Three Ways Staffing Professionals Are Combatting the Current IT Talent Shortage

One of the biggest challenges facing staffing firms is the current information technology (IT) talent shortage.

According to Bullhorn’s “2017 North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report: Above and Beyond Business as Usual,” 61% of staffing and recruiting professionals said shortages of qualified talent represents one of their biggest obstacles this year. IT skills dominated the list of skills shortages most reported by recruiters; engineers and developers, especially those specializing in Java, topped the list of hardest-to-find skills.

So why are these IT skills difficult to find, and what are firms doing to overcome the IT talent shortage? I spoke with three IT staffing professionals (who are Bullhorn customers) about their agencies’ unique initiatives for identifying candidates who can succeed in these highly technical jobs.

Tapping into Underutilized Resources

In 2013, Sharp Decisions identified an opportunity to solve two problems: fill the many open tech roles and provide America’s military veterans with sustainable career opportunities.

In order to help its clients adapt to these changes, Sharp started an industry-first Vocation, Education, and Training for Service members (V.E.T.S.™) Program to provide solutions from highly-skilled US military veterans. The program hires, trains, and deploys veterans to Sharp’s clients, often in teams of three or more. Sharp determined that the team aspect drives much greater efficiency for client engagements, especially because the veterans are trained for specific companies and projects, which allow them to assimilate quickly and provide immediate results.

Sharp Decisions tapped into the often-overlooked talent pool of military veterans after discovering that one of corporate America’s biggest challenges, the ability to have employees work as a cohesive team, is a hallmark of the military.

“Not many companies recognized that military veterans have used technology that provides them with a solid foundation in the IT space,” said Stu Weiser, Sharp Decisions director of global operations. “Our veterans have very impressive leadership abilities gleaned from the military, so they work exceptionally well in team environments and excel with deadlines to meet milestones. Rarely have we seen a veteran who puts their own needs or wants ahead of the team’s. That’s a powerful business proposition.”

Weiser said Sharp Decisions created the program to help its clients better navigate the industry’s changing technology needs through the highest caliber of potential workers coming out of the military.

Veterans have the skills that are required to produce exceptional business results and, according to Sharp, these skills are allowing the teams of veterans to get the job done faster and under budget, producing more revenue for the client as a result.

The program is providing real career opportunities in fields such as project management, business analysis, network assessment, quality assurance, application development, cybersecurity and information security.

“With the new constraints that we’re anticipating in the H-1B visa market, which is the backbone of the US IT industry, veterans programs are going to be that much more attractive for identifying talent,” Weiser said. “And when you consider how important cyber protection is in today’s world, who better to protect your cyber assets than those that fight to protect our freedom?”

PREMIUM CONTENT: Largest IT Staffing Firms in the United States: 2017 Update

Creating Incredible Candidate Experiences

For Atlanta-based Elev8 Hire Solutions, the IT talent shortage has been a story of supply and demand. Recently, Atlanta has become a hotbed of economic growth as Fortune 500 companies such as Mercedes and Porsche have set up operations in the city and as the community’s startup ecosystem has boomed.

To find the right candidate for the right opportunity, Elev8 Hire Solutions focuses on the candidate experience and developing deeper relationships with them.

“The candidate experience is powerful and critical to our operations,” said Melissa Davis, Elev8 Hire Solutions CEO and founder. “It’s how we run our firm. When we align candidates on the right opportunity that directly matches their mission, they flourish, and everybody wins.”

To create an incredible candidate experience, Davis said her team takes a “consultative approach” – meaning that they take the time to get to know and understand their candidates’ needs and desires to strategically identify on-point opportunities. This entails speaking with candidates on the phones for at least 45 minutes and asking them a series of open-ended questions such as, “If you were to make a career move right now, what would it look like, and why?”

“We’re our candidates’ advocates,” Davis said. “It’s all about understanding our candidates’ stories and knowing what’s important for them so we can find the correct job for them. If they have a good experience with us then they’re most likely going to refer a friend to us. As a result, last year, we generated 43% of our business through referrals. We’re also very strategic with the clients that we secure. This helps in working with passive candidates who are only willing to make a move for a unique or special opportunity – not just any opportunity.”

In addition to providing a positive candidate experience, Elev8 Hire Solutions also partners with Atlanta’s code schools to help students and graduates understand how they can apply their technical skills, secure the jobs they want, and accomplish challenging and rewarding IT careers.

Personalizing Relationships and Proactively Nurturing Candidates

At New Jersey-based Hired by Matrix, recruiting professionals have been focusing on personalizing relationships and proactively nurturing candidates so its candidates see the firm as a go-to-resource for information versus just solely being a staffing agency.

“From a recruiting standpoint, people aren’t commodities,” said Bob Pappas, Hired by Matrix executive director of sales and recruiting. “They want authentic, human relationships, which make a big difference.”

Core to making that big difference is using the power of social media to identify high-quality candidates with targeted opportunities. Pappas said his recruiting teams scrutinize each potential candidates’ current job, role, and title on their social-media accounts to ensure that the next opportunity is an exact match – and not just one that they think will potentially resonate with them.

The firm has also developed a bi-weekly newsletter to highlight its expertise on hiring trends and tailored content for its candidates. Pappas personally sends candidates cards on their birthdays with a personal message thanking them for allowing Hired by Matrix to help attain their career goals.

“We’re the personal touch,” Pappas said. “People will remember us. It stands out, and it makes people want to work with us again – especially amid a talent shortage – because they had a positive experience.”

So far, the personalization strategy has worked for Hired by Matrix, which has achieved a placement success rate of about 98% for contingent workers. As the IT talent shortage continues looming, the firms that can develop innovative strategies for finding the next generation of top talent will be the ones that will have the biggest competitive advantage.

“The art of the recruiting industry has been lost, and if we can bring that back, we can increase our market share,” Pappas said. “It’s all about being proactive instead of reactive.”

MORE: The Challenge of Hiring Staffing Professionals in a Competitive Market

Matt Fischer
Matt Fischer is president and chief technology officer for staffing industry software provider Bullhorn.

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