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IT firms scour markets here and beyond to find smart skills

Rochester Business Journal
September 7, 2012

Local companies in need of workers with technical expertise find that sometimes Rochester has what they need and sometimes it does not.
 
In some cases the reason is that growth outpaces the hiring rate. In others, higher-level positions require specialized skills that are difficult to locate in this area. Employers are using new ways to recruit the best workers and ensure that technical talent is the best fit.
 
"We are constantly hiring. Our first look is at the Rochester market, but we do have resources out of town for specialty skills," says Stephen Kull, vice president of business development for Mindex Technologies Inc.
 
The Rochester-based company has been in operation for 18 years, offering services such as software development, Web design and information technology placement. Mindex currently has 200 full-time employees, and Kull says it has seen 10 percent to 20 percent growth in the last year.
 
He estimates 80 percent of the current openings he has are for positions in software engineering. The two types of skills he needs most are experience with Microsoft and Java.
 
"The higher technical skill sets are difficult to fill, and we often go outside the Rochester marketplace," Kull admits. "We have an internal recruiting team with three full-time recruiters. Two others fill in as needed."
 
More businesses are turning to external recruiting services to meet technical staffing needs. Recruiting firm Wellington Steele & Associates has seen an increase in the number of local companies seeking its help in recruiting technical talent.
 
"While the need for strong technical talent has always been in high demand, we have experienced a spike over the past year," says Edward Leva, president of Wellington Steele & Associates. "We recruit from Rochester and the upstate area as well as other progressive technology markets nationally."
 
Salary is not always the only tool in negotiations to draw candidates.
 
"Top candidates seek progressive work cultures and innovative product development," Leva says.
 
Experience gives workers the power to make better deals. Some recruited from outside the area are people who were originally from Rochester and left to gain experience in bigger cities.
 
"We are getting people who are coming back to Rochester," says Peter Bruu, chief operating officer of IV4, a consulting firm resulting from the merger 15 months ago of Integrity Networking Systems and Syracuse Visory Group. "We do a nice job marketing to older people, but I don't know if we do a good job of marketing to 18- to 25-year-olds. We want to keep that technical talent here."
 
IV4 has grown from 25 employees at the time of the merger to 38 employees today. The company currently has openings in five technical positions, varying from help desk technician to network architect.
 
"I need them to be business-ready on Day One," Bruu says. "Larger companies can absorb training of administrators or engineers so they can fall into a smaller company like mine later, but the absence of these larger companies here tends to have fewer of those people falling out of the trees into our companies."
 
The presence of universities like Rochester Institute of Technology is an advantage, but Bruu points out that many of his jobs call for experienced workers.
 
"My positions are not all entry-level. Many are senior engineer positions, network architects with seven to 10 years of experience," Bruu explains. "I can't go to RIT for that."
 
His firm offers competitive compensation packages with salaries of $40,000 to $80,000 to lure top talent. Bruu has typically kept the job search efforts in house but says this year he has had to use an outside recruiting agency in addition to combing online sites such as Monster.com, Craigslist and other job boards.
 
"We will be up to more than 40 people when I get these five positions filled, and I know we will be adding more," Bruu says. "It takes work to keep up with the hiring need, but it's a good position to be in."
 
Another local technical firm has hired 12 people since April and hopes to hire nine more by the end of September. Innovative Solutions Inc. has 65 employees. The IT consulting, Web design and Internet services company has been in operation since 1989.
 
"I spend half my day going through resumes and job sites," says Russell Cattat, director of recruitment and talent development. "I have 12 interviews scheduled this week and six for next week. And yes, most of them are from Rochester."
 
Innovative Solutions has doubled its manpower since 2008. The company has a platform of application, infrastructure, consulting and program services. Cattat has found that he must be thorough in screening applicants.
 
"Some people are good in developing a strong resume on paper. I try to do a good phone interview, because a resume doesn't tell the whole story," Cattat says.
 
If they pass that screen, candidates are called in to meet with people who would be in their work area. Then a second interview might follow, called a shadow day. For certain key positions, Cattat says, potential new hires are sent to meet with actual customers.
 
"We look for social skills as well as technical skills. We have a handful of customers we trust to give us their feedback on who we who should add to our team," Cattat says. "In turn they appreciate that we are looking to fit their needs by showing the potential value we are bringing to them. It has worked very well for us."
 
Cattat says his company has been successful in finding local talent.
 
"We take a sizable team to the RIT career fair and typically come back with 30 to 50 resumes," Cattat says. "Our co-op program has been beneficial as well. Ninety percent have come on board as full-time employees upon graduation."
 
Open positions at Innovative Solutions range from entry-level roles all the way up to developers, project managers with soft skills to handle relationships with customers.
 
Compensation packages include salaries from $30,000 to $90,000 with biannual incentives based on performance, Cattat says. Pay also increases with certifications that employees earn.
 
"We are always going to be looking for more workers," Cattat says. "My biggest concern is how we keep the people we have happy. We are also competing with the likes of the University of Rochester and Paychex. So it's always a challenge."

Lori Gable is a Rochester-area freelance writer.9/7/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.
 


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