The 8 biggest challenges in recruiting IT leaders. Knowing what to ask is essential.

published: 18.05.2023

Recruiting a manager from the IT industry poses a challenge. The effectiveness of a company depends on selecting an appropriate candidate, as a mistake can cost the company their monthly salary, project failures, and even the loss of part of their current team. I have conducted dozens of successful recruitments for director-level positions and high-level IT managers. I provide insights on what mistakes to avoid in such recruitments.

The IT industry is growing at a rapid pace and gaining increasing importance in building a company’s competitiveness. With the development of technology, the demand for professionals is increasing. However, it is not only about those who can efficiently perform assigned tasks, but also about specialists in team management, projects, and processes. The shortage of IT professionals, their expectations regarding compensation, employment arrangements, and remote work make recruiting IT specialists challenging. Finding a well-matched director or manager for the company is even more difficult. What challenges should one be prepared for?

First challenge: There is no such thing as an ideal manager template.

When we begin recruitment for a managerial position, we assume that our candidate should possess specific qualities. However, the notion that there is a universal manager template in the IT industry is a fundamental mistake.

We can precisely define the tasks that a manager should perform and the competencies our organization currently needs by analyzing the entire company’s strategy and the IT domain. By assessing the competencies already present in our team of managers and identifying the ones we lack, we can determine the type of candidate we are seeking. A ready-made list of traits or a timeless set defining the ideal manager simply does not exist.

Second challenge: Hundreds of responses to job applications.

Another challenge to be faced when recruiting for managerial positions is the number of responses to job postings. A company looking to find a specialist in managing other employees must be prepared to review literally hundreds of resumes. Simply going through such a large number of documents can be time-consuming, making it easy to overlook suitable candidates.

Why are there so many applications? Typically, managers at all levels respond to job postings, even if the job description clearly specifies the responsibilities. Specialists who view becoming a manager as the next step in their career also apply. Managers from other industries who want to enter the IT field also submit their applications.

Third challenge: An announcement that may discourage a good candidate.

The very beginning of a managerial recruitment process can present several problems. Companies that choose to conduct the process themselves often opt for a highly restrictive job advertisement, where requirements are significantly narrowed down. While this approach may immediately exclude unsuitable candidates, it can also eliminate individuals with potential.

So what should be done? It is better to accept that there will be a significant number of responses to the job posting. Time-consuming recruitment is the norm in such cases.

Fourth challenge: Lack of experience in candidate filtering.

One of the most critical stages of the recruitment process for IT managerial positions is the interview with the immediate supervisor, often the CEO of the company. This conversation typically lasts 1.5 to 2 hours and revolves around the company’s strategy in the IT field, desired soft skills, and expectations for the candidate. Recruitment for such positions requires a substantial background and precise preparation.

Often, specialists from internal HR departments lack experience in recruiting individuals for managerial positions. Such recruitments are sometimes conducted only once a year or every few years. Success hinges on excellent knowledge of this market segment. Continuous changes in the IT industry are easier to discern for someone who deals with managerial recruitment on a daily basis. The task is further complicated by the fact that managerial recruitments, especially for higher-level positions, are often confidential. CEOs may not always want (or be able) to inform internal HR about such recruitments or provide detailed expectations for the desired candidate.

Fifth challenge: Asking the right questions.

Conversations with candidates should not start with what we have to offer but with understanding the candidates’ career stage and expectations. It is essential to know their past accomplishments and why they are seeking new challenges. Only towards the end of the conversation do we verify whether the candidate and the company have aligned needs and plans.

To establish these common denominators, conducting a behavioral interview is necessary. It is worth inquiring about the candidate’s responsibilities, specific tasks and decisions made, and their impact on projects or companies. The candidate should discuss their own role, not just the team’s role.

The answers should be specific and provide a detailed description of what the candidate finds developmental, what they aspire to achieve, why they currently feel unfulfilled professionally, and what needs to happen for them to experience satisfaction. The ability to ask the right questions enables IT manager candidates to be very open, often revealing things they haven’t shared even with their families. This openness allows for a long-term fit with a specific company and its tasks.

During recruitment for managerial positions, the shortlist of candidates ultimately considered usually consists of 10-20 names. It remains quite extensive. Five candidates are invited for interviews, three progress to the second stage, and, ultimately, the selection is most often made from two individuals.

Sixth challenge: Assessing technical skills.

A detrimental practice in recruiting for IT managerial positions is the inclusion of technical tests. An experienced candidate has already gone through the stage of working as a specialist. The tasks they are required to perform during such tests have not been part of their job for years. While they may have been proficient in a specific technology in the past, they have since focused on developing new competencies.

A manager does not need to know how to do a specific task themselves but rather how to demand that the task be accomplished. They do not need to be a technical expert in a specific area. Therefore, testing a candidate as if they were a junior is pointless. It may discourage the manager from joining the company or diminish our perception of an excellent candidate.

Seventh challenge: Planning the recruitment process effectively.

There may be additional issues related to recruiting a manager. One example is poorly designed recruitment processes. Processes that are overly long and complex, lacking feedback, can discourage good candidates. Negotiating financial terms that differ from what was initially presented to the candidate can also be off-putting.

Eighth challenge – the most important: Making the wrong choice.

The worst thing that can happen during the recruitment of an IT manager is… hiring the wrong person. This is a real loss for the company, as the onboarding process, ineffective work, and notice period can take up to a year. Therefore, the cost of a poor recruitment is equivalent to the candidate’s annual salary. Additionally, there are costs associated with the mistakes they make. This also impacts the productivity and even the stability of the team they are leading.

As evident, recruiting an IT manager is not an easy task. Knowledge of the market, preparation, and precise management of the process are crucial.





author: Marta Prudel-Hankus, Head of Perm at Awareson

published: 18.05.2023

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