Have you read Bitkom's article: "For the first time, more than 100,000 vacancies for IT experts"?
A 51% increase in unfilled IT positions from 2018 to 2019! Incredible.
No company is left unaffected by the shortage of IT specialists, and everyone is fighting the War for Talent.
This competition is particularly problematic for SMEs because they lack the resources that large companies can mobilise. It’s not a level playing field.
Nevertheless, there are efficient and cost-effective methods for SMEs to fill IT positions with top talent.
What Does an IT Specialist Do?
IT stands for information technology and refers to the use of computers to store, retrieve, transmit and process data or information.
Thus an IT professional is a person who is professionally engaged in the use of computers to store, retrieve, transfer and process data or information.
What precisely an IT specialist does depends on their area of expertise.
What Areas Are There in IT?
Areas in IT with a focus on hardware:
Areas in IT with a focus on software:
- Software tests
The IT sector is arguably the most diversified of all. Under these broad categories, you will find numerous professions. Some of the best known and most sought-after IT professions are:
Support specialists are called in if the computer or network is not working correctly. They check and solve superficial (first-level) technical problems of a company or its customers.
Coders develop new software using programming languages like C#, Python and Java. Every app and every programme you use has been developed by a programmer.
Quality Assurance Tester
Quality assurance testers check software and hardware to ensure that they meet industry standards and are free from problems and bugs. Only when the quality assurance testers give their green light, the product gets released.
IT technicians work closely with support specialists and take over where support staff are at a loss. IT technicians also install software and hardware for companies and train employees and customers in the use of computer equipment.
Network technicians develop and maintain a company's computer network. They ensure its functionality and make it easier and more efficient to use.
UX designers design and optimise all software to make it as user-friendly as possible. They review usage of the software and collect feedback from end-users to make each process as simple and clear as possible.
Database admins use special software to organise and monitor data. They often diagnose and solve complex problems related to data infrastructure. Thanks to them, all important company data is secure and easily accessible.
Software engineers are the step up from programmers. They not only develop according to specifications but also make a significant contribution to the scaling of the IT infrastructure through changes to operating and network systems.
IT Security Specialist
IT security specialists ensure the security of a company's IT infrastructure. They also help companies to draw up an emergency plan in the event of a successful hacker attack.
Data scientists analyse and organise data to identify trends and make business decisions. They use statistics, machine learning, and other industry-specific methods for their analyses.
IT directors monitor the strategy and execution of a company's entire IT. They ensure that the tasks of IT are in line with the goals and development of the company. They also work with management to establish budgets, development objectives, and contingency plans.
Each of these IT professions requires broad and hard-learned skills.
Nonetheless, not every IT specialist is a top talent.
16 Criteria for Top Talent in IT
”People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
—Simon Sinek, Golden Circle
In other words, you are not the only company with your product or service. Your only way to stand out is through the way you work and your conviction.
This principle can also be applied to your staff. The best employees are not always the strongest experts in their field. Top talent often stands out through better working methods and attitude.
This is what you should pay attention to when looking for top talent IT employees:
- The right skillset. Of course, they must have the basic knowledge and experience to do their job. That's the basis of every professional.
- Two types of intelligence. The right combination of "Book Smarts" and "Street Smarts" should lead to good business instincts that help in making difficult decisions. Also, it makes learning and expanding one's skills possible.
- Good communication. Clear communication is the heart of every company. They can clearly express needs, feedback and criticism.
- Detail-oriented and organised. No matter whether they manage a project or work alone: The better a person is organised, the greater the chances are that they won't forget any vital detail.
- Self-confident but knows limits. They are convinced of their own abilities. Provided their self-confidence is not overestimation, they will always outperform employees who doubt themselves.
- Team player. Lonely wolves preferring to work alone will drown in a company with good team dynamics.
- Loyal. They put the well-being of the company above their own during work. They are dedicated to the company in good times and bad.
- Reliable. You can rely on them to perform the assigned tasks on time and according to expected standards.
- Strong work ethic. They don't mess around. They don't surf social media while working, don't spend half the day at the coffee machine and don't cling to the clock above the exit.
- Problem-solving behaviour. They recognise problems quickly and solve them. They don't have to ask for permission or for help every time they need to optimise something.
- Autonomous and self-motivated. You don’t have to hold their hand all the time. They do good work on their own accord and are intrinsically motivated.
- Honesty and integrity. Never tolerate dishonest or unethical behaviour. If you can't trust your employees, working together is impossible.
- Flexible and adaptable. Most companies adapt to the market as quickly as possible. The best employees are even one step ahead and work with technologies that the others haven’t even heard of.
- Creative. The best solutions are often not the most obvious. Creative employees think out-of-the-box and come up with solutions that no one else considers.
- Has passion. The top employees in IT are heavily passionate about their work. These employees are not looking forward to the end of the month and payday, but to each new working day when they can pursue their mission.
- Has drive. They want to prove something to themselves and the world. They are not satisfied with the minimum but want more for themselves and their company. When other employees take it easy and lean back, they keep looking for new ways to optimise and promote growth in the company.
Make sure that you can identify as many of these qualities—or at least some of them—as possible in your candidates.
However, you are unlikely to find anyone who meets all these criteria.
Why Is Top Talent So Hard to Find in IT?
Not so long ago, IT specialists were only wanted in specialised software companies.
Much has changed in the last fifteen years. Today almost every company needs an IT specialist, if not an entire IT department.
For example, offices need to have complete data management (database admin) and a functioning, internal computer network (network technician). Every company also needs a website (web developer, UX designer), which should be constantly optimised (data scientist). Anyone offering a website that can be used by customers has to be able to support them in using it (support specialist). Furthermore, all these positions have to be coordinated and monitored (IT director).
SMEs satisfy most of these needs with external IT specialists or hire someone as an IT all-rounder.
Large companies can usually afford entire IT departments, filled with various specialists who can solve virtually all needs in-house.
Regardless of how the positions are filled, whether in one's own team or on a per-project basis by external service providers, the demand for IT specialists has increased dramatically.
The study by Bitkom clearly illustrates this point:
The number of vacancies for IT specialists reaches a new record high. There are currently 124,000 vacancies for IT specialists in Germany.
These figures are from 2019! According to a call with Mr Pauly, press spokesman of Bitkom, they will update the numbers in December. Then, we will also add new data to this article.
The same study also shows that 40% of companies take longer to fill an IT position than other vacancies.
Often, It’s the Candidate’s Fault
Employers complain most frequently (72%) about the candidates' salary expectations being too high. According to 41% of employers, the salary requirement does not match the qualifications.
Other reasons for long term vacancies are the lack of necessary knowledge in technologies such as AI or blockchain and underdeveloped soft skills such as teamwork. One in eight companies doesn't even receive applications for advertised IT positions.
The War for Talent
IT specialists who meet the mentioned requirements can almost freely choose their workplace.
That's why all companies, whether consciously or unconsciously, fight in the War for Talent.
The War for Talent will probably never end. But you can win your battles with the right IT specialists.
Where Do You Find Top Talent in IT?
Identify and Promote Top Talent in Your Company
When companies decide to improve their workforce, they often look for new employees right away. Everyone wants to attract the best of the best in the labour market.
Many don't realise that they are already sitting on rough diamonds.
The chances are high that potential IT-specialists are already working for you. It is worth identifying and polishing these rough diamonds until they shine. These are the 2 x 3 steps to do it:
How Do You Identify Top Talent in the IT within Your Company?
- Perhaps some of your employees come to mind when reading this article. Do you already know of potential top talent specialists in your company whom you can promote? Note their names.
- You have read what makes a top talent in IT. Do you agree? If something is missing for you, add your own criteria to our list.
- Invite your IT specialists individually to a feedback meeting. In this interview, you will assess who does and who doesn't meet your criteria for top talent.
How Do You Promote Top Talent in IT in Your Company?
- The IT specialists you have identified as top talent are ambitious and want to develop themselves further. Arrange a follow-up meeting to identify common interests and goals.
- Define methods together to achieve these goals. These could be, for example, further training, transfer of more responsibility or even a promotion.
- Monitor their progress and help where you can to ensure that they achieve the goal. Arrange regular feedback rounds.
If the it-specialist is up to the new requirements and tasks, start with step 1 of the talent identification as soon as possible. That way, you will find out if you can develop your it-specialist even further.
Active Search for Employees
Of course, you should try hiring top talent for your IT positions from the very beginning.
But sometimes the search for top it-specialists is difficult. Where do you find the best of the best in IT?
At PALTRON, we use a self-developed meta-search engine that scans various networks and platforms around the world. As a result, we have built up an exclusive network with over 450,000 selected candidates in IT.
SMEs usually lack the resources for this kind of extensive employee search.
That's why I would like to show you two cost-effective and time-saving methods for finding new IT specialists for your company.
1. Start an Employee Referral Program
On average, each LinkedIn user has 400 contacts on the platform. This means that every one of your employees brings their own network full of potential.
Give all employees a set of "recruitment cards" together with their business cards. Then they can give one of those cards to every person who could be of value to your company.
If your employees don’t distribute the recruitment cards, offer additional incentives. It doesn't always have to be money. For example, additional holidays or better parking spaces are just as motivating.
2. Attract the Next Generation of IT Specialists
When people talk about a student job, they usually mean waiters, courier drivers or retail workers.
Most students only dream of a position allowing them to gain relevant work experience. You can offer precisely that position for students.
Think about what tasks students can do in your company and highlight job positions, especially for them.
Since students usually can't find a job in their field of interest, they will rush for your open position. You are then free to choose whom you want to hire.
Your goal is for students to become permanent employees in your company after they graduate.
Let Specialists Do the Searching
Some positions are way harder to fill than others. Especially in management positions, many companies have difficulty finding suitable candidates.
To fill your management positions with top specialists, it pays off to hire an expert in executive search and HR consulting for IT.
Although this method isn't inexpensive, it has its advantages. You get a selection of ideal candidates who already want to work for you, without having to put a lot of effort into it.
Finding and recruiting IT specialists requires a lot of resources. That's already a difficult challenge for large companies.
For SMEs, it's often impossible to devote the resources for a large-scale search. They have to resort to other methods or hire external recruiting companies.
But recruiting IT specialists is only the beginning. You need to be able to keep them in your company. You can only keep them if you meet the criteria of an attractive employer.