by Blake Cormier
Content Manager, E-N Computers
12+ years experience in enterprise IT and managed services.
Are you thinking about hiring a new IT professional? As your business has grown more reliant on technology, you may have experienced firsthand the problems that come from not having a skilled person to manage your computer systems. Or maybe you already have an IT person on staff, but they’ve announced that they’ve accepted a new position elsewhere and will be leaving soon.
Whether you’re hiring an IT person for the first time or looking to replace existing staff, there are a few things you will need to know about the IT world and the IT hiring process in general. In this article, we’ll explain in detail how you can find, qualify and hire qualified IT staff to support your business. We’ll also look at some alternatives to IT hiring that you can consider. And we’ll provide some sample IT job descriptions.
E-N Computers has been around since 1997. During the past 26 years, we’ve interviewed and hired hundreds of IT job candidates. Currently we have more than 20 skilled IT professionals, and we’re always looking to attract and hire new IT talent.
As we’ve mentored and nurtured talent here at E-N Computers, we’ve followed IT professionals as they’ve built their careers. We’ve learned how certain roles serve as stepping stones, while other roles lead to high turnover and dissatisfaction.
In addition, all of us have been on the other side of an IT job search – combing through job listings, sending resumes, and attending interviews. So, we have a sense of when a company is serious about finding the perfect fit, and when they’re just looking to fill a seat.
Even though tech companies experienced massive layoffs in 2023, tech jobs are still in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the need for cybersecurity analysts will far outpace average growth. Talented system administrators and engineers are also not easy to find.
And today, every company is a “tech company” to a degree because organizations ranging from design firms to horse farms need at least some technology.
So, how can a small business still hire skilled technical support considering the competition and the need for specific expertise?
1.Ask yourself why you want an IT person
2. Inventory your IT systems
3. Consider whether you primarily need someone to fill an information role or a technology role
4. Review salary expectations for your region
5. Ask questions that assess soft skills and technical knowledge
6. Consider alternatives to traditional hiring.
Table of Contents
- Determine the skills and qualifications you need in your IT professional
- IT job roles and titles
- IT staff salary and benefits
- How can you assess the technical skills of an IT professional
- Troubleshooting problems with hiring IT professionals
- Alternatives and additions to IT hiring
- IT hiring: Next steps
Before you fire up Indeed and launch your IT job posting, there are a few things that you and your leadership team should consider. By having a clear picture of why you want to hire an IT person and the role you want them to perform, you’ll be in a better position to attract and screen the right candidates.
The first thing you should determine is why you are hiring an IT professional. (Hint: “Because we need an IT person” isn’t a good reason!) First, determine the business problem(s) that you’re trying to solve, and clearly state it. Here are some examples:
- We need our computer problems fixed quickly.
- We need to upgrade or better manage our ERP system or line-of-business software.
- We need to stay compliant with an industry or government regulation (PCI, HIPAA, DFARS, etc.)
Next, determine what is already being done to solve that problem and why that’s not working for you anymore. This includes the internal or external resources that you’re using.
- Ollie the Office Manager usually helps with computer problems, but she isn’t a trained IT person and is quickly out of her depth.
- Cindy the CFO ended up managing the ERP system, but after an upgrade went wrong last month we were down for days while the vendor tried to fix it.
- Local IT Shop, Inc. helps us with big computer issues, but they weren’t very much help when we got a ransomware infection.
For many companies, any of these problems can push them toward wanting to hire an IT person to take on the load. When you have a clear idea of the business problem you’d like to solve, it will help you to clarify the duties and responsibilities that an IT hire needs to cover.
The next step in determining your IT hiring requirements is to take an inventory of everything in your IT systems that supports your business. This includes:
- Servers and workstations – how many of each do you have? What brand are they? Do they need to be replaced or upgraded soon?
- Network infrastructure – how big is your network? What brand of routers and switches do you use?
- Software infrastructure – do you use Active Directory? Exchange? Microsoft 365?
- Other business-critical software – Do you have an ERP system (Oracle, SAP, etc.?) Accounting software (QuickBooks, Peachtree, etc.)? Custom or legacy software?
- Vendors – Do you use an IT company or managed service provider? Who is your internet service provider?
- Phones – What is your phone system? VoIP or PBX? Is it supported by a vendor?
This list is just a guideline – every business will have different systems and software that need to be supported. But once you know what’s in your environment, you can get an idea of what you’ll expect your IT person to support – and how much you’ll need to pay them to do it.
After you’ve determined what technologies need to be supported, you’ll be able to determine who is in the best position to do this. In turn, this will help you to determine what kind of IT help you need to hire.
For example, your main focus may be on upgrading and maintaining your IT infrastructure. If another staff member or an IT service provider can handle the front-line user support requests, then you can focus on hiring an infrastructure specialist. Or if your primary goal is to make better use of your ERP system, you can look for a data specialist who can produce reports and information that will guide your business.
When you’ve determined what your IT hire will be responsible for, you can define the IT job role that you need to search for.
A note of caution: When first exploring IT hiring, many companies search for a “jack of all trades” IT person who can do everything. Technology has become extremely complex in recent years. Rather than doing a little bit of everything, many IT people focus their careers on one specialty – user support, infrastructure, cloud, security, or another field. While this is great for firms who can afford to build out an entire IT team, smaller companies struggle to find and retain solo IT people without additional support.
When you have a clear idea of the business problem you’d like to solve, it will help you to clarify the duties and responsibilities that an IT hire needs to cover.
In a large company with a fully staffed IT department, there are more than a dozen job roles that fall under IT. In a smaller company, these roles are typically combined into just one or two positions, which can fall under a variety of titles. Here are some of the most common IT job roles found in small- and medium-sized businesses.
The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is a C-level position that’s responsible for the strategic use of technology within the organization. The IT Director supervises the day-to-day operations of the IT department and implements the decisions made by the CTO and other leadership.
In smaller companies, the IT director may be responsible both for overall strategy and day-to-day IT operations. In any case, a successful CTO or IT director is empowered to make strategic decisions about the use of technology in the organization. This includes taking a long-term view of IT purchasing, IT staffing, vendor management, and key changes in the broader IT world that will affect the business.
In smaller organizations, the IT director role may also be called an “IT Coordinator”, “IT Manager”, or “IT Supervisor”. Or technical leadership may be combined with another, such as CFO or finance director.
While the terms CIO and CTO are often used interchangeably, they represent distinct job roles and strategic focus within an organization. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is responsible for the strategic use of data within the organization to support its business processes and goals. The Information Manager supervises the day-to-day operations of business analysts, programmers, and others who support the use of data within the company.
The CIO or information manager is responsible for making the best use of data coming from ERP systems, line-of-business applications, CRMs, and other applications. Rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts of running those systems, they are focused on building reports and supplying information to both leadership and rank-and-file employees to help the company improve its business processes – and ultimately its bottom line.
In our experience, many companies who are looking to hire IT help would be best served by hiring an information manager or CIO. Within the IT world, there are only so many technical decisions to be made – HP vs. Dell, Windows vs. Linux, Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace, Oracle vs. SAP – and so a vendor or MSP can easily fill the role of CTO or IT Director. But when it comes to using those systems to improve business processes, you’ll want an in-house expert who can interpret and adapt data and systems to suit the particulars of your own business.
The actual work of maintaining and supporting your IT systems is done by knowledge workers with a variety of titles. In many small organizations, these titles can be applied to similar job roles, while in larger organizations the descriptions and roles become more specific as teams are able to specialize.
IT work can be broken down into two broad categories: infrastructure and user support. Infrastructure refers to servers, networking equipment, storage, and other systems that make up IT systems. User support involves directly supporting users as well as maintaining desktops, laptops and mobile devices.
Infrastructure support workers typically have titles like “Systems Engineer”, “Systems Administrator”, “Network Engineer” or “Network Administrator”. A user support person may have a title like “Client Support Specialist” or “Help Desk Technician”. And a company that blends these two roles may use a job title like “IT Specialist” or “Computer Support Technician”.
Information specialists focus on implementing the decisions made by leadership about the data needs of the business. Again, the specifics of job titles can vary depending on the organization and the specific duties. Common job titles include “Data Analyst” or “Business Analyst” for those who are tasked with creating reports and workflows about business processes and goals.
Also falling under information workers are programmers and developers who create and maintain line-of-business apps or customizations of ERP systems and databases. In addition to “developer” or “programmer” titles, information specialists are sometimes designated “Database Administrator”, “Systems Analyst”, or “Database Analyst”.
Writing a job description that helps you hire qualified IT personnel can be tough when starting from scratch. You can copy existing job descriptions available online but sometimes they are badly written. Just because it’s on Indeed doesn’t make it a great job description – it could have been written by another business that was just as unsure about the role as you might feel right now.
We’re providing three sample job descriptions to get you started. The roles are business analyst, technology coordinator and computer support technician. This gives you a mix of an information role, a technology role and a user support role. Although the job titles may vary within these three roles, these samples will give you a good start.
Hiring good IT personnel isn’t easy. Here are three sample job descriptions for some of the most common IT support professional roles: business analyst, technology coordinator and computer support technician.
Don’t have time for the job descriptions right now? Enter your email address (totally optional!) and we’ll send you a link so you can download them later or share them with your team.
IT salaries can vary greatly depending on location, experience, and specializations. Even within Virginia, there is a huge range between IT salaries in Northern VA vs. the rest of the state. Salaries for IT professionals can range from $35,000 at the entry level all the way into the six figures for executives, senior positions, and highly specialized career tracks.
To get an idea of the IT salaries in your area, you can use job boards like Indeed and Glassdoor to do some research. It’s a good idea to look at the job descriptions, rather than just the titles. As we discussed above, the same job role could be called by many names, so look at several listings in your area to get a ballpark.
In 2023, we’ve found the following is a good salary range to consider for hiring IT support personnel in Virginia:
- IT Director: $75,000-$80,000
- Infrastructure Specialist: $50,000-$55,000
- Support Technician: $50,000-$55,000
For a more in-depth discussion of the costs involved in IT hiring, see our article How Much Does IT Support Cost. We include a full breakdown of the costs involved in building and training an IT department.
The internet can provide you many lists of “tech interview questions” but most are aimed at software developers, not IT support technicians and system administrators. But there’s another problem with relying on a long list of technical questions. Businesses need to be looking for IT personnel with people skills and great technical skills. These two strengths are often hard to find together.
In our experience, technical skills can be taught and learned more easily than people skills. So, we recommend starting with the people skills.
You can borrow our interview questions, which are listed here: The 29 best interview questions to ask an IT job candidate. This includes a short list of technical questions and some great “people skill” questions that we find work well.
As you have no doubt realized, the IT hiring process can be complex. Finding the right candidate to fill the right role in your IT strategy can be a challenge, as can retaining existing staff and helping them to grow in their role and career.
Below are a few challenges that many companies have experienced with IT staffing, along with some potential solutions to try.
You’ve put your job ad out and received crickets in response. If this happens, take a look at your ad and the role you’re hiring for. Does the job title match the job description and duties? If you’re advertising a salary range, does it compare favorably with similar roles? Do the requirements for experience and skills match the job title and salary?
It may be that the job description lists too many requirements that are unique to your organization. A quality hire will be able to come up to speed on your systems, so don’t list too many overly specific requirements if at all possible.
Or the job description may include duties that are not related to IT. This will be a red flag for many potential hires. To attract top talent, limit the job duties to just those pertaining to IT, rather than mixing in finance or clerical roles.
If several candidates have progressed through the interview stage, but end up declining your offer, a few problems could be at play. The first is that the salary is too low for the position. Again, this could indicate that the requirements you’ve listed in your ad don’t match the job title or the actual job duties, and your applicants are disappointed to find that out during the interview.
Another potential problem is that the candidates don’t see a clear path to growing in the role. IT folks are usually career-driven, and they usually expect to see the prospect of a promotion or other career advancement in their future. Discovering that a role is a “dead end job” during the interview will motivate a candidate to keep searching.
If you’ve found yourself interviewing plenty of applicants, but none have seemed to fit the bill for what you’re looking for, it’s again time to review your job listing and salary range. It could be that you’re hiring for a senior position but offering a junior salary.
While no hard and fast rules separate a junior role from a senior one, there are a few job duties that will cause candidates to expect a senior title – and a corresponding pay bump. This includes managing other technical employees, or working with nontechnical managers or executives on IT strategy, policy, or adoption.
In those cases, you’ll need to either reduce the job requirements to match the salary or increase the salary to meet the requirements of the role.
Here are two ways to add IT personnel without going through the traditional process of putting out a hiring ad, interviewing candidates and selecting someone for the job. Both of these options can either complement or replace the IT hiring process for your company.
A recruiter, or headhunter, is a way to outsource the IT hiring process to someone more familiar with the industry and the requirements of IT job candidates. A recruiter’s job is to match the right candidate with the right position. They may draw from their own database of job listings or approach those who may not actively be looking for a job change but may be interested in the position. They may even help you to define the job description to attract the right candidates.
However, recruiters are not cheap. Typically, the employer pays the recruiter once a candidate has been selected and hired. This usually works out to the equivalent of one month’s salary for the position.
Here are some recruiters that specialize in the IT industry:
A managed services provider (MSP) can provide your business with many of the resources of a larger IT department for a flat monthly fee. An MSP can be used in addition to or instead of internal technical or information staff.
When you partner with an IT service provider, it allows you to better focus your internal resources on the IT issues that are specific to your business. The MSP will focus on helping you keep your systems running, while your internal team focuses on using those systems in the best way possible for your business.
If you’re trying to decide between hiring a new IT person or using an outsourced IT service like a managed service, the following article may help you evaluate the cost of each option and potential return on investment:
In our experience, many businesses who want to build an IT team are best served by hiring a CIO, information manager, or business analyst who can manage the data flowing in and out of their ERP system, accounting software, and other line-of-business applications. Then, they can take advantage of an MSP to handle the technical aspects of maintaining those systems and applications. You can read more about this approach in our article Should I Hire an IT Support Manager or a Business Analyst?
Would you like to know more about what it takes to get quality IT support for your business? If so, please check out the resources below. They will help you to understand what you need to do to get world-class IT support even on a budget.
First, check out our on-demand webinar “How Much Does IT Support Cost”. In it, E-N Computers CEO Ian MacRae explains some of the pitfalls that businesses run into when trying to hire good IT help. You can also read the companion article for an in-depth look at the costs of hiring IT staff vs. choosing an IT vendor.
If you’d like to find out if our managed IT services are right for your business, contact us today using the contact form or live chat. We will help you to find the IT solution that’s right for your business.