Most CEOs and CFOs start thinking they need to hire their first IT staff when the company gets to 50 employees. Up until this time, they’ve contracted a small IT company (usually a 1-man outfit), who adequately handled their needs when their company had 5-20 users.
Over time as they grow larger and add more users, it seems the relationship with their contracted small IT company is failing because they don’t have enough time in the day to handle the increasing needs, nor have the diversity of skills needed to manage the growing infrastructure. This starts to impact the company’s bottom line, especially when companies get up to 40 or 50 employees. Hence why the discussion of hiring someone for IT arises.
Challenges Hiring a Company’s First In-house IT Person
- Going with Experience – Some companies want an IT professional that can manage themselves and drive the company forward with technology. These experienced employees are expensive, but can have a great ROI if they truly know their stuff and understand how the company makes and loses money. The challenge with experienced IT professionals is that many of them do not want to do “grunt” work like running cables, lifting heavy servers, and crawling under desks to connect computers; some feel they’re past those days and it’s a little “beneath” them.
Going with Cheap – Most companies dip their toe in the water by hiring a less experienced IT professional, usually someone with 0-3 years of “some kind” of IT experience (you’d be surprised how many people would consider selling PC’s at an appliance store as IT experience). One reason for this type of hire is that executives don’t know what to pay for a good IT professional, so they low-ball it and only get entry-level applicants. While this hire is usually willing to do the “grunt” work, they tend to be order takers that need a lot of management from the CEO and CFO. Also, inexperienced IT professionals often make costly mistakes with network infrastructure that causes production to stop. Finally, don’t forget they’re inexperienced, so they cannot provide the leadership that many executives want from their in-house IT guy.
- Knowing the Difference – The biggest challenge for a CEO or CFO in hiring an IT employee is not being able to tell the difference between an experienced and inexperienced person outside of years employed and salary demands. Unfortunately, they do not know which certifications are pertinent and which ones are résumé fluff. This means that while a guy may have worked in the IT field for 10 years, the work he has been doing may not translate well to the work you need him to do. Conversely, the guy who only has 2 years of IT work experience could have more core experience than you need; even more than the guy who’s been in the IT field for 10 years!
As I discussed in Part 1 of our Hiring IT series, companies need a complete mix of skill sets; however, they usually can’t afford (cost-justify) hiring an entry-level IT team member, a moderately experienced technician, and a manager/director level IT professional until they’re well over 150-200 users. Because of these challenges, I often suggest using a good IT firm before hiring anyone in IT.