Supply chain executives are confronted with special challenges when it comes to finding the top tech talent they need to help their companies gain and maintain a competitive advantage.
First, supply chain technology needs are wide-ranging, including software development, database development, web design, systems architecture and more. Even customer service personnel in the supply chain field must be savvy about a broad range of technology-related issues that customers are dealing with. Second, the global supply chain industry and the technology used are fast-moving and ever-changing, requiring people that are flexible and quick on their feet. Because every day is different in the supply chain technology environment, the people in charge of tech talent acquisition must be really good at finding the people who not only have the requisite technology skills and experience, but who are also nimble enough to perform successfully in this highly fluid field.
Step One: Create a Skills Inventory
A critical first step in finding top tech talent is to inventory the hard and soft skills needed in the position. Hard skills are the technology-related abilities and skills that a candidate must have. These are non-negotiable. The talent acquisition specialist must have a clear understanding of all the hardware and software tools the candidate is expected to use. Soft skills, on the other hand, may include good interpersonal communication skills if the candidate for a tech position also has customer-facing responsibilities, as well as the temperament needed to succeed in the company’s culture and work environment. Ultimately, the tech talent acquisition specialist must have an A to Z understanding of what the company needs in a successful candidate for the position. At this stage, it is also advisable to establish what the position is worth in terms of salary and benefits.
Step Two: Determine the Talent Search Strategy
Next, the talent acquisition team has to decide the best way to search for candidates for this tech position. The three most common options include recruitment advertising, social media and referrals. A fourth option is to engage a staffing firm (i.e., a temporary-to-permanent or temporary services agency) that specializes in this kind of tech talent search. Whether the talent search is conducted in house or is outsourced, a clear hiring process must be established that can be expedited if an ideal candidate who needs to be brought on sooner rather than later is identified. When a talent opportunity presents itself through the search process, the company must be ready to hire.
Step Three: Narrow the Field
An effective talent search is going to produce a ton of resumes. As a result, somebody who knows what to look for has to sift through the pile and narrow the field down to a handful of candidates that, on paper, have the skills and attributes to do the job successfully. Next, the talent winnowing process should continue with a 30-minute, 10-question phone screening interview to make sure each applicant in the group of semi-finalists is viable and available. Face-to-face interviews with the hiring manager should then be conducted with candidates who make it through the screening interview. These individuals should also be required to pass a technical quiz about the technology they are required to use. The top three candidates are then given a full-scale technical screening and an in-depth interview including heads of departments with whom they would interact on a regular basis. This entire process needn’t take more than a week.
Step Four: Vet the Top Three Candidates
Checking references and clearances of the top three candidates is a critically important step in the tech talent acquisition process. Everything on the candidate’s resume should be up to date, verifiable and fully vetted. If the person is being hired for a cleared position, the facilities security officer (FSO) needs to verify his or her clearance.
Step Five: Extend an Offer
After checking references and clearances, rank the top three candidates. Then offer the position verbally to the first-choice (A) candidate. Give the first-choice candidate 24 hours to make a decision. If he or she makes a verbal acceptance, send an offer letter immediately confirming the salary and benefits that were negotiated, as well as the start date, working hours, and whether the position is exempt or non-exempt from overtime. The offer letter should have a signature line for the candidate to sign. The signed offer letter should be sent back within 24 hours.
The Tech Talent Acquisition Secret Weapon
What if you could find a turnkey solution that ensures a successful outcome in all five stages of the tech talent acquisition process described above? That’s what an external information technology (IT) staffing firm is all about. It’s the tech hiring manager’s best friend—and secret weapon.
The sooner the decision to go with an external firm can be made after the position opens up and the firm decides to fill it, the better. The staffing firm should be contacted and an interview requested with an account manager experienced in supply chain technology staffing. A good account manager is a detail-oriented person who not only asks the right questions—lots of questions—to get all the information about the job requirements, but can also produce four to six candidates who were already pre-screened and pre-qualified, and are believed to be a strong fit for the position. A top-flight staffing firm is able to map candidates quickly to the specific requirements of any tech position. A key at this stage of the recruitment outsourcing process is to provide the staffing firm with complete and detailed information about the position, and the hard and soft skills needed for success. The more complete picture the staffing firm has, the quicker the search and the better the results.
Because external IT staffing firms are paid to find the A players, they make it their business to know who the top people are and how to find them. The best staffing companies have their own proprietary applicant tracking systems using specialized database software to harvest cream-of-the-crop talent from many different sources. Not only that, but premier firms offer a “try before you buy” guarantee, so that an applicant who doesn’t work out within 30 days is replaced.
What’s the bottom line on finding top tech talent in the supply chain industry? In terms of technology requirements and human capital skillsets, the supply chain field is uniquely challenging—in large part because the industry is global in nature and inherently fast-moving. For this reason, it’s important to follow a disciplined tech talent acquisition process to find the right people for the right technology with the right company. More often than not, a remarkable staffing company that has proven experience with this process can not only find better quality candidates, but also do it less expensively. In the supply chain industry, that’s what having “the right stuff” in tech talent acquisition is all about.
Marc Berman, president of Vector Technical Resources, assists government contractors, technology firms and commercial enterprises with staffing their most critical IT positions with quality professionals.