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May 19, 2016

What Managed Service Providers Are Looking for in New Hires

ImagineIT LogoWhat are managed service providers looking for in their entry-level IT hires? We recently interviewed Richard Anderson, owner and CEO of Imagine IT, about his experience with new hires.

Imagine IT offers IT support, managed services and cloud integration for small- to medium-sized businesses in the Twin Cities area. The company was founded in 1996 — a lifetime ago, in IT industry time — a longevity to which Anderson credits exceptional client service and a healthy corporate culture.

Anderson hired his first IT-Ready graduates in January. IT-Ready is a free education, training and career placement program offered by the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CompTIA. The program gives people the knowledge and skills needed for a successful career start in the IT industry, and then connects them to an entry-level job opportunity. IT-Ready focuses not only on teaching hard technical skills, but also on soft professional skills that employers desire in job candidates.

Q: Tell us about Imagine IT and the work you do, as well as what you look for in a job applicant.

A: We are a cutting-edge company that specializes in IT support, managed services and cloud integration for businesses that typically don’t employ in-house IT staff. We’ve been growing, and currently employ about 40 people. We expect job applicants to have a solid understanding of current hardware and software technologies.

Even more important, perhaps, are their softer professional skills. We seek employees who are articulate, problem solvers and well organized, can multi-task efficiently, work independently with minimal supervision, and meet assigned deadlines.

We know the work is fast paced and challenging, so we try to have fun along the way by encouraging an awesome company culture and working together as a team. Maverick, “super hero” types need not apply. We want team players who appreciate helping others and know when to ask for help.

Q. How often are you in the market for an entry-level employee?

A. That’s a tough question, because we never used to hire entry-level IT personnel, but in the past six months, we have hired five. I would imagine that we will hire two to four entry-level team members each year based on the success we've had with our recent hires.

Q. What kind of work does an entry-level IT staffer do at your company?

A. It depends upon the internal team they land on, but currently, they assume Tier 1 phone/triage/ticket work on our helpdesk or workstation/laptop staging in our hardware-software depot area.

Q. What specific skills — hard or soft, or both — do you look for when you’re recruiting for an entry-level IT employee? In terms of priority, what skills are most important to your company and why?

A. The most important are strong phone and interpersonal skills, as well as a passion to learn more about technology.

Hard skills are good because they need a baseline understanding, but most of what we need from them, we will teach to them. So they need to be fast learners, hard workers and technologically curious. Humility also is a good trait.

Q. How did you learn about the IT-Ready program? What were your initial thoughts about it?

A. Honestly, my initial thoughts and expectations were pretty low. From what we've seen, the results are pretty good. While none of the three IT-Ready graduates was more experienced than we thought they'd be, they were — culturally — better “fits” than we expected. Two of the three were VERY good fits. To us, having softer professional skills that mesh with our culture is more important than hard skills.

Q. What made you decide to work with IT-Ready when you had an entry-level position open? What was it about the program that appealed to you, as an employer?

A. It was something we had contemplated for a while, and our recent growth spurt offered us the financial opportunity to “take a risk.” As an employer, I appreciated the reasonable cost of hiring new graduates, the lack of a recruiting fee and the regimented program they completed that demonstrated they were willing to do the hard work necessary in the IT industry.

Q. How have the IT-Ready graduates performed for your company?

A. Of the three we hired, two will become permanent employees and one was released back into the free agent pool. The two IT-Ready graduates to whom we offered permanent employment are now highly valued and contributing team members.

Q. What information would you share with other employers about IT-Ready?

A. Give it a shot — with unemployment at an all-time low and “good workers” in short supply, IT-Ready program helps jumpstart the process of developing from within. It can strengthen your bench while giving you fairly quick payback and good results from hard-working team members eager to prove their worth.