Bridging the Skills Gap in Data Center, Cloud and IT Recruitment

— 27 November 2018

Bridging the Gap

The skills gap in the IT industry has become an increasingly pressing issue across the globe. The rapid development of innovations such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN), cloud enablement and the hybrid cloud is creating changes in the business landscape. Though these newer and more complicated technologies are driving success in the industry, the push for innovation is effectively widening the talent gap due to the fact that companies are challenged to  find workers with the appropriate experience.

Though the dynamic of hiring in technology industries is becoming more complicated, talent is still available if you know where to find it. Peter Hannaford, CEO and founder of Datacenter People, a worldwide recruitment firm for the data center industry, has unlocked the secrets to finding great talent in the age of the skills gap. When confronted with the Uptime Institute’s Annual Report statistic, which reveals 35 percent of respondents were experiencing difficulty finding qualified candidates, many industry players worried. Hannaford, however, remains confident in hiring due to a few key differences that set his firm’s approach apart from other methods, which often fall flat.

Hannaford emphasizes the importance of specializing the search for new hires. When looking for niche talents, niche searches are required. In truth, the best thing any business can do to locate proper personnel is to leverage professional resources that hire for a living. Datacenter People, over the course of their eight years in business, has developed a unique methodology and a highly researched database of specialized individuals to make finding appropriate employees easier. Unlike standard human resource teams that focus on people actively searching for jobs, Datacenter People creates a strategy that picks out what they call “passive high performance” individuals. In essence, proven professionals that are already employed and successful. From there, the open positions are advertised to this specific subset of people, frequently yielding better hiring success than the traditional method of searching among active job seekers. With this approach, Datacenter People provides a selection of marketable, highly skilled candidates to their client companies within a matter of weeks.

However, the most promising search strategies go beyond technical skills. Hannaford urges companies to emphasize ethics and company culture as some of the most important factors in the hiring process. He notes that resumes only describe what the candidate has done in the past, not what they are capable of, or if they’ll successfully coalesce into a given business environment. Looking past the resume helps identify people that will fit in well with the other employees, are enjoyable to work with and are more likely to go the extra mile to ensure the team accomplishes its goals. To find the perfect new team member, Hannaford suggests an employer identify and write out what their company’s culture looks and feels like to better identify candidates who will be a good fit. With those goals, position experience and other search criteria in mind, the task of hiring the right candidate will prove simpler in the long run. He stresses that the best test is to bring a candidate in for a day, allowing them to spend time with the company and its employees to truly see if they are a good fit with the current team members and the company culture. Though these approaches can take a bit more time and effort, the cost of having a new hire fall through is high, and these extra steps can make the difference between success and failure.

Beyond the hiring process, solving the skills gap also involves widening the candidate base from which companies are choosing. Encouraging diversity and inspiring young minds to seek data center jobs will, in time, ease the strain. Hannaford notes that encouraging interest in positions in the data center sector can be as simple as nomenclature. Working at a “data center” may sound uninspiring, but offering a position at a company integrally involved in, “internet infrastructure” or “cloud infrastructure” has better potential to pique interest among younger, more diverse job seekers.

Tweaking the language of the industry can be the secret to generating interest among a broader  candidate pool, but starting early and making this sphere of work accessible and available to young people will also be key. Initiatives at universities are just now starting to provide masters, and even bachelors programs in data center leadership. Once tactics like these are implemented on a wider scale, the industry can look forward to a data center future with a significantly reduced or even nonexistent skills gap, where qualified, skilled candidates are available to fill open positions.