There is far more that IT can do for many companies than simply operating networks. Lots of companies are now using database applications to improve all sorts of processes. It is very possible to create bespoke database applications which meet precisely your business needs, rather than buying packages off the shelf which then need you to adjust your business to fit the software. For example, a publishing company might want a bespoke advertising sales database and a human resources database, which store information and provides the reports. This requires database programming skills which are quite different from network skills, although some people have both. Recruiting IT staff can be pretty daunting if, like most of us, you don't know much about it yourself. Chris Mohan is IT director at public relations firm Firefly Communications: “IT has traditionally had something of a backroom role. The problem is that people can be scared of things they don't understand and IT is a strange dichotomy.” Agencies A good recruitment agency should be able to guide you a little, though I think it is always wise to have some knowledge before talking to an agency – given their fee structure, they do have an incentive to get you to pay more than you need to. Setting candidates that you interview some simple and relevant tests can work well. At Crimson, we have certainly found that some of the candidates who interview well haven't performed well on our tests. Clearly, if you are not very knowledgeable about IT yourself, creating the test might be difficult. However, you could ask someone you know who is more IT literate to create your own test.

As you might expect, one of the most successful ways to find IT candidates for a job is via web recruitment firms. Monster.co.uk, NewMonday.com or Jobserve.com are just some of the companies around. Instead of a recruitment agency's 17.5% to 25% typical fee, some web recruitment sites charge just a few hundred pounds to post ads. Some of the better known sites for IT jobs, though, only take ads from agencies, so you may end up paying the larger fee anyway.