The IT skills shortage in Canada has been well documented, and this job-seekers market hasn’t made hiring any easier for executives.

For Canadian chief information officers (CIOs), the most common hindrance to securing the best candidates is not being able to meet salary demands (30 per cent), followed by not finding enough qualified applicants (26 per cent), and not being seen as an employer of choice (22 per cent), according to new research from IT staffing company Robert Half Technology.

Kin Lee-Yow, CIO of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) Club Group of companies, says that Robert Half’s findings are accurate and ring true for him and his organization.

“High salary expectations and not being a desirable employer are absolutely an issue. In our case, CAA is not known to be a high-tech company from people on the outside even though we do a lot of high-tech innovation internally, so it’s hard to hire tech-savvy people. We’re not Facebook or Google or Apple,” he explains.

As for not finding enough qualified applicants, Lee-Yow notes that while that is absolutely an issue, it’s not necessarily the applicants’ fault.

“There are a lot of people who have the skills for the job but they don’t have any experience, and one reason for that is because technology is moving and evolving so quickly. To hire someone with enough experience is a challenge,” he continues.

How to jump these hiring barriers

The CIO says that to bypass these hiring issues, CAA abides by the motto, “educate and train your employees so that they can leave, but treat them well enough so that they don’t.” He believes in building a company culture that feels like a family so that employees want to be at work. While it doesn’t mean they won’t go, “it reduces the number of people that actually leave.”

Lee-Yow also points out that CAA also began a successful new graduate program two years ago that hires students fresh out of university who may not have any work experience, and trains them in the CAA organization.

“A lot of university graduates don’t get a job right out of school because they don’t have any experience, so we decided that as long as they’re academically sound, we’ll recruit them, train them, and pay them. We have a year to evaluate them and if they do well, they’re moved to a full-time position, and if they don’t succeed, we release them, but at least they’re leaving with a year’s worth of experience,” he says.

Lee-Yow adds that in the two years the program has been running, all the graduates hired got full-time jobs within approximately four months, which helps reduce the stress of finding and hiring new employees outright.

Long hiring processes are the enemy

A lengthy hiring procedure is another barrier noted by IT leaders in the Robert Half study, with 23 per cent of the more than 400 Canadian CIOs surveyed saying their process takes longer than they would like. This is echoed by majority of potential candidates, who say waiting to hear if they got the job post-interview is the most frustrating part of the hiring process and would lose interest in the role if they didn’t hear back within two weeks.

“First impressions go both ways in the hiring process, and it’s important that companies establish a positive relationship with technology candidates early on,” Deborah Bottineau, senior regional manager of Robert Half Technology, says in an Aug. 22 press release. “The more drawn-out or complicated the hiring process, the likelier it is that job seekers will lose patience with the company, and interest in the position. Developing a decisive recruitment strategy that includes a well-rounded, competitive compensation package will keep talented candidates engaged, and prevent them from seeking opportunities elsewhere.”

CAA’s Lee-Yow says his organization’s hiring process follows the same path, and while some positions can be filled in just a couple weeks, others can take months.

“Our hiring process is long and while it does vary, it’s definitely not days and is usually not weeks either,” he notes. “What’s helped is I’ve started to put metrics in place with our human resources department so that we can look to see how we can measure ourselves and improve on how long it takes to hire for certain jobs. Some take months, while others are quick and filled with 14 days after we post the job. Now that we know that, we’ve been able to get a better handle on the challenge of hiring.”

How to hire efficiently

Robert Half offers several tips companies and executives can use to speed up their hiring process:

  • Be prepared – Before posting a job opening, make sure you know exactly what skills and experience you’re looking for, and research the latest trends on salaries, benefits, incentives, and other perks to see what you can offer.
  • Work with a recruiter – If you’re short on time and resources, look into a staffing firm that can give you insights and help with the hiring process.
  • Move quickly – Have key staff meet top candidates as soon as possible so you can make a quick, educated, and well-supported decision.
  • Communicate openly and often – Be transparent throughout the hiring process and describe the role, responsibilities, and compensation as clearly as you can. Giving a candidate updates on where they stand and the next steps in the process will also be much appreciated.
  • Make an offer – Be sure to have discussions with human resources to know your limitations in a salary negotiation situation, and make sure the compensation you’re offering is fair and competitive.


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