How do you Recruit a Service Delivery Manager?

A customer asks for help in recruiting a Service Delivery Manager. Essentially what they seem to be looking for is someone to act as a catalyst for IT service management in their company – someone to get the process started, drive improvements, mould the team.

So how do you go about recruiting successfully? Our customer wonders what you’d write, how you define the job, how do you advertise?

Firstly, some credit must go to our customer for stopping and thinking about this – it’s pretty easy to run straight to the first recruitment agency you come across. Here are some things I’d do in a similar situation.

1. Ask around. In my time as a manager recruiting, some of the decisions I’ve made have worked out well, and others not so well – an experience I share with other managers. My conclusion is that some incompetent people are good at interviews, whilst some very able people are quite poor.

To relate a true story, someone I forged a good working relationship with (I’ll call him Peter), and whom I came to look upon as extremely able, was rejected by me at interview. Peter seemed overly nervous and out of ideas. A week or so later, my boss said with a shrug ‘I’m surprised you didn’t want Peter. Why was that? I worked with him at …. and he’s pretty good, I wouldn’t have given you tuppence for the rest of them. Your decision though’.

I brought Peter back for a second interview, eventually offered him a job, and never regretted the decision, as he brought a detailed and methodical approach to the role (teaching me a lot into the bargain as well).

To come back to the point, a personal recommendation counts for a lot – provided that you know and respect the person giving the recommendation.

2. In terms of describing the job, our customer suggests basing it on ITIL, as in ‘help us create a better service desk using ITIL best practices’.

I’d take a different approach. Our customer is looking for someone to act as a ‘catalyst in IT service management, to drive through improvements, and to bring practical experience which the Service Desk currently lacks’.

Why not ask for that? It sounds like a perfectly good description to me. If the people you interview mention ITIL without being prompted then great! If they don’t you still might find someone with the experience and drive that you need.

My advice is adopt an outward-looking description. Focus on what you want to deliver to the business – for example, understanding of costs, predictability of service, greater availability, reduced downtime costs – and ask for someone to help you achieve that.

3. Research your salary offering carefully. This is where your selection of recruitment firm is key – they should be able to help you in this regard. I’d avoid placing something like this with lots of agencies – pick a single, reliable firm.

4. Try to define the scope of the role. Will the person have responsibilities for just the Service Desk? What about the specialist Incident Management Teams? Who will the new manager report to? What will their peer group be?

Generally speaking, my take is that ideally your Service Delivery Manager will report to the board directly. Whatever you decide, I’d want it lead out clearly so potential candidates can read it, and be prepared for some people to request changes before they accept the post.

5. People lie on their CVs. Hard to believe I know, but it does happen – quite a lot in my experience.

There are a number of approaches you can take – checking references carefully is an obvious one. Most importantly though, read the CV carefully and discuss the things on it. For example, if someone says ‘reorganised the service delivery teams’ ask why, what problems was the candidate trying to solve, did it work as well as expected? Look for signs that the candidate is comfortable and able to discuss this with you. If they say that they ‘prepared management reports’, ask who the reports were for, try to find out how they guided decision making. There are also some more general questions you can use in this post.

6. Consider using a contractor to help you.

There are a few pitfalls with this approach, which I’ll describe in a moment. The basic idea is you hire a contractor with a proven track record in IT service management, give them a two month contract, and then ask them to help you with the recruitment. The advantage is you get some added expertise when you need it.

The disadvantage is that it can be tough to recruit a decent contractor, although references are usually easier to check and a decent contractor will often be working for the same companies over and over again. Another disadvantage is that your contractor may try to fill the vacant role, but this can usually be avoided with a decent brief.

In our customer’s case, they have a ‘sister’ company which would be a good resource to use for this exercise.

(Many thanks to AndyW for his input to this post)