CXO

Foundations of Personnel Management: Interviewing and hiring

In part one of this four-part series, we'll explore the interviewing and the hiring process in IT management. Topics include interviewing for technical skills vs. interpersonal skills, avoiding legal pitfalls in the interviewing process, and asking interview questions that elicit meaningful answers.

There are two primary tasks involved in choosing someone to fill an open position in your organization. First, you must determine the candidate's technical skills, and second, you must determine how the person will fit into your organization and work with others to accomplish company goals.

Interviewing: Technical vs. interpersonal skills

The level of technical expertise a job candidate needs depends on the job role the person will fill at your company. An entry-level help desk technician, for example, may need more customer service skills than solid technical experience, while a network administrator may require more proven technical skills.

Entry-level candidates

When hiring at an entry level, you will be able to offer a lower salary, but there may be significant tradeoffs. An entry-level candidate should come to you with a solid educational background and possibly a certification, but will likely have little or no on-the-job experience doing the work you require. These new workers will have trouble solving problems because they don't possess problem identification and problem resolution skills. In addition to technology issues, entry-level candidates may also lack business acumen, leading you to ask yourself whether the candidate will be able to handle customer problems and complaints and instill customer confidence in your business.

Experienced candidates

Your second option is to focus on hiring an experienced candidate, who will likely have higher salary expectations. The adage "you get what you pay for" often applies here.

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An experienced hire will be productive much more quickly, if not immediately. Experienced candidated will have the problem identification and problem resolution experience under their belt, and business issues won't be foreign to them. If you hire the right person, you will need to do much less hand-holding; you should be able to assign a task and pretty much forget about it.

To find experienced talent, you have a number of options. One of the best methods for finding a reliable person is to start with your personal network. This upside is this option is free; the downside is that you might risk insulting a friend if you don't like the candidate. Another factor to consider is that you can't predict the timing of personal referrals. Other options for finding experienced talent include hiring an agency or recruiter, the newspaper, job board postings, and job board resume searches.

To determine what is best for you, use this recruiter ROI checklist to analyze your hiring needs.

Determining technical skills

The interview questions you ask to determine technical proficiency will vary depending on the position you need to fill. For a help desk technician, you may want to inventory his or her experience in specific areas, such as Internet technologies or e-mail. TechRepublic's Phone Interview Cheat Sheet download contains a weighted checklist of technology areas on which you can rate help desk or support candidates. If you're interviewing a network administrator candidate, you will ask questions specifically related to technical knowledge and problem resolution skills, such as, "A user complains that when she prints a document in any application, the printer output is garbage. What is the most likely cause of the problem?" For a complete list of specific technical questions and user scenarios, take a look at TechRepublic's Network Administrator Interview Questions download.

Determining interpersonal skills

While determining a candidate's technical skills is a major goal in an interview, finding out how the person will fit into your organization's culture is also tantamount. You need to know how this person will adapt to the environment and how well the candidate will work with others to accomplish changing goals in the organization. There are boatloads of books out there that advise people on how to answer the most typical interview questions and, therefore, many candidates are well rehearsed. So how do you break through the candidate's facade and find out what you really want to know?

You ask questions that are designed to find out more about the candidate's work ethic and fit within the organization. For examples of these types of questions, take a look at Interview questions that demand meaningful answers and "Questions I'd like to ask the next time I'm hiring."

For a comprehensive list of resources to help you make good hires, see page two.

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