CIOs look to LinkedIn to recruit (and be recruited)

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CIOs are finding a reprieve from the global IT talent vacuum in LinkedIn. IT executives are using the professional social networking platform to land new gigs.


Facing an IT talent shortage, CIOs are haunting college campuses, hiring interns, and poaching peers from rivals to staff their digital transformations. However, some CIOs are finding that good IT talent is a just a LinkedIn search away, while others use it to seek new career opportunities.

“It is a great forum for us to post our jobs outside of our own site or job boards,” says Victor Fetter, CIO of LPL Financial. He says the company’s talent acquisition team regularly lists open positions on the site. He also fields one or two queries a week from technology workers interested in working for the company. Like other CIOs, he looks for people versed in coding, project management and developer operations, among other skillsets, to complete IT projects that support the business. This is no easy task.

Roughly 60 percent of 4,000 CIOs surveyed by Harvey Nash Group and KPMG last year said that the dearth in analytics, application development and change management experts will hamper their efforts to keep pace with digital change. Walgreens CIO Abhi Dhar told that his toughest challenge is finding IT people that are the right cultural fit for an IT department that emphasizes customers. LinkedIn is one more tool CIOs are using to help fill those gaps.

LinkedIn helps CIOs vet candidates, network

After Fetter identifies a potential candidate, he will research them on LinkedIn, verifying credentials, seeing who has endorsed them and reading up on anything they might have shared with their network. This gives him a glimpse into the person behind the profile. “It’s a good double check to say: ‘What is the broader community saying and thinking about this individual and how is this individual representing themselves and would you feel good about this individual representing your company?'”

To recruit effectively on LinkedIn, it’s imperative both to network with peers, including making introductions and asking to be recommended, and promote the company. Such visibility will “get across that message that: ‘We are doing some great things. You may want to come work here.'”

Professional networking is a common gateway for recruiting. When VMware CIO Bask Iyer considers a candidate he’ll rifle through his CIO contact list and scour LinkedIn to find folks who know and will vouch for the individual. “The world is so connected these days,” Iyer says. “You used to be able to hide, but two clicks into LinkedIn and you’re going to find somebody that knows [the candidate].”

David Chou, IT consultant and former CIO of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Networking on LinkedIn is one of the primary ways David Chou, an IT consultant who left his job as CIO of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in December, is lining up interviews for his next gig. “It’s a great platform for me to get my next role,” Chou says, adding that he’s been contacted via LinkedIn by several parties inquiring about his availability, or asking if he knows anyone that might want to work with them. Even if a role he is exploring isn’t the right fit, he’s established a new relationship and will be in a “Rolodex for something in the future.”

Chou, who in his prior role used LinkedIn to recruit a director of IT operations and a director of IT infrastructure, says users who are highly engaged with LinkedIn take personal pride in their brand. “Those employees are going to be the top 10 percent in the workforce,” Chou says.


How headhunters pluck CIOs from LinkedIn

Sometimes the CIOs themselves are recruited via LinkedIn. When Ken Sayward was managing applications at real estate firm Colliers International last year he received a LinkedIn direct message from Chad Young, the director of national recruiting at Marcus & Millichap. Young told Sayward his credentials on LinkedIn suggested that he was a good candidate to replace the real estate company’s retiring CIO.

Young says the executive leaders wanted someone with experience in real estate and a heavy application development background. “Coming from a competitor was crucial, as they really understand our business,” Young says. A quick search on LinkedIn turned up Sayward. Young says the firm “heavily relies” on the platform for corporate placement. But he says success depends on how detailed candidates’ content is on their profile, as well as how active and connected they are on the platform.

Sayward hadn’t been looking to move on from Colliers, but a chat with Marcus & Millichap senior executives intrigued him. “What really attracted me was the role that the executive team sees for IT in terms of strategically driving this business,” says Sayward, who joined the company in September.

Sayward’s path to the CIO office is rare in an era when IT leaders are being placed by the likes of Russell Reynolds Associates, Heidrick & Struggles, Korn Ferry and a litany of other executive search firms. And Fetter says LinkedIn won’t replace professional headhunters, who pull candidates out of established organizations, vouch for the cultural impact they’ll have on organizations, and help negotiate contracts. But, he says, leading organizations must also use LinkedIn to compete for talent.

“This is a digital world that we live in,” Fetter says. “LinkedIn has become a reference book for talent so you have to figure out how to engage in that medium.”