Chrissie Chadney, human resources director of Willmott Dixon, explains how she used the web to recruit IT trainees.
Vast changes are sweeping through the industry in the area of IT, and they need to be taken on board in any recruitment plans.

Supply-chain management and materials control, advanced planning and time management, work tracking and call centre control, the effective management of local and wide area networks – all involve the use of complex and sophisticated IT and communications technology. With the growth in IT generally and the networking of offices and sites across the country, my company did not want to become overly reliant on external support.

What did you do about it?

For the first time, we decided to take on IT graduate management trainees. These IT specialists would support each of our business units. They would receive training through our IT department in core skills including Windows 2000, desktops, servers, networking architecture, server architecture and security.

Construction isn't an obvious sector for IT graduates. How did you recruit?

We used the web. We'd been thinking about on-line recruitment for some time and we were certain that tapping into the Internet culture of young, dynamic IT graduates was the right approach.

How did you go about advertising?

We chose GTI Publishing to handle the campaign. We had worked together before on conventional recruitment campaigns in the Construction Careers Journal, and we'd also been involved with its Construction Careers Fair. So we knew about its web site doctorjob at It has a page for IT careers that has a good hit rate. It costs £300 a month to advertise there.

How did you find the right candidates?

We were certain that tapping into the Internet culture of dynamic IT graduates was the right approach

We received 80 e-mailed responses. IT graduates were attracted particularly by the description of a structured management training programme during which, for two years, we would support them to complete their MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) qualification. We stipulated that candidates needed a 2.1 degree in a computing area, but no knowledge of construction was necessary. The interviews were speedily arranged, again by e-mail.

Each applicant completed a personality profile and two assessments, one using material they would be covering on their MCSE programme, another requiring them to respond to a case study. The case study asked them to draw on their awareness of management and tested their communication skills, as well as the technical ability they would need to integrate IT into the business.

Did you set any unusual tasks?

Applicants were asked how they might deal with computer-phobic site managers. The good candidates said they would sit them down and explain how the system could help them without mentioning gigabytes or other jargon. We also asked how they would cope as the only "experts" in their discipline in a regional business unit.

Were there any lessons to be learned?

The campaign was extremely successful. Using electronic communication made it very quick and efficient. After four sets of interviews and tests, we have recruited 11 excellent IT trainees.

What did you learn from the exercise?

We realised as we met the applicants that, although IT competence is clearly the key requirement, success would also lie with their attitude and personality. They will be taking a different route from our more traditional graduates that will put them in the spotlight from day one, working with senior managers in our business units.