer all round to add to the payroll. All the while, the clock is ticking,
the project start date is looming and positions remain unfilled (if not until the last minute certainly
later than before).
If this trend were to cross over when IR35 hits the private sector it is not unreasonable to imagine
real implications for business returns. It is worth future proofing your business by having your
specialist IT recruitment partner on speed dial. Again, choose one who will take time to get to know
you and your business so that your next recruitment process hits the ground running.
6 - Fewer Contractor Vacancies Is Not Always Translating Into More Permanent Talent Available
This started as a personal observation but was soon backed up by the experience of contractors who
were reporting fewer vacancies and seeking new opportunities – and not always within the industry.
Indeed, the data from APSCo suggests contract vacancies have fallen by as much as 8%.
Could this be as a result of IR35? A balanced view must conclude that it is too soon to come to this
conclusion from the data alone. What is interesting though is that while contract vacancies may have
fallen by 8%, permanent vacancies are relatively flat only up by 1%.
According to my public sector contacts, some roles have been brought in-house by spreading
workload across already employed permanent staff.
Some that have advertised permanent roles have struggled to fill them. Some contractors they
expected to migrate to a PAYE engagement have left the industry, one contact reported that a
project management contractor he'd used for years has even left the country! This rather extreme
one-off case does rather illustrate the unpredictability faced by IT project resourcers.
7 - Reduced Ability To Be Agile
One of my Public Sector IT Project Manager contacts has a more commercial previous employment
history on his CV and wrote this to me.
"I am grateful that I am facing these changes working for a government department where agility,
although important, is not the be all and end all. In my past life, the challenges I have faced would
have impacted directly on the competitiveness of the business, especially against foreign
competition. We would have not been as agile nor as innovative faced with losing the expertise and
skills that contractors bring to the table. The success of ** (** redacted for confidentiality) was built
on a mobile workforce whose employment was not viable on a permanent hire basis but whose
engagement was vital to major change management successes."
For many reasons over the next 24 months, your business needs to be agile. The political landscape
and our relationship with Europe is about to change, these are uncertain economic times and
advances in technology happen at an increasingly faster pace, competition is more varied and
intense than ever.
All of this is happening against a shifting labour market so now would be a good time to future-proof
your ability to be agile by nailing down specialist recruitment relationships.
In conclusion, our business operations give us a unique vantage point from which to observe and
comment. Access Talent is in regular contact with many influential IT HR leaders who are feeding a
constant sense of the mood, we also have a database of specialist IT talent with whom we stay in
constant touch. Our sister company Stoneseed IT provides project resources into both the Public
Sector (where the new rules apply) and the Private Sector (where they don’t yet), and whilst we
favour the use of our own employed resource (where IR35 becomes irrelevant), we also work with a
number of Personal Service Companies (where it is highly relevant). All this allows us to speculate
with some confidence and authority on what will happen further down the line.
The reason I advise a zero-panic approach is that we are still placing our own employed resources
and Personal Service Companies into IT Projects through Stoneseed and permanent staff into IT roles
through Access Talent. We have, though, noticed an increase in demand for the latter.
There was something of a collective sigh of relief from many in private sector IT when the
government did not include an extension to the new IR35 ‘off payroll’ rules in the last budget but
don't hold that breath.
The government will consult and draw upon experiences in the public sector and then act and so
While still not panicking, it is worth noting that no-one involved in the resourcing of public sector IT
projects has wished that they'd had less time to prepare for IR35.
If we are to learn anything from the Public Sector experience is that it’s time to start preparing and
looking at your Project Portfolios for 2019 and beyond, and how they will be resourced.
No-one really knows when this will all happen, but we will all have to be ready for when it does ...
the question is ... will you be ready?
7.7 million resolved to find a new job - are you ready to attract them?
A quarter of the British workforce started the New Year
resolved to find a new job.
That’s 7.7 million firing up their resume according to a
survey by CV-Library - but will the ones who would fit
your company's culture perfectly be sending a copy to
A swathe of talent is thinking of a fresh start,
furthermore, a report commissioned by Hired found
that UK employees working in the technology sector are
paid considerably less than their American counterparts
- so you can probably expect some talent movement in
this area. How do you make sure that they know where
to find you?
First thing is they have to know how to find you. Resolve to try something new yourself. Over 8,000
recruiters currently deploy the same old methods and technology tools and subsequently they find
the same people. You get a pile of CVs in the hope that something works. Your search needs to be
smarter than that!
How about insisting that before they even place a job ad for you, your recruitment partner first gets
to know YOU, YOUR business and how YOU operate. Cultural fit is your biggest chance of hiring
talent that will stick around.
Then, instead of copy/pasting, an old ad they made for you or someone else, insist that they write
bespoke adverts focused on target candidate attraction to match YOUR business or company
culture. Your business is a great place to work - make sure they sell that!
Your partner must deliver reach and speed – excellent reach to find the right candidates quickly.
Secondly, 7.7 million people make a lot of noise - that's nearly 86 Wembley Stadiums all shouting for
your attention at once. If you have a vacancy right now, you're going to get a lot of applications.
Some will be from perfect candidates, but others will be from those, hopeful of a move, up the
ladder, chancing their luck that you spot their potential and take a gamble.
Unless you enjoy taking a risk or you have plenty of time to sift through hundreds of applications -
you're going to need a noise filter.
With this in mind, ask your recruitment partner about "Peer Profiling" – candidates profiled by
subject matter experts. In other words, a Programme Manager profiling a Project Manager, a Sales
Director profiling a sales role, etc., etc. Someone who performed well in the role you are looking to
fill is best suited to finding you the best person.
According to research by the Discovery Channel, getting a new job was the fourth most popular New
Year resolution in the UK - trying something different to attract the best candidates should be YOUR
number one goal.
Deploying new methods will access new talent.
62% of CIOs are finding it difficult to recruit talent to drive transformation.
Why I like those odds!
Almost two-thirds of CIOs (62%) have said that they are
struggling to recruit IT talent to drive transformation.
Well, that's a worry! Isn’t it?
The appetite for digital-led innovation and
transformation is so great that Maile Carnegie (formerly
Google’s head of Australian operations) recently said,
"If you aren’t a tech company or you’re not on the way
to becoming one, you’re in big trouble.”
What she means by this was nicely summed up by
Stoneseed IT's David Cotgreave who wrote, "In this next
phase, ‘IT’ will BE the business. Whether you call it
SMAC, Third Platform or Nexus of Forces (I love
Gartner's theatrical language), what we now call IT is about to become the driver of business change
rather than just the facilitator of it."
‘IT’ will BE the business. I love that!
As this happens, those IT Project leaders with a track record for driving disruptive transformation will
find themselves on recruitment wanted lists and not just from within the tech sector.
Google’s Maile Carnegie herself was headhunted by Australia's ANZ Banking Group and as their
digital leader and is currently tasked with driving digital transformation of the bank's operations to
keep pace with its competitors. Indeed, she is an example of an interesting phenomenon - big
players from both the public and private sector are poaching IT talent from tech businesses rather
than training and promoting from their own ranks. ANZ is not alone, the US 'Department of Defense'
has also head-hunted digital leaders from Google, the Australian Postal service from Microsoft and
on it goes.
LinkedIn executive editor Daniel Roth wrote, "Nearly every company is going through or on the
verge of going through a massive, tech-driven transformation and the urgency to lure and keep the
right talent to make that transition successful has never been more obvious."
Roth adds, "Being a talent magnet is going to be what separates the winners from the also-rans."
With that in mind let's revisit that opening statistic.
62% of CIOs are finding it difficult to recruit talent to drive transformation.
Before we look at some solutions it may be beneficial to explore why this might be.
It may be largely that many CIOs and hiring organisations are using jaded, out of date techniques to
recruit talent - job boards, traditional agencies, etc. It can be like fishing in a stagnant pond.
Taking a leaf out of the major players mentioned earlier, if you're not a tech firm yourself consider
recruiting IT Project Management talent from tech businesses. They're already driving the kind of
transformation that you need. You simply have to be a tech talent magnet.
The problem is that everyone is coming to the same conclusion. If Maile Carnegie had not been lured
away from Google by ANZ Banking there would have been a queue of big spenders waiting to secure
her services. This scenario is being scaled out across many businesses and the pool of available
talent is shrinking.
You need to access talent that may not actually be looking for a move. Job boards and some
recruitment agencies limit your hiring potential by only soliciting active job seekers. Cast your net
wide and be creative! After all, if you're looking for someone who is going to drive transformation
and innovation it stands to reason that you should be equally as innovative in your approach to
Meanwhile, the tech companies who have nurtured such transformative talent are getting wise to
this. They are focussing on retention. This is evidenced by LinkedIn's recent study on the attraction
and retention of talent - of the companies that made the top 10, eight are technology firms. Google
were number one. They've rumbled your game!
So, what's the solution?
74% of the CIO 100 say that they currently operate an apprenticeship scheme or that they were
developing such a programme. But that takes time - time that you probably do not have.
Following a survey of over 14000, TINYpulse issued a report saying tech workers were more likely
than employees from any other sector to say they expected to leave their jobs within a year. That's a
lot of talent not actively seeking a transformative role with you but open to an approach. By
choosing a recruitment partner that pools interviewed candidates and maintains ongoing contact
you can access a wider pool of passive potential.
You should look for a partner who delivers reach and speed to find the right candidates quickly.
You want a partner that isn't just going to rehash the same old job ads that attract the same old
Finally, you want a partner who is going to make you sound like the most exciting place to work on
the planet! To help them with this you could try to BE the most exciting place to work on the planet.
Tech firms are great at making 'going to work' a really fun thing to do - are you being as creative?
From PwC's compressed workweeks (working longer hours fewer days a week) to Salesforce's monk
inspired mindfulness zones, you may find that the best tech talent isn't just after the big pay cheque.
A LinkedIn survey found nearly half of workers would forgo the office and a high salary for more
Food for thought.
If 62% are struggling to attract the right talent, 38% must know where and how to find them. That's
roughly a four in ten chance. Personally, I like those odds.
BUT then, I know how to access talent.
Are your recruitment signals tuned in?
If you were to tune into your favourite radio station but
instead of the actual frequency you keyed in a vaguely
similar number, what would happen? Let's imagine the
station is called Hits 105 and you keyed in 105.1 - how
clear would the signal be? Now imagine incrementally
moving further away ... 105.2, 3, 4. Suddenly, instead of
Taylor Swift, you're listening to the shipping forecast!
In recruitment, especially IT, your message has to be
equally tuned in. As the hirer, you are this radio station.
If your listener's radio is tuned to 105fm ... why would
you broadcast on 87.7fm?
And yet, time and again, I see job board ads that miss out key skills and requirements, miss
opportunities to totally connect with candidates, they don't press the right buttons or stand out
from the noisy landscape.
They're not in tune.
If you're looking for a leader cite leadership skills as a requirement, if you need team building skills
say so, if your ideal candidate requires great analytical abilities make it clear. What is your USP?
You must sync your message with whatever will best get your perfect applicant's attention.
OK, this is obvious. Right?
And yet ...
A business looking for a candidate with Agile and Waterfall expertise got lots of candidates with a
passing ability with the methodologies. The job ad that they posted listed among the Key Skills.
"Knowledge/experience of Agile and Waterfall methodologies". What is knowledge? What is
experience? Google the terms and you could have knowledge, spend six months running a project
into the ground using Agile and you have experience! This wouldn't make you the perfect candidate.
The company made a bad hire and had to re-advertise the gig. This time they swapped the words
"knowledge" and "experience" for "expertise" and had the pick of a number of ‘class A’ applicants.
One hirer wanted Prince 2 qualified Project Managers, I mean it was pretty much a deal breaker.
They reflected this in the ad, sort of, "Prince 2 qualifications desirable", it read. Come on!
Desirable?! If you needed someone trustworthy would you say, "Someone trustworthy ...
desirable"? No, of course not, you'd be explicit. The result was that he got a stack of CVs from folks
who didn't have that particular certificate on their wall wasting the time of both hirer and applicants.
What about experience? If you needed someone with a proven track record in the project
management of Digital Transformation projects, you'd make that a key requirement in the job ad.
Right? One firm I follow on LinkedIn did. Or at least they did the third time they advertised the same
position in less than a year.
Just three examples. Scour the job boards and you'll see more.
Here are some quick tips to ensure that your recruitment signals and your intentions are aligned.
1 - Are You Talking The Talk?
Imagine that Hits 105, our imaginary hit music radio station, has just started playing golden oldies or
talking about arthritis and how much better life was in the 70s. For some reason, all the audience is
suddenly listening to ‘FreshFM’ instead.
Your ad has to talk the talk of IT Project professionals and, if sector experience is necessary, your
This is especially important if you're not an IT firm per se and you're recruiting IT project talent. Your
ad should be as focused and relevant as possible - it's easy to come across as not knowing what
you're talking about. An example is the public transport operator that advertised for someone with
"A recognised Agile qualification e.g. Scrum Masters Certification". At first glance, it looks fine but
that casual accidental plural of "Master" stands out, especially if you have that qualification. It may
be the reason why fewer applicants came forward than expected.
2 - Know Your Key Skill Requirements
That sounds obvious but, regularly, questions about this are met with blank faces. Increasingly, firms
that aren't IT businesses are having to recruit IT talent. If you're a financial services advisor and you
find that due to increased digitisation you now need an IT Project Manager, it's kind of alright that
you don't know who or what you're looking for.
What's not OK is actually hiring from that perspective. Choose a specialist IT recruitment partner
with a track record of finding the talent you need and also who will really get to know you and your
requirements before recruiting.
3 - Know Your Business/Culture
The cost of a poor culture fit when hiring can be more than half (50-60%) of the individual’s annual
salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Yet few firms are placing
cultural fit high enough on their agenda, fewer still are actively targeting culturally aligned talent
with their recruitment signals.
Again, many businesses haven't quite nailed what their culture is in a way that can be expressed in a
paragraph or on a sign above the lift. Even those that have sometimes don’t convey it in recruitment
Ensure that your IT recruitment marketing is sending out the right cultural signals.*
4 - Are You Coming Across As A Great Place To Work?
If you're working with a recruitment partner challenge them to identify what makes your business
THE place to work at. It's amazing how, in this candidate driven market, many firms are not grasping
this in their recruitment signals.
Your perfect candidate is in great demand and you have to sell yourself better than your
competitors. If your recruitment partner can't help with this, to be blunt, they're not worth their fee!
If you're recruiting without a partner try canvassing existing talent to get an idea of your USP, get
your marketing and sales teams in on the discussion.
5 - BUT It's Not All YOU, YOU, YOU!
OK, sure, you need to sell yourself as a great place to work and, yes, you need to list the skills you're
looking for - but they are things that satisfy your company's needs. Many IT Project Management
vacancies are advertised from a paradigm of benefits to the hirer.
Why not use your ad as an opportunity to demonstrate what you can offer your applicant? Not that
you are signed up to Perkbox or the ‘Fussball’ table in the canteen, but what the role can really do
for them ... will it turn managers into leaders, will there be opportunities for further training, will
candidates learn new skills, pioneer new technologies, etc?
Most IT job adverts could be a lot more candidate focused.
6 - Ensure Your Signals Are Synced with How Your Message Is Being Accessed.
More and more you are probably using a mobile device to shop online, BYOD has freed a generation
to work on the hoof ... are your IT recruitment messages accessible in this way? It's happening
already ... this Summer saw increased applications from candidates surfing the jobs market while
they were on holiday. They didn't take their desktop PC to the poolside - they were on their smart
phones and tablets. Moving forward, mobile devices will be used a great deal more to apply for jobs.
Use such a device to see how attractive your message looks.
I'm writing this sat on a train and the chap opposite is on his phone breathlessly telling the story of
how he initially got on the wrong train. It was a simple mix up, the station lady had pointed at a train
on platform 2 and in his haste, he misjudged the angle of the outstretched finger and jumped on the
one at platform 3 which was just across the same stretch of tarmac. I’m trying not to laugh.
My sweaty friend is the perfect metaphor. When recruiting, IT Talent make sure that you point
clearly or who knows where you might end up!
As UK outsourcing of HR and recruitment function increases – remember this
(At the time of writing) Casually leafing through some
older articles on last year’s Outsourcing Industry reports
inspired me to put pen to paper (or rather fingers to
2015 was a great year for outsourcing of HR functions.
According to the Quarterly Outsourcing Index, carried
out by industry analyst Nelson Hall, total UK HR
outsourcing spend in the first three-quarters of 2015
alone was 50% up on the value of deals signed in the
whole of 2014.
HR’s share of all UK outsourcing in 2015 provided a very
healthy picture of the state of the industry. Almost a
quarter (24%) of all outsourcing deals signed between
January and September 2015 were HR contracts. Demonstrating growth in the sector but also the
importance of the recruitment and HR function.
There are probably many reasons for this. I think the top three are:
1. A desire for greater reach and speed
You want a partner with excellent reach to find the right candidates quickly – but no shortcuts!
2. Need for better Peer Profiling
You want candidates profiling by subject matter experts. Someone who has performed the role you
are looking to fill is the best person to recruit someone to deliver in that role. That means a Project
Manager interviewing a Project Manager, and a Sales Director interviewing for a Sales role.
3. Commercial Simplicity
You want a simple and fair commercial model, even sharing risk with your partner. Partners
confident in finding you the right candidate will even let you spread payments over the first year of
If you are considering moving your IT Recruitment ‘out of house’, there are huge benefits to be
gained, not least the three mentioned above but there is one golden rule I would advise you to
never, ever, break.
GOLDEN RULE – Your outsourced recruitment and HR function should be tightly aligned with your
business culture, your business strategy and the needs of your customers to leverage the greatest
value gain for your business.
Cope/paste it, write it in your diary, scribble it on a post-it and attach it to your desktop PC –
whatever – but always stick to it. Always.
And here are three great habits to get into that will help you keep to the golden rule:
1 - Always start the recruitment process with your business goals in mind. Know your USP, how you
win in the marketplace and what your strategic mission is. Then identify how your talent helps
achieve this. When you know your organisation's biggest objectives and you align your talent search
to them you become a very potent and efficient recruiter. Make sure that your partner gets you
goals too and how you work.
2 - Benchmark your success against this measure rather than distracting external 'best practices'.
Focus less on how well your recruitment compares with others in measures such as 'cost per hire'
and more on how well it delivers on providing talent to achieve your business goals. When Bersin by
Deloitte researched this in the United States they found companies with developed talent
recruitment functions often have a greater cost per hire - so less efficient, right? Apparently not,
because they also fill their vacancies more quickly and with the right candidate reducing early talent
turnover and operational disruption.
3 - Look for lessons YOU learned elsewhere. When you outsourced other transformational functions,
like IT Project Management for example, what went well and where did you steer off course?
Specific knowledge about how your organisation interacted with external service providers in other
areas is powerful. Look for 'low hanging fruit' - can your IT partner (the people who delivered
transformational IT Projects) help you recruit your next Project Manager, for example.
Truth is, from attracting talent to retaining and developing them, HR is a business-critical function.
Deciding to outsource all or part of it is a huge step that could cost you dearly or reward you richly.
These Nelson Hall figures show that more and businesses are seeing the value in looking beyond
their tried and tested recruitment methodologies.
Choosing your partner well and aligning your recruitment function with your business strategy will
ensure that you yield the rich rewards you deserve.
Beware dark short cuts! And five other Halloween horrors to avoid in it recruitment
The season of ghosts, ghouls and witches is
approaching. IT Recruitment can be as scary as any
'18' rated movie too with poor hiring choices coming
back to haunt you. So, for fun, here are six lessons
that we can learn from Halloween and horror
1 – Choose Short Cuts Wisely!
You've seen the movie. Girl and a boy, late at night,
their car breaks down on a dark country lane so they
get out and walk.
He says, "I know a shortcut."
The shortcut is through the woods. The movie is
called something like "The Axeman". You know it won't end well.
In IT Recruitment, an ill-advised shortcut could be hiring a general recruitment firm to fill a specialist
role or an agent who will throw a lot of CVs at you hoping that one will fit your needs. It can be like
walking off into the dark unknown. These shortcuts can be dangerous with little or no guarantee of
There are some shortcuts that don't take you off into the scary woods, though.
Shortcuts that are well illuminated with transparency and fair cost models are available.
Furthermore, shortcuts like peer profiling so your candidates are pre-filtered for suitability by a
subject matter expert can save you considerable time and money.
Choose shortcuts like a partner who only recruits IT Professionals and shares risks if things don't
work out. Above all choose a partner who won't take shortcuts getting to know you, your culture
and your priorities.
2 – Don’t Fail To Outrun The Competition
It's a full moon and outside the halls of residence, a werewolf is howling. The students wake as the
werewolf, breathing heavily, starts scratching at the front door. The students dress quickly and plan
an escape route down the fire escape at the back and through the graveyard into town.
One of the students is dressing more thoughtfully, selecting a pair of running trainers and his gym
"What are you doing? You won't be able to outrun a werewolf," says a terrified fellow student.
"No, but there's one werewolf and there's ten of us so I don't have to outrun the werewolf."
In the movie, the werewolf picks off the slow runners at the back and the kids who chose to run in
the first shoes that came to hand.
Selecting the wrong recruitment partner can be like trying to outrun a werewolf in slippers. A slow
recruitment process can really hamper your ability to hire the best talent.
Choose a partner that specifies that they deliver reach and speed - you want a partner with excellent
reach to find the right candidates quickly. The best IT recruitment firms maintain contact with
interviewed candidates so you have an unfair advantage when you next enter the marketplace.
3 – Choose Your Treats Well
On the Halloween route, there's always one house!
Your kids knock on the door and instead of Haribo they're offered ... fruit! Now, the fruit option is
considerably better for them but it's Halloween and, let's face it, the kids want the sweets. The fruit
house is marginally more popular than the house that tries to push last Christmas's leftover Quality
Street, but it's a close-run thing.
Similarly, you should give some thought to why IT Talent would want to knock at your door.
Remember all the football tables and 'soft play areas' of the dot.com bubble days? Some talent still
gets excited by that but if you're trying to attract the type of talent who wants to make a Steve Jobs
style dent in the universe, you need to sell them your unique mission and vision.
The right recruitment partner will produce meaningful role profiles and job ads written by subject
matter experts to attract the right talent. They'll get to know you and might spot brilliance that you
have become oblivious to and help you sell this to like-minded talent. When you actively seek a
cultural fit for your organisation you have a better chance of ensuring you achieve one.
4 – Don't Be Indecisive!
There’s no time for dawdling when the Zombies invade your town. You have to get a plan together
and implement it decisively.
OK, as an IT hirer, being behind the curve won't get you killed. It will potentially mean you miss out
on the best talent though which will make your organisation shuffle like a zombie in the market.
A talent attraction partner that combines the search capability of a recruiter, with the selection skills
of a subject matter expert can allow you 'hit the ground running' providing you with only the very
5 – Don't Do It All Alone
"Let's split up!"
When they say that in a horror movie, you know that something bad is going to happen. In the
haunted house, as in the IT recruitment process, there is safety in numbers.
The right partner will give you access to millions of candidates, social media tools and syndicated job
There is a temptation to “copy and paste” your job description onto a job board and hope for the
best but the right partner can really unpick your USP and sell your firm as the place to work.
6 – Don't Ignore The Obvious Danger
When the boy and girl broke down and they took their short cut through the woods in "The
Axeman" they would inevitably have come across an old abandoned wood cutter's cottage.
The door would be swinging on its hinges and the place would appear to be deserted. Now, you and
I would scurry past but people in horror movies are oblivious to obvious danger.
They'd go in and the boy, seeing the steps would say, "I wonder what's in the cellar."
The movie's called "The Axeman" and we've not seen him for 25 minutes. I wonder!
IT Talent Recruitment has its obvious dangers too. From using general recruiters for specialist roles
to upfront fees that mean you exclusively take on the risk of hiring. Choosing a talent attraction
partner who will be on your side and really get to know you will give you an early warning of dangers
so that you can avoid them.
The scares, spooks and shocks of Halloween are confined to October 31st.
In IT Recruitment the potential horrors are there the whole year round.
So next time, who will have your back?
CIOs - Taking an aaS approach to IT talent attraction could help you achieve
From an IT talent perspective, Gartner's CIO Agenda
Report makes interesting reading.
It usually takes the temperature of the industry well and
gives IT leaders’ intelligence for planning the year
ahead. I always look forward to Gartner's survey of
almost 3,000 CIOS from nearly 90 countries and this
year I read it feeling a mixture of excitement, optimism,
challenge, and ... well, relief.
When Gartner asked CIOs about their perceived barriers
to success, their replies were a list of the usual suspects.
Capacity, integrating new tech with legacy systems,
security, alignment, culture, executive buy-in, etc. etc.
BUT top of CIOs concerns now ... TALENT.
Of course, this is exciting because IT talent is my game! Opportunity knocks! Talent is now
recognised, by CIOs worldwide, as the single biggest challenge blocking the route to success and that
gives me a great ice breaker when cold calling.
There is, anecdotally, a feeling that many IT operations are just about coping - keeping the lights on -
but if something were to come along that really rocked the boat, they may not weather the storm. If
that too sounds familiar, even secretly, it's OK - you're not alone here either. That sense of relief that
I mentioned is borne out of knowing many IT leaders who feel this way. They know that they are just
about ‘getting away with it’ with the resources they have and that is no way to spend your working
life. Still ... as long as nothing rocks the boat...
The thing is, though, something IS coming.
Actually, Gartner believes it is already here.
Bimodal IT, in Gartner's words, "is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT
delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential,
emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and
Gartner's report says, "The biggest talent gaps are around information — big data, analytics, and
information management — followed by business knowledge/acumen."
If these talent vacuums sound familiar, you’re not alone, many of these gaps are the same ones CIOs
reported four years ago.
In his blog 'In A Bimodal 2016 Focus on What You're World Class At - Your Strength Is In Knowing
Where You Are Vulnerable', Stoneseed IT’s David Cotgreave says, "Imagine your favourite sports
team ignoring a talent gap in a certain position in that way - where would they be in four years’
time?" That’s a thought isn’t it?
He suggests focussing your best efforts on where your strengths lie and outsourcing the rest –
including talent attraction and retention.
Bimodal IT could be a game changer and with 4 in 10 CIOs gearing their operation toward this new
reality and the majority set to follow over the next 36 months, it should be on your radar if you want
to keep up.
BUT Gartner's report suggests that Talent management practices are failing to keep pace with the
constantly evolving digital needs of most businesses.
"CIOs must think about talent as a platform and innovate with it," says Gartner.
Often, the best way to innovate with any platform is to partner with someone who is already
innovating with it.
Accessing talent 'as a Service', in much the same way that you access Software, Platforms, Project
Management, etc opens you up to a broader talent search combined with targeted filtering so you
get the best, most suited candidates.
So ... taking an 'aaS' approach to talent attraction, recruitment and retention puts you at the cutting
edge of a process that 22% of CIOs cite as their biggest block to success – allow me to give you my
IT recruitment - How to avoid a bad hire day
Recruitment of new talent is probably the most
important thing you do for your business.
Instinctively, you may disagree. In fact, most
organisations believe that the most important thing
that they do ... is the thing that they do, i.e., what they
make or the service that they provide.
This argument carries some weight but who delivers
this for you? Your talent of course!
This is why a bad hire can really hit you where it hurts -
your business strategy, your productivity and your profit
I smiled when a new client once told me she was having a "bad hire day" conjuring up the image of
those days when all the hairspray and brushing in the world just won't stop you leaving the house
looking like you have a bird's nest perched on your head. Her humorous remark hides the pain of a
bad hire, though.
The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) recently published research that demonstrates
the scale. Giving the example of a middle manager on £42k per year, the REC believes the cost of a
bad hire would be more than £132,000 - over three times the salary!
When you consider the wasted time and money spent onboarding your new hire, training them,
paying their salary, added to the cost of recruiting them in the first place and the cost of replacing
them, it's easy to see how this cost racks up. Beyond these obvious costs though, there are the
hidden costs of lost productivity and not just from your bad hire. There can be a contagion effect
that hits the morale of your whole tea.
So, with that sobering thought ... here are ...
5 Ways To Avoid A bad Hire Day!
1 - Prioritise Hiring
Sounds obvious but not every hirer prioritises hiring. Many firms treat it as a task to crowbar into
your busy day after all your other jobs have been crossed off your list.
People-centred SendGrid CEO Sameer Dholakia described how he believes "recruiting is a mission-
critical function" for a business, in his "Focus on People" presentation to Stanford Entrepreneurial
Thought Leaders, he also said that employees should see recruiting as a privilege where they get to
represent the company and attract the best people to join.
Indeed, Sameer Dholakia once wrote, "We believe people are our most valuable asset. Highly
engaged employees are a competitive advantage for any business ... values create value ... having a
deeply shared set of beliefs actually creates economic value."
You can prioritise hiring by diarising sufficient time for evaluation, ensuring that your 'A players' are
on the interviewing panel and partnering with a specialist recruiter, which becomes increasingly
important the more specialist the role you have to fill.
2 - Get Someone to Share the Risk
85% of HR decision-makers admit that their organisation has made a bad hire, according to that REC
research quoted earlier. Multiply that by the £132,00 cost of a bad hire estimated by the REC and
you get a sense of the scale of the risk!
The best way to mitigate this is to use a specialist recruitment partner who will share the risk. What
this means in practice is find a partner who will put their money where their mouth is. Instead of
paying up front you spread payments across a substantial initial employment period and if the hire
doesn't work out - you stop paying.
From my side of the arrangement, this really focusses the mind. As a recruitment business it
becomes critical that the talent you put forward will go the distance, otherwise, you don't get paid
your full fee - which in turn gives the hiring client some peace of mind! I'm amazed that every
recruiter doesn't adopt this commercial model, it demonstrates the level of confidence that you
have in your ability to deliver on your client needs.
3 - Avoid "Quick Get Someone, Get Anyone" Hires
I keep seeing this happen. You have a position to fill, you have projects aligned with business
strategy, deadlines are looming, budgets are tight, the pressure is on ... so you rush a hire. Then,
amazingly, things don't quite work out.
In my experience, these are never reckless, thoughtless hires, it's just that speed is of the essence. I
have looked at the CVs of Project Managers hired in this way and, they look great on paper. All
qualification boxes were ticked, they interviewed well and seemed to understand the strategic
importance of the roles. Unfortunately, the "Quick Get Someone, Get Anyone" approach often
doesn't match the rigours of a project with the competences of a Project Manager.
For effective speed, partner with a recruiter who maintains a database of interviewed talent, a
partner who will first get to know you, your culture and your projects before telling you that they
know "just the right person".
4 - Avoid The "Beneath Your Skill Level" Hire
I think it was Steve Jobs who said that A players hire A players, B players hire C players, C players hire
D players, etc.
There is an often unconscious bias towards hiring talent that is not considered a threat. I saw this
with a CIO once who repeatedly vetoed talent who had the potential to take his job one day. If you
don't hire the 'A Player' talent - where are they going to go? Your competitor, I guess.
Richard Branson, James Dyson and many other successful entrepreneurs famously did the opposite.
They surrounded themselves with brilliant talent - often smarter than they were!
One of Richard Branson's three hiring rules is based on a conversation he had with Spanx founder
Sara Blakely who told him, "The smartest thing I ever did in the early going was to hire my
In his book, "The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership", Branson recommends evaluating
where you personally need to improve and seeking out that quality in people you hire.
Again, partnering with a specialist recruiter can help identify these areas and also, an independent
partner doesn't have that subconscious fear that the next hire might be after their job!
5 - Initiate a Talent Referral Scheme
I often think of the IT world as a big village and the villagers like to talk. No-one sells your business as
a great place to work better than the people who work for it and also no-one is more protective of it
remaining great. No-one knows what it takes to fit your culture, what it takes to succeed, and what
kind of person would complement the existing team better than the people you see each day at the
When you ask colleagues to recommend a friend or recommend your vacancy to their contacts, the
last thing they are going to do is just recommend anyone - they're going to only recommend the best
person that they can think of.
Sometimes, offering an incentive can really drive engagement in a talent referral scheme but, more
often than not, the buzz of helping build the team and helping out a friend or contact is enough of a
So, there you go, just five ways to avoid a 'Bad Hire Day'. If you have any more I'd love to hear them,
please get in touch.
In the meantime, let's avoiding forking out three times your next hire's salary, let's make your next
hire not just good but the best hire you ever sign up!
IT talent lifecycle - how to feel in control
I had a very interesting email exchange with a Director
of HR this week about how the talent management
lifecycle is becoming increasingly difficult to control.
Among the key challenges, she told me, is the ever-
accelerating rate of change in technology. IT is altering
all aspects of managing the talent lifecycle.
She said, "Imagine the career path model of an
employee even ten years ago and compare it to today
you notice differences, even over a relatively short time
horizon. People don't stay in the same job as long as
they used to. Extend that time horizon to 20 or 30 years
ago and compare talent lifecycles to today and the
differences are stark!"
This evolution in the talent management lifecycle is everywhere but especially for businesses that
depend upon IT to deliver their services or products. Which, these days is most.
None of us can predict the future, but we can develop a strategy that prepares for it.
The truth is, if IT plays a big role in what your talent delivers to you-you must!
I've asked a few heads of HR for their thoughts on this, their combined insights have been distilled
into the following five suggestions.
1 - Hire Talent For Potential Over Roles.
Most traditional talent lifecycle models start with the initial contact that a company has with
candidates ... the job ad, the interview. Then they map how, post-hire, employees move up through
the company, usually through a departmental silo. Most often it has been a case of matching
candidates to roles based on how they measure up against potential job-specific challenges.
In this newly evolved scenario, it may pay to assess the mid to long-term challenges faced by your
business, rather than role specific issues, and hire accordingly.
One HR leader emailed to say, "We hired three IT Project team members for roles that technology
later rendered obsolete. Two seemed reluctant to evolve and soon left, the other was more rounded
and adapted to the new environment. The lesson we learned was to hire more guys like this in the
2 - Hire Culturally Aligned Talent.
When you hire talent, who shares your belief you buy more than their services, you hire in their
blood, sweat and tears.
It can make a huge difference to the talent lifecycle too.
Cultural alignment also buys a degree of loyalty. At least it gives talent another thing to consider
when they weigh up alternative opportunities.
As one IT Project Manager once put it, "When your job fits like a glove why would you consider
giving it up for a mitten."
To leverage the best from this you have to know what your business culture is. You know what you
do, you know how you do it, but have you really drilled down on why? When you hire people, who
share your "why" the talent lifecycle starts to manage itself a little.
If you haven't worked out your "why", if you’ve struggled with identifying your culture, a
recruitment partner with a track record of selling businesses as a great place to work can help.
Sometimes, an independent pair of eyes can see your USP in an instant.
And on the subject of partners ...
3 - Partner Up Wisely
To feel in control of the evolving IT talent lifecycle, as an employer you want a recruitment partner
with excellent reach to find the right candidates quickly and you want those candidates to have been
profiled by Subject Matter Experts - so that they stick!
To this end, look for an IT recruitment partner that promises specialist peer profiling for each skill
One of the other problems with traditional recruitment services is that you pay upfront recruitment
costs and then either don't get a return for six months ... or the hire doesn't work out and you end
up starting the process again (and of course paying for it).
Choose a specialist recruiter who shares the risk - monthly payments that stop if the hire doesn't
work out. This gives you more control and it incentivises the recruiter to recommend the right talent
in the first place because they will want to get paid the full fee!
Finally, don't pay upfront fees. Ever. The longer the money is in your bank account, the longer you
hold the balance of control.
4 - Measure Employee Engagement (Above Employee Satisfaction)
You have a physical contract with your employees, but have you considered that you also have a
psychological contract with them too? If you were to write out the terms and conditions of this
allegorical contract - how well do you think you would measure up against them? If managing the
talent lifecycle is becoming harder the answers may lie here.
Measuring employee engagement usually has a positive effect on staff retention and gives you
feeling that you are in control of the talent lifecycle. You can identify and address workplace,
industry and internal company HR trends.
It's worth repeating the subheading here ... Measure Employee Engagement (Above Employee
Your employees can be satisfied without being engaged. In some industries, job satisfaction may be
enough to retain employees. Increasingly, this is not the case with IT talent. Engagement, employees
feeling that they are stakeholders, is really important in IT and the good news is that engaged work
teams drive greater productivity.
So ... personal growth, autonomy, the meaning that employees attach to their work, the wider
impact that they believe their work has, their connectedness to, and understanding of your business
goals ... these are all good factors to measure when surveying engagement.
Engaged talent performs better, with more passion, so it is perhaps not surprising that innovation
and engagement tend to go hand in hand. Other benefits include better team performance and
smoother organisational change. Beyond the talent lifecycle, there are lots of reasons to focus on
5 - It's Not Them, It's You.
There has been a shift in the talent lifecycle, and yes, IT is driving a lot of that.
Occasionally though you come across a business that seems to have "over shifted" in this area.
My friend works in HR for a private sector business, its revenue now is entirely delivered through IT
but they really struggle to retain talent. To give you an idea, she jokes about long service awards
being given out to people who stay more than a year!
We'd talked about the talent lifecycle and how it had changed but she felt that this wasn't the whole
reason and so she initiated a staff survey.
This was a business that had put energy and money behind making itself attractive to talented
people. The IT was cutting edge, the pay was great, the promotion potential was huge ... and yet
people still quit ... fast. The survey revealed that talent may be leaving because of the bosses.
I bet you have quit a boss rather than a job or company. I have too. We're not alone! When
Badbossology.com conducted a survey, it discovered that half of us would fire our own boss if we
If you can create a culture where employees feel rewarded, where they are fearless and gratified,
retention rates improve and managing the talent lifecycle becomes less of a problem.
In conclusion, in this talent-driven market, employees are likely to flit from one job to another, from
one employer to another, in line with their aspirations and ambition.
However, you can maintain control.
You can identify HR trends to anticipate future talent needs and you can assess what your specific
needs will be based on your goals and forecasts. You can combine these to identify what positions
you will need to fill and to align talent resourcing with the long-term business objectives of your
You can do this alone or gain valuable extra insights from an external, independent pair of eyes – a
partner you can trust.
Either way, bringing a degree of certainty and control to managing the talent lifecycle will deliver
stability to your business in what are progressively uncertain times.
Old habits make bad IT hires – time to quit?
(At the time of writing) The Recruitment and
Employment Confederation's (REC) monthly report has
revealed that the number of candidates recruited for
permanent jobs in Britain grew at its slowest pace in
nine months in July. Paradoxically, the number of
vacancies grew at its fastest pace since November
2017. Supply and demand appear to be out of
Many companies blame Brexit, specifically the problem
of fewer EU candidates coming to Britain which fell to a
five-year low last year. As many of my IT Project
Manager friends are here from other countries in the
EU I wondered whether this was being repeated
around the UK's IT recruitment sector.
Although some IT hirers I spoke with also said that finding the perfect candidate was harder, the
reasons that they were giving were quite different. In our sector, hirers report that it is the
candidate driven market making it trickier to find the perfect hire (candidates are just not hanging
around in the traditional places). Furthermore, when you have identified the right candidate
attracting them is harder (they have so much more choice) and then the right person may end up
costing more (when the talent is driving the market, wages only tend to go one way!).
So, against this backdrop, should you quit looking for your perfect IT hire? Two hiring managers I
spoke with in recent months have told me that they have done just that, 'quit looking', or at least
they have quit looking in the way that they always have.
Interestingly, both have filled roles for which they had been struggling to recruit in this candidate-led
The Strategic Quitters.
Meet Lizzie and Ellie, the strategic quitters.
Is there something in your life that isn't performing for you? It could be failed diets, exercise
equipment that is gathering dust, smoking or a relationship that has irreparably broken down ...
Sooner or later, it's best to quit! Right?
The IT Project Management roles that both Ellie and Lizzie's firms had been trying to fill had turned
into a succession of ill-fitting hires, candidates who seemed perfect on paper but who didn't deliver
the promise shown at their interviews. Lizzie has used tried and tested hiring methods for a number
of years, Ellie has used the same general recruitment firm who placed job ads in places that had
traditionally performed well. Both were getting increasingly poorer returns on their investments.
The trouble is that over those years the market changed. In a candidate driven environment, hirers
cannot rely on the best candidates seeking out their ad. Sure, many active job seekers will still search
this way, but a lot of the best candidates are passive, and you really have to take your offer to them
in a much more purposeful and dynamic way.
After a third bad hire in a year, Lizzie remembers exclaiming, "I give up!". This was her eureka
moment! Ellie’s came when she quit smoking!
Giving up was exactly what they had to do. Not give up looking for someone who could manage their
strategic and complex IT change projects - it was still essential that the perfect candidates were
found for that! Instead, Lizzie had to give up her "tried and tested" methods, Ellie had to quit her
career-long relationship with a recruiter who was no longer delivering. They had to try something
Lizzie recalls, “It was agreed that we wouldn't take another step until we had decided what that
"something new" would look and feel like.”
Fortunately, the first thing Lizzie did was call us so that first step came quite quickly.
First, we got to know Lizzie's company and how they operate, we sussed out their culture and what
made this a great place to work. We were amazed to discover that the previous general recruiter
had not carried out this type of research.
Next, we carried out proper role research - we put some real effort into finding out exactly what was
needed. 'IT Project Manager' can mean different things to different firms so we got to know the
expectations that came with the role and how it fitted the company culture. Then, we went out to
market to source the best people and although we were ready to write bespoke adverts that were
focused on candidate attraction, we had a feeling that the right candidate was already in our
database of talent. Maintaining contact with an address book of specialist talent gives a recruiter
greater reach and speed.
It turned out that we were in a position to present a handful of top-notch CVs - and as we meet
every single candidate before we agree to represent them, as we get to know them as people as well
as their experience and qualifications, we knew that any one of them would be the perfect fit. Peer
profiling each candidate, by subject matter experts who have performed the IT or project role you
are looking to fill gives your hiring process a practical, "real world" edge that doesn't just deliver
candidates who look good on paper.
So, by way of conclusion, it seems in a candidate-led market, there are at least three options for you.
Carry on using the same old tools to find the right candidate (and maybe get lucky), settle for second
best by hiring who you can get and make the most of them, or be like Lizzie and Ellie, strategically
quit those old methods that have stopped working and shift your recruitment efforts into a space
where the best candidates will access them.
Strategic quitting, when "tried and tested" has become "tired and testing", is liberating.
Could it be that there is something about your recruitment process that you need to quit?
Passive aggressive. Your new IT talent recruitment strategy?
To attract passive talent, you need to redefine 'passive
aggressive' and turn it into a recruitment strategy.
Imagine your ideal candidate. Smart, hard-working,
dedicated, capable, innovative, creative ... spend a few
seconds populating your own list. Have you ever
interviewed this ideal candidate, offered them the gig,
only to find they had accepted a "better offer"
Right, now imagine if, when you interviewed this 'gold
standard', 'A class' candidate, they'd told you that they
weren't interviewing with any other business. Does that
sound too good to be true?
Meet the passive candidate.
There's a lot of talk about passive candidates and how to attract them, which I'll add to, but first let's
consider who they are and why you should attract them in the first place.
The passive candidate is a bit of a misnomer because they're not a candidate at all, not really, not
yet at least. They are employed by someone else, they're good at what they do and are not looking
for work elsewhere.
They are, by far, the majority of the workforce. Four years ago, LinkedIn put this into numbers
estimating that around 75% fell into this category. Personally, I'd move that percentage upwards
into the eighties. Your ideal candidate could be part of this 75-80% of the workforce and, because
they weren't actively looking, you could effectively have exclusive access to them.
It's important to tap into this market because IT recruitment IS a challenge, increasingly so.
Back in the day, IT talent worked for IT firms and when they left they joined another IT company.
Then IT got REALLY good and instead of simply supporting businesses, in many cases, IT became the
business. Suddenly, IT firms were losing great talent to public transport operators, food distributors,
restaurant chains ... everybody became an IT employer. Returning to that percentage figure, even
taking LinkedIn's estimate, that's a lot of businesses trying to recruit from just a quarter of the
workforce, the ones actively job hunting. They're talking to every Tom, Dick and Harry from every
conceivable business sector.
Consider how you'd go about attracting candidates who are actively job hunting ... you'd stick a job
ad in an industry journal or post on a job board, you'd get in a recruiter who'd throw a pile of CVs
your way and hope that something sticks. The phrase "fish in a barrel" springs to mind but by doing
this you will be missing out on potential talent.
Your passive candidate is not being interviewed by every Tom, Dick and Harry - they weren't even
job hunting until you turned their head.
What's stopping you engaging with such a great opportunity? For most businesses, the reason is - it's
hard. Actively engaging passive candidates is paradoxical in the extreme when you think about it. It
takes great skill, experience and creativity.
So ... I'll say it again ... To attract passive talent, you need to redefine 'passive aggressive' and turn it
into a recruitment strategy. Here are a few thoughts on how.
Ask your recruitment partner how they WILL use social media to attract passive candidates. Bold,
italics and capital letters for the word WILL because they MUST. Passive talent may not be searching
for a job ... but ... every lunch, every 'comfort break', every coffee shop queue ... they are on social
media! Another time they hit up social media is when things aren't going quite so well at work .. who
doesn't? When your star candidate gets frustrated and hits up Facebook for a feel-good fix of cat
videos ... you need to make sure that you are on their timeline with your exciting opportunity to
tempt them. This takes targeting.
The thing about social media is that it's quite hard to get right, to leverage maximum effectivity, but
it is really easy to get wrong. For instance, there was a business last year that followed IT Project
Talent on social media and, once the talent followed them back, bombarded them with spam about
a single vacancy they had. Not cool!
If in doubt, get a specialist recruitment partner with a proven track record of using social media to
attract passive talent.
Do you have one? There is a chance that the 'A class' rock star candidate you're seeking ... has never
heard of you. Many firms are investing as much in their 'employer brand' as they are in their regular
customer facing one.
Take this example, a bus company was looking for an IT Project Manager recently and they
successfully caught the eye of a young PM who wasn't looking but was the perfect fit. She didn't
know much about them, so she searched for them on social media. This is where the wheels on the
bus came off! Their Facebook page was full of slightly geeky pictures of buses and their Twitter feed
was a list of apologies for delays and cancellations ... and while that may have kept their passengers
up to date it didn’t make them look very attractive to this young and ambitious PM.
Look at social media posts through the eyes of a potential candidate - does it need a dash of polish?
You can encourage staff to tweet about successes, to post pictures to Facebook and Instagram.
And challenge your recruitment partner to sell what a great place to work your business is!
Database Of Talent
Another challenge for your recruitment partner ... ask them how well they keep in contact with
The thing about passive candidates is that they will, at some point, have been active. Many
recruiters don't maintain contact with talent in between placements but those that do invariably
know things like when contacts are due to expire and how well things are going for previously
interviewed candidates. Furthermore, talent that has agreed to receive updates about available
work from their preferred recruitment firm are more likely to take a look at your vacancy if it were
to appear on one of their communications.
Have More Than One Passive Candidate Egg In Your Basket
Earlier, I said that you could be the only business that a passive candidate is interviewing with
because they weren't looking for a new opportunity until they saw yours. Most of the time this is
true but sometimes talent whose head is turned like this does look elsewhere too, it's an
opportunity to "see what else is out there".
It's not just another firm that might tempt your passive candidate away ... it's the other firm ... their
I have seen firms successfully attract a passive candidate and focus just on hiring that one perfect
individual only to find that the company they'd be leaving made them an offer they couldn't refuse,
increased their remuneration package or promoted them, and they stayed.
You, or your specialist recruitment partner, should always have a 'plan b' and a 'plan c'.
Try To Avoid Being Used
That last point is worth further thought. That 75-80% of the workforce is an ocean of talent that is
perfect for your vacancy, but it is also rich with ambitious and creative individuals who want the best
for themselves and maybe their families. It is not unusual to reach out to a passive candidate and
convince them to meet up only to find later that they saw your opportunity as a means of
persuading their existing employer to give them more money. Isn't that what we'd all do?
Here, having an experienced specialist recruitment partner will save you time, but you should at
least try to 'reality check' passive candidate approaches. Consider factors like how far from your
workplace they live - is the commute realistic? What's their current salary? (If you're offering less -
they're almost certainly using you as bartering tool!) What scale of projects are they used to and
how do they compare with yours? How does their existing culture compare, and will they fit in with
yours? Ask them ... "What was it about our approach that you found attractive?"
In conclusion, attracting passive candidates is hard but it could be the most rewarding hire you ever
make. I described it as an ocean of talent just now, to land the right catch you need to sail carefully
through some choppy waters but above all, you need to know what bait to have on the end of your
line ... or know someone who does.
Project Management skills in demand - to attract the best your recruitment
and attraction process has to be the best
Here's some good news for Project Management talent -
about 4 in 10 ICT professionals believe that yours are
the most needed IT skills.
According to a recent poll, 39% of the 1,000
professionals surveyed believe that Project
Management and people skills are the most required to
remain competitive. Nice to be in demand!
Of course, the downside for anyone looking to hire
Project Management talent is that they ARE going to be
in demand, potentially harder to recruit and possibly
more expensive. This could lead to skills gaps within the
Project Management world which inevitably could mean
talent gaps across all sectors because, after all, in most
businesses now IT doesn't just support the business - IT is the business.
Then something interesting happened the other day, something that never happened even during
the dizzy heights of the dot-com bubble. On Monday 1st August, for the first time ever, the world’s
top five companies by market value were all tech firms.
Each of these firms, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, like most successful IT firms,
is committed to competence in IT Project Management - and their talent is attracting attention from
ANZ Banking Group recently hired the head of Google's Australian operations, Maile Carnegie to
deliver a "superior digital experience" to the bank's costumers. While this is the most headline-
grabbing move of this kind, where a non-tech firm hires tech talent to integrate and align IT with its
strategy, it is far from the first.
I've been tracking the trend, really since last year when Google's Udi Manber left for the National
Institutes of Health and it is interesting how many traditionally non-tech firms are now targeting IT
talent. As more and more gadgets, cars, fridges, etc connect to the Internet of Things, the
competition for tech talent is only going to get more intense!
With this in mind, whether you're in IT or your business depends on IT, now is the time to sharpen
your hiring practices to attract the best tech talent.
Here are three key things to consider.
1 - Give Tech Talent Something to Buy Into
Steve Jobs used to talk about making a dent in the universe. This kind of thinking is increasingly
important to many IT Project professionals - a sense that what they're doing will make a difference
beyond the bank balances of the shareholders! If you have a mission that they can get into, sell it in
your job ad and role description - you will be amazed who you can lure away with the right vision!
2 - Remember You're Recruiting a Human
"It's amazing how many hiring firms appear to be trying to recruit a droid." This observation came
from an IT Project Manager who had noticed that many non-tech firms try to 'over tech' the
language in their offer thinking that is what will attract IT talent. Actually, what attracts great IT
talent is the same as any other group ... benefits, conditions, work satisfaction, balance, career
The best IT Project Managers often don't categorise themselves from a tech paradigm - they are
great problem solvers - so show them your problem and ask them how they'd solve it.
3 - Get A Great Recruitment Partner
An experienced IT recruitment partner can help to find and attract top technology and IT Project
Management talent. Many job ads are dull and unimaginative, often they are 'fill in the blanks'
copy/paste versions of previous ads. You want a partner who is really going to sell what a great place
to work your organisation is.
Also, the best talent for your role might not be actively looking for a new job - so they may not see
your job ad! To maximise effectiveness your recruitment process has to reach this talent pool. It’s
crucial then that you can identify and approach these candidates. The best IT recruitment partners
can open this door, they know who will fit and how to find them because they maintain contact with
talent they have interviewed.
Recently, The Telegraph reported that the most in-demand jobs are now within the IT sector. As
more companies adopt technology and incorporate IT within their core business strategy, the
demand for the talent to make it happen is going to increase.
To attract the best your recruitment and attraction process has to be the best.
When choosing an IT recruitment partner, choose a tour guide over a travel
On a recent trip to the travel agents, waiting for my
turn, browsing the brochures and people watching,
something fascinating happened that resonated with
me as an IT Recruitment professional...
A retired couple were planning their next holiday with
the help of one of the agents. They were excited, this
was to be a celebration of a big wedding anniversary
and no expense was to be spared on their peaceful,
The agent was already mentally spending her
commission as she told them all about Bandos Island in
the Maldives with its “turquoise lagoon, pearly white
beaches, azure blue skies and dawn till dusk warm,
At the next table, I noticed a young man getting increasingly agitated. After a few minutes he could
contain himself no longer, he leant over and addressing the elderly couple's agent he asked, "Excuse
me, have you actually been there?"
The agent replied that she hadn't.
The young man explained that he and his family had visited and, as beautiful as it was, it was a
family resort and quite rightly the kids have a ball. If the elderly couple were looking for peace and
quiet, they might want to consider somewhere else.
The whole dynamic changed. With every resort the poor travel agent suggested, the wife asked,
"Have you been?" Each time the answer was no. In the end, no holiday was booked.
This is probably why many people now turn to Trip Advisor.
Opinions on Trip Advisor are based on 'been there, done that' not motivated by making a lucrative
sale. I went to Trip Advisor as soon as I got home and, sure enough, one of the reviews says, "kids
overtook, so don't bother coming if you don't like children this is a family resort, and that is the main
bulk of the customers." It looks amazing but perhaps not the place for a quiet diamond wedding
So, what's this all got to do with IT Recruitment?
Well, it can feel like that, can't it?
Over 8,000 recruiters are using the same technology tools, coming up with the same 'suitable'
candidates, throwing a rake of 'suitable' CVs at you - do you ever want to ask, "Excuse me, have you
actually been there?"
Chances are, when it comes to recruiting for specialist roles like Project Managers or Information
Analysts, most general recruitment agencies have not 'been there, done that'.
IT has evolved beyond being a back-office business support function into a partner in driving
transformational business change. For this reason, more than ever, the recruitment process has to
be right and to get it right your recruitment partner has to have some degree of experience in the
role you are looking to fill.
One of the best ways to achieve this is profiling of candidates by 'Subject Matter Experts'. Someone
who performed the role you are looking for is best suited to achieve a perfect match between
opportunity and candidate. They've done it, they know what success looks like and what it will take
So, where possible, Project Managers should be interviewed by Project Managers, for example, but
it starts earlier than that.
Many job ads don't really sell the job or your company as a great place to work. Like the travel agent,
unless you've been there, you can't truly know what it's like. Bespoke adverts focused on candidate
attraction and meaningful role profiles, written by subject matter experts stand out from the bland
sea of copy/pasted posts. You'll know yourself, from experience, that the job ads that get you
excited tend to be the ones that speak your language or could almost have been written for you and
As well as attracting the right candidate for the role, your recruitment partner should focus on
achieving the right match for your business or company culture, selling your business as a great
place to work. Admittedly, 'been there, done that' partners will be thin on the ground in this regard -
unless you routinely have recruitment partners on your payroll! However, the best recruitment
partners identified an opportunity here and they seek to really get to know your business and its
culture before casting their recruitment net.
The elderly couple and the Maldives resort were a poor 'cultural fit' but the computer wouldn't have
told the travel agent that. So, it is with the tools used by many recruitment agencies. Getting to
know you isn't just in your interests, it's in your IT recruitment partner's too. The best recruiters pool
interviewed candidates and maintain ongoing contact with them and so might already have the right
person for your opportunity ready to start, speeding up the process for everyone.
Too many IT recruiters are still of a travel agent mindset.
Leadership expert, John Maxwell, compares travel agents to tour guides, "A travel agent sends
people to places they themselves have never been. They give them a brochure and say, “Bon
voyage.” Too few are like tour guides, who take you to the places they have been and experienced."
In this next phase of the evolution of IT, your ideal recruitment partner must be more a guide than
an agent. Those with relevant experience of your journey and a willingness to embrace new
methods and tools and use them to guide you are the partners to choose. The rest, like many High
Street travel agent, have an uncertain future.
Reframing the 'problem' of IT recruitment to maximise business benefit
A client asked us to find an IT Project Manager.
Simple enough, we have a live database of interviewed
talent and we maintain regular contact with them.
What's more, we have a relationship with the client that
is based on a deep understanding of their culture and
business goals. Matching the two up is fairly
Then I asked this question, "What would it mean for
your business if you got this next hire right?"
During the ensuing conversation, it became clear that
what was needed here was not a regular, 'keep the lights', 'get the job done' Project Manager. They
were looking for THE strategic project leader who would take the business to new levels through IT
change ... and I knew just the person.
This is a recurring issue in recruitment generally, but in IT especially.
Firms with outlandish and audacious business goals often lack a similar zest and passion when it
comes to hiring the talent to achieve them. There could be many reasons for this, it could be that
due to the often quoted "IT skills shortage" companies settle for who they can get, it may be that
recruitment is not considered an exciting part of business life (few, it seems, relish a day of back to
back interviews) or it could be that managers are already busy enough, well, managing ... so they
don't have sufficient time to think about who they'd like to attract and why. It could be a
combination of these reasons and many, many others besides.
Think about it for a moment.
How do you approach hiring? Do you put up a job board or ask a recruiter to find you an X, a Y or a Z.
Or do you give some serious, proper, measured thought to what that new X, Y or Z could bring to
your business and its strategy?
If you take the first approach you are almost certainly working on the wrong problem.
Take the client above, finding them a Project Manager would have been easy and the person hired
would have done a good job. We don't maintain contact with anyone who wouldn't do a good job.
BUT Finding them THE Project Manager required stripping away the recruitment 'double-talk' and
unpacking what the business was REALLY trying to achieve with the hire.
The person we placed with this business quickly established what the company mission was, what
tools and resources were available, where the project portfolio status, even how to work the most
complicated coffee machine I've ever seen. She was so driven by a desire to succeed that she
instantly started to see new solutions and opportunities.
So, A Project Manager would have done a job, but THE Project Manager was transformational.
Next time you recruit, which would you prefer? OK ... Stupid question so how do you achieve THE
hire? Four tips coming up but first ...
... let's debunk some myths.
Search Google for "IT skills shortage UK" and you get over a million results telling you that because
of Brexit, or because of lack of training, or because of declining numbers of IT graduates, or because
of the political climate ... there is a massive cyber skills gap. It reads like a bunch of poor excuses to
Sure, it's hard to recruit but I don't believe that there's a shortage of talent. Even if there was, isn't
that just a greater reason to approach the process from a business strategy aligned perspective?
1 - Have a clear shopping list before you enter the market?
How much more do you end up spending when you go into the supermarket without a list? How
often do you go in to buy fabric conditioner and come out with a bottle of prosecco and kettle chips,
because they were on offer, and forget to buy the thing you went in for? However, when you go in
with a list and tick off the items one by one you return home satisfied and having spent considerably
So ... Be laser focused on who you are trying to attract and why. Write that shopping list!
2 - Know where you are!
Technically speaking, the IT skills required by a start-up firm and those needed by a company
recruiting because of growth are roughly similar. However, the attitudes required may be very
different. The challenges and pressures may require very different mindsets ... for instance ... a start-
up requiring 12 hours days and working weekends and a Project Manager with a family might not be
Openness and honesty around these things, from all sides, will maximise the business impact of your
new hire. Often, openness is missing though ... the out of work PM wants the gig ... the recruitment
firm wants its commission ... the hiring company needs to fill the strategic vacancy! Being unclear on
expectations usually leads to friction THAT diminishes the return on your recruitment investment!
Earlier this year, having gained "where you're at" insight, a colleague advised a potential client that
they would be better off hiring temporary talent through the Project Management as a Service
rather than adding to their headcount at this time.
He missed out on commission – this time. BUT when that client’s growth continues to a level where
upscaling their projects team is viable, I know whose phone will ring first.
Right, so you know where you ... now ...
3 - Know who you are!
Knowing who you are, means being aware of your business' culture and hiring to suit.
If you're using a recruitment partner insist that they first get to know who you are ... ask them how
they go about achieving a cultural fit!
I've seen blank faces from clients asked about their business culture! When you consider how many
hours you spend at work, effectively living eight, nine or ten hours a day in a micro-society, it is
crucial that you know your culture and that you communicate it in your recruitment efforts.
When you've worked that out all these wheres, whats, whos and whys, consider ...
4 - Which tools are you using?
Having decided what THE right hire looks like, you need to be sure that you look for them in the right
Much of the greatest talent has migrated towards platforms that offer the best opportunities. That's
where you need to head too. In other words, if they’re signed up with a specialist IT recruitment firm
and you're using a more general recruiter, you may miss out.
I think one of the biggest reasons why many companies report an IT skills shortage is because they
are using outdated search tools and looking in the wrong place.
In conclusion ...
There's a reason why "a" is called the indefinite article. When you ask for "a" project manager ... you
pay your money and take your chance ... your ROI is, well, indefinite.
However, when you approach recruitment with a view to hiring THE project manager, the definite
article, you increase your odds of maximising the business value of that hire. And, after all, isn’t that
what you’re in business for?!
Why IT rercuiters must work harder to get noticed
What did you make of the deliberate spelling mistake in
the header? Hopefully, it got your attention on a page
full of search engine results or list of blogs fighting for
Did you notice it?
I just did a little experiment by presenting 10 people in
the office with five genuine job ads. I asked them to
click on the one that got their attention. Nine of them
clicked on the one that had a similar spelling mistake to
this one in the job title.
Of those nine, five said they hadn't consciously spotted
the error but later said that their eyes may have
subconsciously been drawn to it and four said they had noticed it … ABOVE all else ... but still clicked.
It's not scientific but does demonstrate the value of standing out from the crowd, although there are
probably better ways than littering your message with typos!
When you recruit for an IT position it's more important than ever that you can get your message
across above the noise of an increasingly busy marketplace. Fifteen years ago, you may have placed
an ad in the job pages of your local newspaper and providing that the other IT firms in your
neighbourhood weren't recruiting you'd have the pick of the available local talent.
The Internet changed all of that. A little over a decade ago the proportion of job seekers using the
web was just above 25% (in the U.S.). A more recent poll by Pew found that over half of U.S. adults
(54%) have looked for information about jobs online. Among those who have actively looked for
work in the last two years, 79% used online resources for their most recent job search. 34% now say
online is the most important tool available to them.
With more and more options for IT talent to work remotely, you are no longer just up against
employers in the same postcode, your main competitor for hiring top local talent could be based
miles away ... and they might not even be an IT firm! Put a search for "IT Project Manager jobs" into
Google and many of the companies that are hiring are not traditional digital employers. Most
businesses are now IT dependent so many different sectors are chasing the same talent.
You have to stand out.
However, you have to be credible.
This brings me back to that spelling mistake. Remember I asked ten people to click on one job ad and
nine of them chose the one with the spelling error. I asked the chap who selected one of the other
ads and he said, "If the employer isn't intelligent enough to spot the typo or competent or diligent
enough to spell check, I doubt that they have much to offer me."
Getting noticed is one thing but getting noticed for the wrong reason may harm you.
9 out of 10 recruiters now believe that recruitment is candidate-driven. Recruiters are having to
adopt an inside-out approach to candidate attraction showing their best side to applicants from way
before their very interaction. To this end, according to LinkedIn’s Global Recruitment report, budgets
for "employer brand management" are being increased at a majority of businesses.
What all of these numbers confirm is that, more than ever, recruitment of IT talent has to be spot
on. More businesses are realising that this means hiring a recruitment partner but this isn't always a
In an IT recruitment partner, you need the search capability of a recruiter with the selection skills of
a subject matter expert to provide you with only the very best candidates. You need someone who
will take time to get to know what it is that makes your firm the best place to work and have the
skills to communicate that message with potential talent both active and passive.
This is best achieved by creating bespoke adverts with meaningful role profiles, written by subject
matter experts. Your partner must be focussed on candidate attraction based on best fit with your
company culture, selling your business as a great place to work but attracting talent who will
complement and enhance your culture.
Thankfully, businesses are becoming as conscious of the brand they project to potential employees,
as they are of the one that they project to potential customers. If this isn't on your radar yet, now
would be a good to adjust.
Choose a recruitment partner whose offer is as unique as yours and you can position yourself above
the noise and be better prepared to get noticed in this candidate driven landscape.