01 Jun 2012

How to hire the right IT staff

At Brennan IT we’re on a recruiting drive, looking to hire around 50 new staff.Our needs are, of course, different to those of the typical SME, but it does raise the question – what should SMEs look for when hiring IT staff?It’s an area in which many businesses struggle, and assembling an internal IT team is not a simple task.The problem is that the pool of ‘perfect’ candidates is small and they’re therefore in hot demand.To understand what makes the perfect candidate, consider the three types of IT person your recruiting is likely to encounter:

1. The server person

The server person is someone who has an engineering or technical focus.Pros:This candidate will ensure that your business systems and servers run very effectively.They’ll finely tune and manage them, carefully taking care of updates and monitoring, and you can be sure that they’ll operate smoothly.Cons:Unfortunately, this technical prowess rarely translates into good customer service – that is, good service for your staff. This person may feel that helping staff with desktop problems demeans them. They can be dismissive (or worse) when staff call for IT help, and staff will therefore stop seeking it, instead letting problems mount.This candidate might also want to experiment with the latest and greatest technology, regardless of whether it’s right for the business.

2. The service person

The service person knows how to deal with people and satisfy their needs.Pros:This candidate understands that they’re there to serve the business. They’ll work hard to ensure the needs of staff are met, and their help desk abilities will be outstanding. Staff will have their problems addressed quickly, and will become more effective and efficient as a result. You’ll see a user-first mentality.Cons:Typically, this candidate won’t be as technically proficient when it comes to systems and servers, and your business may open itself up to security holes and reliability issues as a result.

3. The strategic thinker

This person understands IT in terms of what it can achieve for your business.Pros:This candidate will know how to use IT to benefit your business. They’ll focus on aligning your IT systems with your business needs – improving productivity, efficiency and customer service capabilities.Cons:This person won’t always have the strong technical skills required to keep the systems they implement running smoothly.

Can’t I get all three?

Of course, these categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Should you find somebody with all three, hire them immediately and don’t mention to anyone else that you’ve got them!The reality is that you won’t find this ideal candidate. Instead, the choice you’ll face is:
  • Hire the best person you can and choose between disgruntled users, troubled servers or a lack of clear strategy.
  • Hire two people: a technical person and a people person, then put yourself or your financial officer in charge of strategy.
I see many businesses flipping between hires with different competencies – taking on someone with vision until things break down, then finding someone with an operational focus, only to find that their IT doesn’t work for the business as well as it should.If you’re struggling to find the person you want, my advice is to concentrate on recruiting the strategic thinker (or use the strategic thought of a director or CFO), then consider an external partner for the management of your servers and IT support.(This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on May 31 2012)
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