As we edge closer to 2024, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are finding the quest of tech talent recruiting more competitive than ever. Whether it’s network engineers ensuring seamless connectivity or cybersecurity experts safeguarding digital fortresses, corporate recruitment must use all the best practices and strategies to be successful in their job.
That’s why in this article, we dissect the complexities of attracting tech talent, explore strategies to attract these coveted professionals, and delve into the contrasting landscapes of in-house recruiting and outsourced staffing for MSPs.
Defining Tech Talent
MSP tech talent encompasses a wide array of skills and roles that enable Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to deliver their IT management and support services. The most common ones are:
- Network Engineers: These professionals are responsible for configuring, monitoring, and maintaining client networks. Their skill set includes expertise in routing, switching, and network optimization to ensure seamless connectivity and low latency;
- Cybersecurity Experts: They protect client systems and data from cyberattacks, vulnerabilities, and breaches. Their roles encompass threat analysis, penetration testing, and incident response;
- Cloud Specialists: These experts handle the migration to and management of cloud-based solutions. They ensure the smooth operation of cloud services, supporting clients in leveraging the benefits of cloud technology;
- Help Desk Support Personnel: These front-line employees provide immediate assistance to clients, addressing issues and resolving them promptly. They need strong problem-solving and communication skills to ensure clients’ needs are met effectively;
- Data Analysts and Business Intelligence Specialists: These roles involve analyzing and interpreting data to provide insights and support informed decision-making;
- System Administrators: These professionals are responsible for maintaining, configuring, and optimizing IT systems. They ensure that systems run smoothly and efficiently, preventing downtime and disruptions.
Suffice to say, the landscape of MSP tech roles is continuously evolving due to the dynamic nature of the IT industry. For instance, as cyber threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, the demand for cybersecurity experts within MSPs is rising more than ever. Likewise, with the increasing adoption of cloud services, there is a growing demand for aforementioned professionals with expertise in cloud migration, management, and optimization.
Challenges of Attracting Tech Talent for MSPs
The tech industry is renowned for its cutthroat competition, with not only other MSPs but also major tech giants, startups, and a host of other businesses all vying for the same pool of skilled professionals. MSPs must emphasize their unique value proposition and what sets them apart in the tech landscape, whether it’s the opportunity to work closely with a variety of clients or a more agile environment
Evolving Skill Requirements
MSPs need to keep up with changes and seek talent with the latest skill sets. This dynamic landscape presents a challenge, especially for smaller MSPs with limited resources for training and development. To overcome this challenge, MSPs can invest in ongoing training and upskilling programs for their existing teams and be open to hiring talent with a strong learning mindset who can adapt quickly to changing tech environments.
Many MSPs, particularly smaller ones, operate within tight budget constraints. This can make it difficult to offer competitive salaries and benefits that rival what larger organizations can provide. However, smaller MSPs can emphasize the unique, non-monetary advantages they offer, such as a more close-knit team environment, greater visibility for career growth, or the opportunity to work on a broader range of projects.
Attracting talent to regions with shortages of skilled professionals can be particularly challenging. While remote work and flexible arrangements have expanded opportunities, not all tech roles can be performed remotely. MSPs in areas with limited access to tech talent may need to consider creative recruitment strategies, such as offering relocation packages or establishing partnerships with local educational institutions to nurture homegrown talent.
Rising Demand for Cybersecurity Expertise
The hiring of cybersecurity professionals presents a unique challenge, as experts in this field are in high demand due to the growing threats in the digital landscape. To attract and retain such talent, MSPs must highlight their commitment to cybersecurity, invest in ongoing training and certification programs, and offer competitive compensation packages. They can also position themselves as organizations dedicated to securing client data and providing a platform for specialists to make a significant impact in the fight against cyber threats.
The tech industry grapples with a significant skills gap, where the number of job openings outpaces the available qualified candidates. This situation places MSPs in direct competition with a multitude of other businesses to secure this limited pool of talent. To address this challenge, MSPs can focus on creating a strong talent pipeline by partnering with educational institutions, offering internships and apprenticeships, and providing opportunities for entry-level positions.
When recruiting tech talent, remember that it must not only have the required technical skills but also align with the company culture and understand the unique challenges of MSP operations. Finding candidates who can thrive in the fast-paced, client-focused nature of the industry can be a demanding task, however. That’s why MSPs need to invest in their employer brand, emphasizing their unique culture and the exciting and dynamic nature of the work they provide. This attracts candidates who are not only qualified but also aligned with the MSP’s mission and values.
Professional Development Opportunities
Top tech talent often seeks organizations that offer opportunities for professional growth and development. While larger organizations can provide a wide array of career advancement prospects, smaller MSPs can highlight their unique potential for rapid career progression and hands-on experience. They should develop clear career paths, mentorship programs, and training opportunities to attract candidates who are eager to grow within a dynamic, client-focused environment.
Relevance of Work
Tech professionals are often drawn to projects and roles that are innovative and have a tangible impact. Hence, MSPs must showcase the relevance and significance of their work in the tech ecosystem. Whether it’s assisting clients in implementing cutting-edge technologies or securing critical data, MSPs should underscore how their work directly contributes to client success and the broader tech landscape.
How to Attract Top Tech Talent for Your MSP
Remote Work Opportunities
Unsurprisingly, even after the pandemic many tech professionals still prefer the flexibility of remote work. They value the option to work from home, which enables them to create a work environment that suits them best. Remote work can significantly improve work-life balance, reducing commute time and allowing for better time management. On top of that, It also opens the doors to talent from around the world, giving MSPs access to a broader and more diverse pool of professionals.
Good Work-Life Balance
Beyond remote work, offering flexible working hours and the ability to balance personal and professional life can enhance job satisfaction. To support that, you may also promote mental wellness through programs, such as stress management or mental health support – a company perk that is getting increasingly valued.
Competitive salaries that align with industry standards are expected. Beyond the base salary, benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and stock options can sweeten the deal. Additionally, performance-based bonuses and even profit-sharing arrangements can motivate the very top tech talent.
A culture that promotes teamwork and collaboration can be particularly attractive. Tech professionals often thrive in environments where they can learn from their peers. Add to that a culture of innovation, where creativity is encouraged – and you will also appeal to tech talent looking to work on cutting-edge projects and contribute their ideas.
Professional Growth and Coaching
MSPs that offer opportunities for skill development through training, certifications, and mentorship stand out. Tech talent values employers who invest in their growth, and not only with regards to training – clear paths for career progression are highly attractive, especially to younger tech professionals seeking to grow rapidly.
Offering challenging and innovative projects gives tech talent the chance to flex their problem-solving muscles, which is often a strong motivator. Not to mention, tech professionals are drawn to projects that have real-world impact and keep the company competitive in the market.
Modern Tools for Work
Tech professionals prefer working with modern and relevant technology stacks. MSPs that invest in the latest tools and technologies can attract talent looking to work with cutting-edge solutions.
A positive reputation in the tech industry gives tech professionals confidence that they are joining a reputable organization. Sharing testimonials and stories from current employees can provide firsthand accounts of the company culture and work environment.
Where to Find Tech Talent
Online Job Boards and Platforms
Beyond the well-known platforms, explore specialized job boards like Dice, AngelList (for startups), and GitHub Jobs (for tech roles in software development). These niche boards can help you find more tailored talent.
Also make sure to optimize your job listings by making them detailed and engaging. Use relevant keywords that tech professionals frequently search for. Include information about your company culture, values, and what sets you apart as an employer. Actively manage your job postings and engage with candidates by responding promptly to inquiries and providing clear application instructions.
Networking and Industry Events
Networking is not just about finding candidates; it’s about creating a professional community. Attend industry-specific events, conferences, and meetups, and be active in online forums and tech communities like GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Dev.to.
In addition to local events, consider virtual conferences and mee10tups. They allow you to connect with professionals from around the world. Join professional organizations and associations specific to your field – for instance, if you’re looking for data scientists, organizations like the Data Science Association can be quite useful.
Collaborating with Tech Schools and Programs
Collaborating with educational institutions, such as universities, technical colleges, and coding bootcamps, is another answer to the “where to find tech talent” question. Establish internship programs or co-op arrangements with these institutions to identify promising candidates. If possible, you may even consider providing mentorship or guest lectures to introduce students to your MSP.
Moreover, if your company size allows it, you might sponsor hackathons, coding competitions, or workshops. By doing this, you can also identify and nurture emerging tech talent – Google’s Summer of Code is an example of how a company can create its own program for talent acquisition.
Tech Talent Recruiting Process Best Practices
Our experience-based talent acquisition best practices 2023 edition looks like this:
Streamline the Interview Process
This is what you can do to make interviewing as seamless as possible:
- Efficient Scheduling: Employ interview scheduling tools like Calendly or Doodle to coordinate interviews. These tools allow candidates to select interview slots that match their availability, reducing scheduling back-and-forth.
- Quick Response Time: Respond promptly to candidate inquiries and interview requests. Delays in communication can create a negative impression and potentially lead candidates to explore other opportunities.
- Tailored Assessments: Customize technical assessments to match the specific skills required for the role. Use platforms like Codility, LeetCode, or HackerRank to access ready-made coding challenges, or develop your assessments to reflect real-world tasks.
- Problem-Solving Challenges: Include problem-solving exercises that mirror the types of challenges candidates will encounter in the position – this helps assess their practical abilities.
- Multiple Decision-Makers: Conduct panel interviews that involve multiple team members, including tech leads, team members, and HR – diverse perspectives can lead to more accurate assessments.
- Behavioral and Technical Focus: Combine both behavioral and technical questions in panel interviews. Technical questions evaluate hands-on skills, while behavioral questions assess soft skills and culture fit (on which we’ll expand below).
Assess Soft Skills
In tech roles, professionals often work in cross-functional teams or collaborate with clients, making effective communication a critical attribute. Highlight the need for adaptability and problem-solving – tech environments are dynamic, and professionals must respond effectively to changing requirements and unexpected challenges.
Create a set of structured behavioral questions that evaluate soft skills. For instance, inquire about a time when the candidate had to resolve a disagreement with a colleague or adapt to changes in a project scope. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure answers – it helps candidates provide clear and complete responses to behavioral questions.
Also make sure to present candidates with real-world scenarios they might face in the role and ask how they would handle these situations. This approach provides even deeper insight into their problem-solving skills, adaptability, and decision-making process.
Onboarding and Retention
Namely, your onboarding and retention efforts should include most or all of the following:
- Comprehensive Orientation: Develop a comprehensive orientation program that introduces new hires to your MSP’s culture, values, policies, and projects. Assign mentors or buddies to facilitate the onboarding process and provide guidance.
- Documentation and Resources: Provide new hires with documentation and resources to familiarize them with the organization. This may include an employee handbook, training materials, and an organizational chart.
- Professional Development: Offer access to continuous learning opportunities, such as online courses, workshops, and certifications. Support employees in expanding their skill sets and advancing their careers.
- Feedback and Recognition: Conduct regular feedback sessions with employees. Provide constructive feedback, set goals, and discuss their professional development. Implement recognition programs to celebrate employee achievements.
- Employee Engagement: Foster a positive work environment that encourages open communication and collaboration. Arrange team-building activities, social events, and workshops to build strong relationships among employees. Offer flexible work options, such as remote work or flexible hours, to enhance work-life balance and job satisfaction.
- Strong Retention Programs: Highlight innovative retention programs, such as Google’s “20% time.” This program allows employees to allocate a portion of their work hours to personal projects, promoting creativity and job satisfaction.
Staffing Agency Recruitment Process
For your MSP recruitment efforts, you may also consider specialized staffing agency services (the pros and cons of which we’ll break down shortly) – in which case, you may want know how they actually operate before signing up with them:
- Client (You) Needs Assessment: The staffing agency collaborates closely with the client to define the job role, responsibilities, qualifications, and any specific requirements.
- Sourcing and Candidate Identification: Staffing agencies use various methods to source candidates, including job boards, professional networks, their own candidate databases, and referrals. They may also employ proactive strategies such as cold calling, headhunting, and targeted marketing to identify potential candidates.
- Screening and Interviewing: Candidates are initially screened based on their resumes, cover letters, and online profiles. Those who meet the basic criteria are typically invited for an interview. During the interview, the staffing agency assesses the candidate’s qualifications, skills, experience, personality, and cultural fit.
- Skills Assessment and Testing: Depending on the nature of the job, staffing agencies may administer skills assessments and tests to evaluate a candidate’s technical skills, such as coding tests for IT positions or psychometric assessments for roles that require specific personality traits.
- Candidate Shortlisting: After the interview and assessment phase, the staffing agency compiles a shortlist of candidates who match the client’s requirements.
- Client Interview and Selection: The shortlisted candidates are scheduled for interviews with the client organization. The staffing agency may assist in coordinating these interviews, ensuring that candidates are well-prepared.
- Offer and Negotiation: If the client decides to hire a candidate, the staffing agency typically acts as an intermediary in the offer and negotiation process. T
- Reference and Background Checks: In many cases, staffing agencies conduct thorough reference and background checks to verify a candidate’s employment history, qualifications, and any criminal or legal issues.
- Onboarding and Placement: Once the candidate accepts the offer and passes all necessary checks, the staffing agency assists with the onboarding process. This includes facilitating paperwork, verifying documentation, and guiding the candidate through their first days on the job.
- Ongoing Relationship Management: A reputable staffing agency maintains an ongoing relationship with both the client and the placed candidate. They check in with the client to ensure satisfaction and gather feedback, while also supporting the candidate’s transition into their new role.
- Retention and Follow-Up: After placement, the staffing agency may follow up with both the client and the candidate to assess job satisfaction and identify any concerns or areas for improvement.
In-House Recruiting versus Outsourced Staffing for MSPs
In most cases, you can expect the following upsides and downsides to recruitment with your own efforts:
- Control: You have full control over the recruitment process, which means you can define the hiring criteria, conduct interviews, and make final decisions that align with your company’s culture and values.
- Company Knowledge: In-house recruiters possess in-depth knowledge of your company’s values, culture, and industry, leading to better talent matches. They can foster relationships with potential candidates, as well as current employees, enhancing the quality of hires.
- Long-Term Investment: Building an in-house recruiting team is a strategic, long-term investment that can lead to cost savings as your team becomes more proficient at identifying and onboarding the right talent.
- Confidentiality: In-house recruitment is better suited for maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive company information, vital for industries with strict data security requirements.
- Cost: Maintaining an in-house recruiting team can be expensive due to salaries, benefits, technology/tools costs, and ongoing training.
- Limited Expertise: In-house recruiters may have limitations in terms of industry knowledge and may not be as well-connected or specialized as staffing agencies.
- Resource Intensive: The recruiting process can be resource-intensive, taking your staff away from core business functions, which may impact productivity.
On the other hand, MSP staffing agencies like our Scaled team offers the following:
- Cost Efficiency: Outsourcing can be cost-effective as you only pay for the services you use, reducing overhead costs associated with an in-house team. It often provides a clear understanding of costs, making budgeting more predictable.
- Expertise: Staffing agencies like Scaled often specialize in specific industries and can provide access to a broader pool of qualified candidates with niche skills. They have the advantage of industry-specific expertise, including knowledge of current market trends.
- Scalability: Outsourcing provides flexibility and scalability, allowing you to quickly adapt to changing staffing needs, especially in situations with fluctuating project demands.
- Speed: Staffing agencies can be faster at finding and placing talent, which can be crucial in fast-paced industries where immediate talent acquisition is essential.
- Reduced Administrative Burden: Staffing agencies handle administrative tasks such as background checks, reference checks, and onboarding, saving your MSP time and resources.
- Loss of Control: With outsourced staffing, you have less control over the selection and hiring process, which could result in candidates who may not fully align with your company culture and values.
- Communication Challenges: There may be communication challenges between the outsourced agency and your MSP, which can lead to misunderstandings or misalignment regarding your specific needs and requirements.
- Potentially Higher Costs: While outsourcing can be cost-effective in terms of overhead, it can be more expensive on a per-hire basis, depending on the fee structure and markups used by the staffing agency.
- Risk of Mismatch: If the staffing agency doesn’t fully understand your industry or specific needs, there’s a risk of hiring candidates who may not be the best fit for your MSP, resulting in high turnover or performance issues.
How to attract top tech talent for your MSP? You can employ several strategies.
Remote work opportunities, a good work-life balance, competitive compensation packages are all compelling factors for tech professionals. Meanwhile, places where to find tech talent include leveraging online job boards, participating in networking and industry events, collaborating with educational institutions, and actively engaging with the tech community.
Additionally, utilizing MSP staffing agencies, like Scaled, can be beneficial – it allows for a faster and more specialized approach to finding the right candidates. And when choosing between in-house recruiting and outsourced staffing, consider that the latter offers cost efficiency, expertise, scalability, speed, and reduced administrative burden.