The Flawed Hunt for IT Talent

IT leaders often rely on lengthy job descriptions to fill openings, overlooking latent talent.

Kong Yang

October 17, 2017

3 Min Read
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IT leaders are at the digital revolution crossroad where applications, business development, and IT operations converge. Continuous integration and service delivery are blending into endless shades of DevOps. Containers and microservices provide scalability and shorten the application development lifecycle, but IT organizations could bypass containers altogether and go directly to serverless computing.

As the digital landscape continues to transform and incorporate these new technologies, IT leaders are under pressure to evolve and empower their organizations to succeed or risk losing their budget, people, and jobs.

Buy or build talent

There are new roles and responsibilities to match the new technical paradigms. Businesses have to balance their technical debt and deficit and retire any part of their organization that cannot close the gap. Ultimately, IT leaders have to decide on the architecture that they’ll go with and identify whether to buy or build that corresponding talent. The buy or build question becomes THE obstacle to success.  

Talent is the key to unlocking an IT leader’s success at an organization. Yet, the decision to buy or build talent is limited in three ways:

  1. In the convoluted descriptions associated with these new job openings

  2. In the lack of foresight of IT leaders to properly identify talent that will grow well within their organizations

  3. In the inability of IT leaders to nurture that latent talent to its full potential

10 seconds or less to impress

Why do I say that this talent search is limited? Go to LinkedIn, Dice, or any other job website and you’ll see job descriptions with lists of tech skill requirements. . Descriptions include specific measures of experience and expertise in the necessary technologies. These technical skills and certifications are static by nature and have longevity that translates into job security.

Unfortunately, the amount of change in the industry is shortening the skills refresh cycle for IT professionals. At the same time, organizations are shrinking their training and certification budget because they are adopting the new technologies.



The onus falls squarely on IT leaders to mind the gap and fill organizational needs with talent to deliver their vision in the ever-changing landscape. Writing effective job descriptions should be high on organizations’ priority list, but they're usually copied and pasted from previous templates with keywords replaced. Well, garbage in nets garbage out.

Armed with these job descriptions, non-technical recruiters try to find qualified professionals to interview and fill openings. Potential candidates get only seconds’ worth of attention for these pivotal positions, and  a lot of talented professionals are overlooked. For example, the founder of WhatsApp couldn’t get a job at Facebook, but Facebook spent multi-billions to buy WhatsApp.

Soft skills

In searching for IT talent, IT leaders should balance technical skill requirements with soft skills. What are soft skills? My fellow SolarWinds Head Geek and Microsoft Data Platform MVP, Thomas LaRock, provides the best definition:  A soft skill is any skill that is not a hard skill like a tech certification, a college degree, a technology skill.

Soft skills are important in defining latent and developable IT talent. This notion is backed by seemingly every article written by a CIO/CTO about successful people in their organization. But like politics, soft skills are subjectively evaluated, meaning you are subject to the biases and flaws of the IT leader making the evaluation. Which soft skills are the most important ones?

The general consensus is that soft skills like teamwork/collaboration, adaptability -- especially when dealing with ambiguity -- and communications are important. Often-overlooked soft skills are empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ), which factor tremendously into teamwork, adaptability, and communications. Thus, empathy and healthy EQ that span the gamut of soft skills is essential to succeeding as an IT professional and leader.

So what defines an ideal IT professional? It usually boils down to “trust but verify,” which means that IT professionals must earn trust first and foremost, then continually prove they are competent in practice. A practice leader needs to be a personnel leader as well. The two are no longer mutually exclusive as collaboration, communications, adaptability, and teamwork factor so much into organizational success. Accordingly, a leader who can identify latent talent and develop it never lacks in talent because they’re always surrounded by it.

About the Author(s)

Kong Yang

Head Geek and Sr. Technical Product Marketing Manager, SolarWinds

Kong Yang is a Head Geek and senior technical product marketing manager at SolarWinds, an IT management vendor based in Austin, Texas. With over 20 years of IT experience, he is passionate about the entire IT ecosystem, but with a particular focus on virtualization and cloud management, as well as qualifying and quantifying results to support organizations' bottom lines. He is a VMware vExpert and Cisco Champion.

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