Small businesses have always found it more difficult than larger companies to attract the best staff. This is never truer when it comes to the ultra-competitive task of recruiting IT specialists. With that in mind, how can small businesses compete with big companies and gain more of a competitive advantage when they need to hire their first IT employee? And how do they overcome the challenge of recruiting a specialist whose niche knowledge far exceeds that of anyone in the business?  

IT Recruitment Principles for Small Businesses

You may not have the resources or budget of the big players in your sector; however, you can compensate by showcasing the unique properties of your company. Some ways to achieve this include:

  • Culture: What is the business culture? What are its values? Which elements of them would appeal to an IT professional?
  • Employer branding: What is unique about the image of your company? How can you promote your business brand throughout the recruitment process?
  • Messaging: Small companies obviously cannot offer the same rewards packages as large organizations. However, what they can offer is a chance to be more than a ‘cog in the wheel’, with the ability to transform the way the company uses IT. Make this work to your advantage.
  • Environmental challenges: What big changes should influence your recruitment plans? The industry outlook can be affected by many factors. This includes supply of IT graduates and shocks to the business (such as those caused by COVID-19). 

Planning for IT Recruitment

The following tips will help you creating a plan to recruit your first IT specialist.

1. Know What You Want

While large companies make hiring mistakes, small businesses face a higher risk of hiring the wrong person because they don’t always have in-house HR expertise or recruitment procedures. If you need to hire an IT specialist, it may not be easy to express exactly what you are looking for and which skills you need because of the technical nature of the post.

The first step is to write down what IT needs the company has. Do they need to prioritize digital IT or IT infrastructure? How much time will they spend on troubleshooting? Getting this type of information down on paper will make it easier to prepare an accurate and honest job description; this is the cornerstone of any successful recruitment exercise.

2. Follow the Rules of Attraction

When you are recruiting an IT specialist, it’s vital to know how to reach suitable candidates. Advertising in the right places and using persuasive language will help you to attract the quality and quantity of applications that you need.

Putting together an advertising plan will help. This should include deciding on the merits of general job boards, niche job boards and recruitment agencies. In addition, you should give careful thought to the messages and the branding that you want to employ. What key strengths do you want to convey so that you attract the right candidates?

3. Use Focused Selection Methods

When you get to this stage, it’s important to structure your job interviews to ensure that you really real drill down to the competencies and technical knowledge that you need from your new IT employee. However, other selection methods may also be important. For an IT post, you may also wish to consider using a work sample test, a presentation or an analysis exercise. Examples of some of these types of tests and exercises can be found online.

4. Know How to Implement the Plan

In bringing together the answers from the sections above, one fundamental question will arise. Should the company manage the recruitment process itself or use a specialist recruiter? The answer to this will depend upon the type of resources available in terms of time, expertise and money. The most resource efficient method is dependent upon getting the preparation and the process right first time, as multiple rounds of recruitment can damage a company’s finances and reputation.

If there are gaps in the company’s knowledge of the IT labor market in its local area or in its ability to assess the candidates, you may want to consider an agency that specializes in recruiting IT professionals. Indications that there are problems include being unsure that the job description isn’t quite right or finding it difficult to express the scope of the role within the company.

The trick in getting the most out of a specialist recruiter is ensuring that you clearly express the company’s values and its ambitions for the post. Working with a recruitment agency is very much a partnership, with the client shaping what it wants from the post and the agency translating that into candidate requirements and a comprehensive recruitment plan. Marrying these elements will substantially increase the chances of success in recruiting your company’s IT specialist.