IT Staff Augmentation—it’s about more than just the resume

By Richard Arneson

Whether you call it IT staff augmentation or IT project outsourcing (they’re actually different in the event you’d like to read about it), there’s no question that the IT industry has adopted both in force. In the IT industry alone, the number of contracted, external technical professionals has grown by approximately seventy-five percent (75%) in the past ten (10) years. And those percentages are only climbing.

In some professions (sales being the first that comes to mind), the soft skills listed below are usually given more consideration by firms. As it relates to IT, however, companies looking to augment their organizations are hyper-focused―as often are the staffing firms―on particular technical skill sets, specific certifications, and experience working on initiatives that perfectly align with theirs.

Most staffing firms are eager to tell their clients about the candidate they’ve found whose resume and LinkedIn profile perfectly aligns with their needs. But being focused on technical skills, certifications and experience often means they’ve ignored the soft skills, which can easily make or break a project.

The soft skills an IT staffing firm needs to consider

Before you select a staffing solutions firm, you need to ask them exactly what, outside of the job requirements and experience that’s required, they consider prior to recommending they interview a candidate. If they don’t mention that they screen for most of the following soft skills, you might end up bringing somebody into your organization who, while they might have the right resume, will end up being a disastrous hiring decision. And for each of the soft skills they mention, have them provide details about how they gauge candidates’ abilities to address them.

Work Ethic

Working and collaborating with a fellow employee who possesses a poor work ethic will drain the lifeforce out of any organization—and that’s if they’ve been there a while. Now bring in somebody from the outside with the same issue and you see and feel your staff’s animosity spread like a drought-fueled wildfire.

Problem Solving

Everybody needs some onboarding time, but if that honeymoon period lasts for an extended period, feelings of not getting your money’s worth won’t will soon follow. If you want to augment your staff for six (6) months or less, you may end up paying for several weeks that are not only unproductive, but will take the time spent training the contracted employee away from key projects or initiatives.

Time Management and Project Management

The best of intentions can be quickly and easily de-railed if a candidate doesn’t effectively manage their day and schedule. Consider these stats: Ten (10) minutes spent planning your day can save at least two (2) hours of wasted time each DAY (not week or month…each day). And only twenty percent (20%) of each day is spent on important or crucial tasks. The other eighty percent (80%) is spent toiling on issues that have little or no value. A candidate’s poor time management skills could mean you could get about twenty cents (20¢) worth of work for each dollar spent.

Communications

People in the IT industry like to crack wise about engineers’ and programmers’ conspicuous lack of personality. Remember, though, they’re being inserted into an existing organization that has its own personality (every department and company has one). But while the candidate needs to mesh with the personality of the IT department, their communications skills can’t be ignored, both verbal and written. Without those, meshing with the department in which they’ll be working will come much more slowly, if at all. And if they’ll be interacting with your customers, you may be sorry that the staffing firm didn’t make this soft skill a priority.

Listening Skills

Regardless of the industry or profession, poor listening skills can sour a relationship faster than anything—anything. Now put a new employee with poor listening skills into an established team or organization, and the results won’t be good. They’re often seen as know-it-alls or too opinionated—the kinds of things from which they may never recover.

Attitude

You don’t have to be a licensed psychologist to quickly sense the type of attitude a candidate possesses, be it positive, negative or apathetic. How they talk about past experiences and employment will give you a pretty good indication. Attitudes can be infectious; you don’t want a negative one infiltrating your organization.

Roll with the Punches

A candidate’s ability to adapt and be flexible is critical. What a candidate is brought in to address and accomplish is quite possibly going to change, at least to some extent. While this also incorporates the need for a positive attitude, you don’t want a new employee complaining that what they’re doing isn’t what they were brought in to do.

Examples, Examples, Examples

While a staffing solutions firm should be asking candidates for examples how they have satisfied soft skills, you need to ask the same of the firms you’re evaluating. After they’ve addressed the soft skills they look for in a candidate, ask them to provide examples of how they determine if a candidate possesses them.

Call on the Experts

If you have questions about what to look for in an IT staffing solutions firm, contact the staffing professionals at Staffing@gdt.com. Some of the largest, most notable companies in the world have turned to GDT so key initiatives can be matched with the right IT professionals to drive projects to completion. GDT maintains a vast database of IT professionals who maintain the highest levels of certifications and accreditations in the industry. And they understand the importance of finding professionals with the right soft skills. In addition, the IT professionals they place have access to the talented, tenured solutions architects, engineers and professionals at GDT.