Employers must make a compelling case to land IT talent

Supply and demand stands out as the biggest challenge that companies face in securing talent that is capable of working on their IT systems, says Grant A. Derner, executive vice president at Lehigh Technical.

A recent report drafted by Lehigh Technical found that while there are 33,000 candidates in the IT workforce in the Cleveland area and more than 2,700 open jobs in the sector, there are only 18 candidates per job.

“The candidate supply in the region is stretched very thin,” the report states. “The number of candidates per job is historically low, leaving very little room for error in selecting a candidate.”

The majority of job candidates who are identified and placed in the IT sector are passive candidates, Derner says. They have steady work and need to be sold on a new opportunity in order to be willing to make a change. That puts the burden on the employer, or the recruiter working on the employer’s behalf, to create positions that are more attractive.

Smart Business spoke with Derner about IT staffing trends, the labor pool and the strategies used to attract talent in the current market.

What challenges do companies face in recruiting IT talent?

The majority of candidates in the IT sector don’t want the work to be narrowed down to a limited skill set. These people are attracted to companies where they can come in and use a broad range of skills to provide a high level of service to the employer while also growing their own personal skill set and resume.

This creates a disconnect with companies that have a very specific need and are only interested in candidates who will fill that need. Openings could include an app developer, a .Net developer or another position that is very narrowly focused. This type of opening will likely require a competitive pay and benefits package in order to entice the individual to take it.

The market is such that those in the workforce can afford to wait for the right opportunity. Someone who has a good job with benefits and other perks, as well as the flexibility to do different types of work, is not likely to jump at the opportunity to take a job that is more narrowly focused.

What’s the key to making a strong presentation with the job description?

Recruiters need to understand clients and how they operate. These are professionals whose job is to find people who can do a particular job. They want to know the main skill set that the client’s hiring manager is looking for.

Initially, that hiring manager may list many different skill sets that he or she considers to be important. That’s not going to get the job done. The recruiter will want to sit down with the client and break down the job description to its essential elements in an effort to make the opening more attractive to potential candidates.

In addition, companies should talk about their growth, their place in the industry and what makes their organization an appealing place to work. The more details they can provide and use as incentives to join that company, the better the odds of landing a strong candidate.

This is a necessary part of the process in a market that has become so competitive. It’s also an indicator that while salary is very important, it’s not always a differentiator in the decision-making cycle.

How has the talent pool for IT workers changed?

In terms of graduate supply versus overall education level, data shows an opportunity for employers in the growing number of candidates with associate degrees. While overall education numbers leaned toward a bachelor’s degree, the current graduate supply leaned (sometimes heavily) in the direction of an associate degree.

Economics and education trends have promoted associate degrees as a viable path to employment for many people. The technology skills obtained through these programs often surpass similar bachelor’s programs that may have less emphasis on technical skills. 

Grant Derner
Executive Vice President, Professional Division, Lehigh Technical

Grant Derner joined Lehigh Technical in November 2009 via Lehigh Technical's acquisition of PMH Resources. In his role today, Grant serves Lehigh Technical by calling upon a proven track record encompassing over 30 years of direct staffing industry experience to spearhead Lehigh Technical's support of IT Infrastructure, advanced engineering, and professional services.

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