How to Recruit IT Professionals for Your SMB

Are you struggling to find the expertise you need to fill your information technology gaps? You’re not alone. Tech companies experienced massive layoffs in 2023. But recruiting IT professionals in 2024 remains a big challenge because tech jobs are still in high demand 

In fact, Mbula Schoen, senior director analyst at Gartner stated, “The IT skills shortage is critical, with CIOs losing talented employees faster than they can hire them.”   

Whether you’re looking to hire an IT professional for the first time, or replace an existing staff member, this article will help you streamline the process.  

Use these steps to hire the IT specialists you need (+alternative solutions). 

In a hurry? Take this knowledge with you by downloading our guide. 

Guide to Hiring IT Professionals eBook icon

Unlock the secrets to successfully hiring IT professionals for your small business. Quickly navigate the challenges of identifying the right candidates to support and grow your business effectively. 

Table of Contents

How to Identify Your IT Staff Requirements

Identifying your IT staff requirements is a critical step in ensuring your business’s technological needs are met – efficiently and effectively. This section will guide you through the process so you can make sure your candidate can support your business goals. 

1. Determine the Skills Your IT Staff Will Need

Long before you post the job listing, you need to understand your challenges. Start by evaluating the problems you’re trying to solve, what you’re already doing to solve it, and why it’s not working (include your internal and external resources).  

Recruiting Quote

“Problem to Solve” Examples  

  • We need our computer problems fixed quickly. 
  • We need to migrate all our data from our in-house IT infrastructure to the cloud. 

Depending on your size and industry, you may need to hire IT professionals for specific roles. Understanding these roles can help you pinpoint the specific skills each position requires. 

 

“Problem to Solve” Example  

  • We need to enhance our cybersecurity posture. 
  • We need to stay compliant with industry or government regulations (HIPAA, PCI, DFARS, CMMC, etc.).

Once you have a clear picture of your IT challenges, you’ll have a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities that an IT hire will need to fill.

2. Understand Your IT Landscape

The next step in determining your IT hiring requirements is to take an inventory of everything in your IT systems supporting your business. Use this example as a starting point:

Network Infrastructure 

  • How big is your network?  
  • What brand of routers/switches do you use? 

Software Infrastructure 

  • Do you use Active Directory? Exchange? Microsoft 365? 

Servers and Workstations  

  • How many do you have?  
  • What brand are they?  
  • Will they need to be replaced/upgraded soon?
     

Cloud Services 

  • Are you using cloud platforms (AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, etc.)? 
  • What services are you using (e.g., IaaS, PaaS, SaaS)? 

Business-critical Software   

  • Do you have an ERP system (SAP, Oracle, etc.)?  
  • Accounting software (QuickBooks, Peachtree, etc.)?  
  • Custom or legacy software? 

Mobile Device Management (MDM) 

  • Do you use an MDM solution? 

Phones  

  • What is your phone system? VoIP or PBX?  
  • Is it supported by a vendor?

Vendors  

  • Do you use an IT company? A managed service provider?  
  • Who is your internet service provider? 

 

Your systems and software requiring support will vary. But by understanding the components of your IT environment, you can better gauge the responsibilities you’ll need from an IT professional (and the compensation they’ll expect for their expertise). 

How to Find IT Talent

Finding (and retaining) the experienced IT professionals you need requires a bit of finesse as a small business. You’re competing with a lot of other companies in a very competitive market. So, one of the first things you can do is make your organization as attractive as possible. 

1. Make Your Company Attractive

To attract IT talent to your organization, you can leverage several strategies to highlight your unique offering and create an appealing work environment.  

Here are a few practical ways to make your organization stand out to potential candidates: 

Challenging and Interesting Tasks

Most people want to see their work end with significant outcomes, and this sentiment is strong among technology professionals. Their drive for valuable work often surpasses that of an average person (they’re so driven, and we love them for it! This CompTIA article gives some great insights into IT pro personalities.).  

During your negotiations, make sure you provide your candidates with: 

  • The type and level of tasks they will perform 
  • The scope 
  • Anticipated outcomes  

When you do, you align with their fundamental motivation for work that not only challenges them but also contributes significantly to the company’s success. 

Provide Professional Growth Opportunities

If you already have skilled tech professionals on your team, this may be of interest to potential candidates. Working alongside a highly competent team offers them rich opportunities for professional development.  

Additionally, highlight any certifications, specialized training opportunities, or continuing education programs you will provide for the position. Many ambitious candidates are excited to expand their skill sets and advance their careers within a company that invests in their growth. 

Offer Competitive Salaries and Benefits

You might not be able to match the salaries of large enterprises, but you can provide enticing packages that include fair wages and benefits.  

According to CIO, the 7 most in-demand tech jobs in 2024 are: 

  • Systems security manager 
  • Network/cloud architect 
  • Applications architect 
  • IT director 
  • ERP integration manager 
  • Big data engineer 
  • Data security analyst

So, if you are looking for any of these skills, you’re going to have to make a significant investment to recruit them. Do your research before settling on a salary to make sure you’re offering the best package you can to your candidates.

Other Considerations

Tech specialists often find themselves overworked and on the verge of burnout. Providing them with a work-life balance, support, and a value-aligned culture will make your organization more appealing. A little bit of empathy can go a long way. 

2. Partner with Local Colleges

Many colleges, and other educational institutions, are eager to place their students in jobs. If you can partner with these institutions, you might be able to work with someone with fresh tech knowledge. Then, you can train them to fit your specific needs. 

To increase your visibility with soon-to-be graduates, check to see if they have opportunities for you to do a workshop or guest lecture. 

3. Create a Referral Program

Referrals stand out as a highly effective strategy for attracting top tech talent. Leveraging your existing employees’ networks can uncover exceptionally qualified professionals more efficiently and cost-effectively than traditional recruitment methods.  

This approach not only saves time and resources but also taps into the trusted judgments of your current team – adding an invaluable layer to your talent acquisition process. 

4. Share Job Postings in Multiple Places

This is an important step. If you’re just posting your job applications in one place, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reach a wider audience. We recommend that you post it on social media (especially LinkedIn), online job boards, your website, and other non-traditional methods (think Discord, Slack channels, etc.).  

5. Attend Career Fairs and Other Events

Employment events can be a great way to meet potential candidates and are relatively low in terms of cost. Participation fees generally cost around $100. Plus, you’ll need to staff your company’s booth. So, be sure to factor that into your cost as well. 

Recruiting IT Professionals

Recruiting IT professionals requires careful understanding of their motivations and your technical environment. Now that you have that information in hand, it’s time to interview. In this section, we’re taking a look at how to assess your candidates and how to troubleshoot common hiring issues. 

1. Assessing Their Skills

We have a hot take on how to assess an IT candidate’s skills. It’s based on our 24+ years of hiring IT talent for our managed service provider business. Ready? 

You should hire an IT professional that has good people skills first and foremost. Not technical skills. Why?  

Because a motivated tech candidate can learn new tech skills through training (and they’re usually eager to learn). But knowing how to “people” is a much harder task to accomplish – making evaluating their soft skills key to your success.  

CIO, a company that provides key insights on IT career development, states that end-user satisfaction and value delivered are two key metrics for success. Without the ability to collaborate and listen effectively, an IT professional will fall short of meeting the demands that will help your organization mature.  

Recruiting Quote 2

You can see an IT candidate’s technical skills on paper from their resume. But how do you measure their soft skills?  

There are many different methods you can use, including: 

Behavioral Interview Questions

You can ask your candidates to describe situations where they had to: 

  • Resolve conflicts 
  • Work in teams 
  • Explain complex technical issues to non-technical people 

This will give you insights into their interpersonal and communication skills. Not sure where to start? Check out this Indeed article that has 10 behavioral interview questions. 

Role-playing Scenarios

Give them hypothetical situations that require them to demonstrate how they would handle difficult situations.  

Example 

You receive a help desk ticket from a coworker who is frustrated they can’t access their files. How do you resolve their issue and handle your coworker?  

In this example, they would need to use their communication and conflict resolution skills to complete their task. Seeing their approach can be very revealing about how they will perform at your organization. 

Personality Assessments

There are various testing tools available that can help you assess a candidate’s disposition towards teamwork, communication, and conflict resolution (do you see a theme yet?). These include DiSC, CliftonStrengths, etc.  

Or you can combine personality interview questions with behavioral interview questions to get a more complete picture. Check out Toggl’s helpful article on personality interview questions (including a cheat sheet). 

While these assessments provide helpful insights, they should be used as part of a broader evaluation strategy. Depending on the position you’re hiring for, you might want to combine it with a job-specific assessment or one of the evaluation options below. 

Trial Projects

If you find a promising candidate but you’re still unsure about how they’ll do with your team, you might want to offer them the chance to work on a small project. There’s no better way to evaluate how someone will perform than by actually seeing them in action. 

Of course, this assumes you have a project to offer them in the first place. But if you do, it’s a great, noncommittal way to evaluate their performance before hiring them for the position.  

Internships

Looking to fill an entry-level position? It might be worth your time to offer an internship. This option allows your organization to train a candidate to your specific needs (such as help desk support). Plus, it would pair well with that partnership with an educational institution we discussed earlier. 

This option is another way to assess whether the fit works for both parties before making a long-term commitment. The drawback to this option, of course, is that it won’t be specialized support (unless you invest in training for more advanced skills). And it may not work out – leaving you to hire and retrain someone new. 

2. Troubleshooting Hiring Issues

There are a few reasons why you may struggle to hire IT candidates. In this section, we’ll discuss a couple of challenges and how you can resolve them. 

Applicants Decline Your Offer

Applicants interviewing and then declining your offer? There are a few things you should drill into.  

As we mentioned earlier, IT specialists are career-oriented. Many of them are looking for opportunities to advance and is a critical factor in job satisfaction. If they get the sense during the interview that the role doesn’t offer room for growth, they’re probably going to keep their options open. 

Another reason might be their perception of your company’s tech stack. They might view it as outdated or unappealing. IT professionals often look for roles that allow them to work with cutting-edge technologies that are widely respected in the industry. If they perceive your business as lagging technologically, they might not see the role as beneficial for their career growth. 

Finally, it may be that your compensation package is just too low. This means that what you’re asking for in the job posting doesn’t line up with the title or the actual responsibilities. Flexjobs says a job title will almost always impact how much someone makes. So, any misalignment will deter applicants. 

To avoid disappointment, ensure you’ve done your research for the job listing and offer the best salary (and benefits) you can.  

Applicants Not Qualified

Have you interviewed a lot of candidates, but none of them are the right fit? You might have a job posting/salary issue again.  

Example 

You might be trying to fill a senior position but offering a salary more suited to entry-level positions. This discrepancy can deter highly skilled professionals (for good reason).  

Generally speaking, there are two instances where a candidate will expect a senior title and pay: 

  • They are expected to manage technical staff. 
  • They are expected to work with nontechnical managers/executives on IT strategy, adoption, or policy. 

To avoid this issue, you will need to either adjust your job requirements or match the salary to meet the requirements of the role. If that’s not the issue, it might be your interviewing process…. 

Are you interviewing the right candidates? If you’re hiring for an “IT professional,” you’ll likely receive a wide range of applications. Your candidates could range from recent graduates to experienced data science professionals.  

In instances like this, you need to focus your efforts on those best suited for the role. To do that, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the experience needed for the role. That way, you can quickly identify unqualified candidates and avoid wasting time in interviews.  

Hiring Alternatives

Struggling to find the expertise you need from your recruiting process? Don’t have the time to go through the traditional hiring process, and need immediate support? Here are two solutions to help you get your organization back on track. 

Work with a Recruiter

Leveraging a recruiter can help you significantly reduce the time needed to fill your role. Plus, they will help you by thoroughly vetting talent – ensuring they’re a good fit. They might even help you define the job description to find the right candidates. 

The downside to this option for small businesses is that they can be expensive. According to Indeed, you can expect to pay a recruiter a commission of 15% to 30% of the hired employee’s first-year salary. However, they caution that some recruiters earn higher commissions based on experience and industry. 

Examples of recruiters specializing in the IT industry include: 

 

Partner with a Managed Services Provider

Working with a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) is a cost-effective solution to hiring individual candidates. These teams often possess a wide array of skilled IT professionals to help you develop winning strategies and complete projects.  

So, instead of hiring one technical person to reach your goals, you gain a whole team of professionals. Partnering with a managed services provider gives you immediate access to the expertise you need to solve problems fast and effectively.  

These roles may include: 

  • Help Desk Technicians 
  • Cybersecurity Engineers and Analysts 
  • Network Engineers 
  • Project Managers 
  • Chief Information Officers 

Plus, if you already have in-house IT professionals, you can choose a co-managed IT solution with an MSP to cover any gaps you have. 

However, this partnership also comes with its own unique set of concerns. Not all MSPs are equal. If you partner with an inexperienced MSP or one that is not client-centric, you may end up having more challenges than solutions.  

As a managed service provider for 24+ years, we’ve heard disheartening stories within our industry like: 

  • Lack of responsiveness from providers. 
  • Providers never resolving issues. 
  • Critical operational problems left unattended for weeks. 
  • Providers not having the expertise needed to complete projects. 

Trusted MSP partners, like us, are baffled by this type of service delivery (if you can even call is service delivery).  

That’s why we caution small businesses to do your due diligence when vetting potential MSP partners. And make sure they can accomplish all the tasks you need them to in a timely manner. 

Use this guide to understand Managed IT Services, including: 

  • Learn how to choose the right Managed IT Service Provider. 
  • Download our MSP vetting checklist. 
  • Discover how to assess your new MSP’s results after the sale. 

Need More Hiring Help?

Finding the right talent on the market might be tough, but it’s not impossible. Armed with knowledge you can get on the right path to resolving your biggest IT challenges.  

Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help point you in the right direction.  

We’ve hired a variety of IT professionals over the last 24+ years. We’d be happy to share our knowledge and experience with you. Send us a message here. 

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