IT Recruitment: the challenge of skills assessment

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This week, Thomas Chardin gives us the floor on his excellent blog Fonction RH et Externalisation RH. The post below was published on the 4th of March, and we're presenting it here.

The evolution of jobs in the sector of new technologies calls for mastery in a number of skills ever more specialized and of a higher level. The problem encountered today by most of the IT companies is finding these qualified skills. According to the APEC Barometer / Syntec of the 2nd semester of 2011, 83% of employers of this sector declare having had difficulties to recruit IT professionals adapted to the openings proposed. In an IT employment market which seems to be slow and tensed for 2012, how to identify adequate profiles – ones which bear potential and which would generate real competitive advantages? How to better structure the teams around key skills while preferring quality over quantity?

How to improve the assessment stage without delaying recruitment?

Optimizing the management of skills starts with the implementation of renewed recruitment strategies. In fact, compensating the lack of skills isn't the same as filling in a shortage of staff. A recruitment vision which is too restrictive exposes companies to the danger of “quantifying,” while quality would allow to have a leverage effect on productivity and innovation.

In doing so, how does one fill a vacant opening as fast as possible, respecting the time constraints, all the while choosing the candidate who's best qualified for the tasks given to him? By increasing the recruitment filters (reference checks, telephone checks...) and by adopting finer evaluative methods (tests and other methods of assessment), doesn't one increase the risk of restricting the pool of available candidates and thus delay recruitment?

In the IT sector, mismanagement of technical skill has, on the long term, underestimated implications in the growth potential of a company, especially if the demands of skills are not connected to those of the working force. A company can rapidly find itself limited in its development if it doesn't possess the necessary expertise to establish a growth scenario like, for example, the specialized expertise or strategic ability to create performing architectures. On the other hand, if rapidly finding a “promising” candidate (at first sight) in a tight market is commendable, hiring a candidate who is ill-equipped to face the challenges on his job has equally disastrous consequences as leaving the opening empty for a number of weeks. Lastly, opting for the person who's most qualified would be to no avail if one hasn't determined the job's goals: recruiting an “oversized” profile exposes an increased risk of withdrawal, increasing turnover.

Innovation and new technologies should allow the outsourcing of assessment

Estimating precisely the skill level is certainly an extra stage in a recruitment process. But this has the advantage of overcoming the inherent uncertainty in any job, providing an objective validation of the performance.

The problem is that the majority of IT companies today are under-equipped to detect in a reliable way the profiles of candidates with a lot of potential. The measure of practical know-how is the aspect of professional expertise which overcomes the classic “CV + interview” recruitment. In IT, the key-skills aren't necessarily achieved behind the desks of big schools, making it difficult to refer to schooling, even for young candidates. In this sense, a professional career punctuated with prestigious companies is not the insurance of high-level skills. And since a programmer isn't tied-down to strict application of theoretical knowledge, evaluation solutions of type QCM are themselves little adapted to value the potential and talent of a candidate. It's therefore necessary to use other methods to estimate the practical know-how of a computer engineer.

Innovation can be the answer to tomorrow's big challenges in IT recruitment. New tools are making their appearance on the market to challenge the assessment of skills in programming, just like CodinGame. Flexible and versatile, these solutions as proposed in SaaS (Software as a Service) mode are well-adapted to the outsourcing of assessment, still under-computerized. They open new perspectives for remotely-controlled recruitment.

But the major advantage of this type of solution remains in the implementation of technical tests by simulation. Making a candidate program online to measure his abilities to build efficient solutions on the mastered technical knowledge is a real breakthrough. This allows to optimize the process, avoiding the multiple stages linked with pre-selection while ensuring an objective and quality evaluation. It's the opportunity, especially for the HR responsible, to get rid of any prejudice linked with the initial formation of professional career. Lastly, it's betting on the skills for the management of ambitious and efficient talents on the long term.

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