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The secret to sourcing top IT talent

February 20, 2017 | By Lisa Dare, TEKsystems Digital Content Strategist

businessman at laptop

Hiring managers usually use a tech staffing company when they can’t find the quality talent they’re looking for when they need it. So … what’s in that secret sauce?

At the largest IT staffing company in North America, we have a core at the center of our activities: referrals.

Recruiting Manager Robby Loock tells how he once faced a big staffing challenge: finding over 20 developers and business analysts for a client with very high standards.

His team worked hard to find the initial hires, but it got easier once we had some contractors start. “We treat our consultants well, and they started referring people they’d worked with in the past. The great thing about referrals is that IT professionals only refer people they know will perform at a high level on their team.”

We’ll share what we’ve learned about gathering those referrals and other creative tactics for finding the best IT talent.

Getting the best referrals

Referrals are simply the best way to identify and locate the most qualified candidates—especially the in-demand ones who already have a job. But in order to fill a job when it opens, it helps to have started gathering referrals in a serious way long before.

The best referrals come from proactive relationship management. Treat your employees well, and after you’ve established trust, ask them to tell you about the best people they’ve worked with in their field. Use that information to create a pipeline of potential candidates. You’ll want to actively bank referrals and candidate leads before you need them.

Here are some ways we earn referrals and bank leads: 

  • Our recruiters regularly network and attend or even host user groups to establish connections to talent communities in their space long before they have an opening to fill (this model works best when your recruiters specialize in one skill area, such as mobile development)
  • Clients, contractors and potential candidates can all provide referrals, but you’ll need scale and a system for matching candidates to openings for this to work for most openings
  • Most importantly to a referral strategy, recruiters must develop deep, long-term relationships with existing contractors—they know the other talent in their field and are willing to help if they like working with you

Sourcing strategy gets creative

No matter how proactive your referral activities are, you might have to get creative in your sourcing strategy, particularly when staffing large projects.

For instance, it’s not always easy for colleges and universities to attract the best IT talent. Higher education has an undeserved reputation for being slow to adopt new technologies, and the compensation may not be as competitive as at for-profit companies. But Dan Cagle, our higher education sales director, found a novel sourcing strategy that works.

The great thing about referrals is that IT professionals only refer people they know will perform at a high level on their team.

“While higher education may not be able to compete on salary, they have something most organizations lack: a large and loyal alumni base,” says Dan. Graduates or even people who took a few classes are likely to take your recruiter’s call—and even if they’re not interested in the position, they’re likely to refer friends who may be looking. We’ve been able to capitalize on this because our candidate database includes school information.

Robby Loock tells of a Maryland-based client who gave his team a "purple squirrel" requisition, which is what recruiters call a role with a highly specific, hard-to-find combination of skills. “Their process improvement group was looking for someone very senior with an unusual skill set, and the candidates the other companies sent just weren’t hitting the mark.” Through our candidate database, which allows us to access about 80 percent of the domestic IT workforce and contains notes about candidates’ preferences, a recruiter found someone in California who was willing to travel between coasts.

“The client’s team loved him,” says Loock, “We were able to set up a creative schedule and the consultant stepped in to fill a very critical role for almost a year.”

Interested in how we use market analytics, client knowledge and advanced screening to provide the brightest IT talent? Learn about TEKsystems’ Staffing Quality Process

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