Will You Have the Right Staff in 2010?

Experts predict that we?ll soon see a surge in demand for IT talent as stimulus money starts flowing for technology-related projects in the health care and construction sectors (75 percent of the original $787 billion remains to be allocated). The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for network systems and data communications analytic jobs will increase dramatically (projected to go up 53 percent by 2016), along with an increased demand for other IT skills, such as database administration.

As the economy recovers and more projects are green-lighted, demand for top IT talent will inevitably outstrip supply. Organizations need to use this relatively narrow window to evaluate their recruiting processes and determine how well-positioned they are to effectively engage, evaluate and hire top IT talent.

The first order of business is making sure your system?whether it?s an applicant-tracking system, resume- parsing system or something more sophisticated?is capable of handling heavy candidate volume while maintaining high levels of reliability, objectivity and compliance.

The second?and most often overlooked?aspect to consider is the candidate experience: Does your system promote a positive and meaningful user interaction? Or does it simply ask candidates to key in information from their resumes, offering little in the way of two-way communication?

Is it disjointed and time-consuming? Does the candidate come away with a clear understanding of your corporate culture and work environment?or even the nature of the job beyond a description and list of requirements?

Consider that the recruiting system or process is the first point of contact a prospective employee has with an organization. As demand increases, IT talent will be evaluating prospective employers as much as employers will be evaluating them. It follows that IT talent is more likely to be attracted to companies that incorporate innovative technology in their hiring process, with the candidate?s experience being a critical component.

In addition to implementing a solution that delivers internal efficiencies to reduce costs and administrative burdens, companies should look for the following candidate-facing features:

? Accessibility: The recruiting process should reflect the real world in which we all work: a plugged in, wired and continuously connected mobile environment. Flexible intake methods?via Web, phone, kiosk, PDA or any combination thereof?can provide convenient 24/7 remote access to meet the needs of today?s job seeker.

? Seamlessness: An intuitive seamless single-session process can guide candidates end to end?from prescreen to automated interview to assessment to job simulation. However, candidates should be able to exit the process at any point and pick up exactly where they left off when they return.

? Engagement: A video message from the CEO, vice president or IT executive can give candidates a more credible personal introduction to your company and its culture. A realistic job-preview video can also articulate the challenges and opportunities of the position in a format that?s more useful than a traditional job description.

? Interactivity: Why simply ask candidates whether they have a particular skill set, when you can have them show you. Integrated simulations and how-to questioning can allow candidates to demonstrate their skills in real time. For example, candidates applying for an IT position can be asked to streamline code via a Web simulation.

? Follow up and closure: In addition to providing short-term closure by notifying candidates that they have completed the process, it?s critical to keep them engaged for the long term. Content-specific, time-released correspondence can be scheduled for distribution via e-mail (without additional administrative attention) to specific candidate pools based on a range of time and/or event-based triggers.

The correspondence can be a note from the hiring manager, company news or an invitation to schedule an in-person interview. This high-touch approach is especially critical in cases where you are identifying top talent but don?t have an immediate hiring opportunity.

The impending demand for IT workers suggests that now is an ideal time for companies to evaluate their talent-acquisition systems and methodologies and consider how they can position themselves to attract and engage top candidates. A critical factor of that evaluation should be the extent that the process addresses the candidate experience and the means that it uses to do so. Just look under the hood.

Ron Selewach is the founder and CEO of Human Resource Management Center (HRMC), a talent-acquisition solution provider based in Tampa, Fla.