Skilled desktop support staff are in high demand, and they don’t stay on the job market long. To land your top candidate, you need to streamline your hiring process.

But moving quickly doesn’t mean acting hastily. Here are some ways to minimize the time it takes to evaluate candidates and make good new hires.

Advertise right

If your job posting is too generic, you’ll lose time wading through resumes from people who are the wrong fit. But if the ad has too many required items, you’ll discourage otherwise skilled candidates from applying. To get that Goldilocks pool of applicants, you need the just-right job posting, which comes from a strong job description.

Carefully separate the expertise your ideal candidate must have and attributes that are just nice to have. For example, don’t hesitate to stipulate a degree, but include in the posting that you’re willing to accept as a substitute relevant work experience for the right person. And don’t forget the soft skills necessary in desktop support positions, especially superb customer service and clear and friendly communication.

If you have a one-off project that you need help with, consider working with a staffing agency specializing in placing IT candidates to fill positions on a contract basis.

An example would be finding someone to help with transitioning your organization from Windows 7 to Windows 8. And if the contractor turns out to be a good fit within your company, you can safely extend him a full-time offer for another position without having to worry about making a bad hire since you’ve had time to evaluate his performance on the job.

Have a detailed plan

A mistake that some organizations make is not having a hiring strategy. Before you post a job ad, you should know how you plan to move applicants through the hiring process. Here are some items to consider:

  • Number of interviews: Will there be a phone screening? If so, who will conduct them? How many in-person rounds will there be? A panel interview with several team members is usually more efficient than a series of one-on-ones.
  • Interview questions: Will each member of the interview committee be responsible for coming up with his or her own questions, or will you decide as a team?
  • Skills test, such as preparing a broken PC and asking applicants to diagnose or fix it.
  • Reference checks/due diligence: How many references will you ask for and check? Who will be responsible for this task, the human resources manager or the new hire’s supervisor? Will this position require a background check or drug test?
  • Hiring decision: How will the top candidate be decided on?
  • Job offer: Who will have the authority for extending the job offer and, if necessary, negotiating salary?

Use our Salary Guide to determine what you should pay a desktop support analyst in your area.

Know where to look

Depending on your needs, and considering how challenging it is to find talent right now, it may be more efficient to train internal candidates for higher tier help desk jobs than to look for external candidates. By tapping and developing in-house staff, you already know that they fit in your corporate culture.

Promoting from within is also a great way to retain star employees. If promising staff express interest in more responsibilities and leadership roles, don’t risk losing those motivated workers to another company.

Promoting from within or redeploying full-time staff may partially address rising demands, but this step alone isn’t likely to be the answer to all your company’s desktop support needs. At some point, you’ll need to replace people who leave your organization. And you’ll also need access to fresh ideas and perspectives to help your company grow by bringing in new staff.

Advertising on a few key job sites works fine if you want entry-level or general desktop support staff. But when you need someone highly experienced or with niche skills, you could be waiting a long time for the right people to apply.

Let’s say you need someone who understands Mac support in a Windows Active Directory environment — a less common skill. To find such a person, be more proactive. Start by checking Server Fault, for example, where you can gauge who is reputable in supporting Macs. Then search their posts for the skills you want.

Because desktop support is a hot IT field, you can’t drag out the hiring process for these professionals. To land the talent you need to grow your company, have a solid recruiting plan and be ready to offer a competitive salary.

This post has been updated to reflect more current information.