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How companies can sweeten the deal to attract new IT hires

You can’t afford the salary techies demand? Here are other ways businesses can attract top-quality IT staff—and what job candidates can ask for when "pay me more" is not an option.

After the last round of job interviews, the IT hiring manager is impressed. The job applicant is excited. Now it’s time to negotiate.

That’s a business challenge for anyone, but especially so when the IT talent pool is small and hiring budgets are tight. When it comes to compensation, job candidates with in-demand IT chops have high, sometimes unrealistic, expectations.

Or perhaps the expectations aren’t all that unrealistic. Seasoned or even semi-experienced IT professionals touting expertise in critical areas such as security and big data analytics are commanding salaries well into the six-figure range, according to the Robert Half 2018 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals.

At the same time, an IDG/Hewlett Packard Enterprise survey on the IT workforce and hiring found that more than half of the respondents (58 percent) say they frequently or constantly encounter candidates with salary expectations that are out of reach—and those seeking security expertise are finding it an even tougher challenge.

Sometimes doling out more money isn’t an option on the table, whether it’s through a salary bump or year-end bonus. What can an IT hiring manager do to draw in top-tier talent? Or if you’re the applicant, what can you ask for?

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Sure, money talks. In the IDG/HPE survey, 32 percent of the 100 senior IT managers polled said when a potential candidate turns down the first offer, an increase in compensation is the first order of business.

However, CIOs and IT hiring managers can leverage plenty of other tools in the hiring toolkit to sweeten the deal and attract best-in-class talent. That includes other benefits and job flexibility in lieu of a big pay check. For example, the survey found that potential IT job candidates might be tempted to give serious consideration to an offer in exchange for greater schedule flexibility or child care (13 percent) or for the opportunity to telecommute (12 percent).

Sweeting the pot

There are other ways companies are luring best-in-class IT candidates to their organizations. Competitive benefits and the cultivation of a gender-diverse workforce are appealing to most potential workers and areas where companies have made great strides, according to the survey. On the flip side, today’s job candidates see modern workspaces, flexible schedules, and an age-diverse culture as important attributes for potential employers.

The IT hiring manager’s takeaway: If your team budget can’t afford to pay top dollar, offer telecommuting or other items on techies’ bucket lists. For the techies: If you want the job, and you think they want you too, ask for those things. During the negotiation, ask for an additional week of vacation, for instance; it doesn’t come out of the manager’s budget, yet it has real value to you.

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Still, many organizations responding to the IDG survey acknowledged that there is more work to be done to develop such perks. For example, 28 percent cited a need to improve soft skills training. In addition, 25 percent highlighted a shortfall in building competitive compensation packages and investing in workspaces that appeal to prospective employees.

While there is certainly room to fine-tune benefits and develop programs to entice new talent, IT managers feel their companies are making progress, outside of padding budgets to offer higher compensation. The IDG survey found that smaller enterprises have become very good at offering more opportunities for advancement (43 percent ranked their companies as very good or excellent), while larger enterprises tout their success cultivating a more culturally diverse workforce (44 percent ranked this objective as excellent or very good).

An open checkbook is certainly a plus when trying to recruit top-tier IT talent in a tight hiring market. But money is only part of what motivates today’s professionals. The right mix of competitive compensation with modern perks such as flexible schedules and an emphasis on career development and training can be just as effective in landing those elusive IT hires.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.