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Tech & Work

10 ways to vet possible IT employees

Hiring new IT employees is both art and science. Here are some ideas for vetting candidates.

One of the most challenging tasks for the IT department is finding quality staff members. You may think you've got an upstanding citizen who would be a great fit, but something could easily be lurking in the background...some deal breaker that might not show up for months. When that happens, you find yourself back at square one, again searching for the ideal candidate.

What if the standard interview process isn't enough to weed out those that won't fit? That process has worked for decades for countless businesses. I firmly believe, that practice is used up and new tools are necessary to help vet possible IT staff. I have come up with ten ways to help you make the most out of the process. Not every idea will work for everyone looking to hire a new employee; but anyone who is about to go through this process should at least give this list a glance to see what you might be missing.

1. Prepare a test

Testing is a method to get a quick base-line of a candidate's knowledge. With this route you can hone the testing to perfectly fit your needs and/or the job specifications. But don't just limit the test questions to servers and desktops. Since the candidate might have to deal with other humans, toss in a few questions to gauge the candidate's ability to successfully navigate the waters of human interaction.

2. Start with remote support

Remote support is a great way to judge if a candidate has the skills for the job. Agree to a trial period where that candidate will do nothing but remote support so you can keep said candidate within reach. Having the candidate remain in the office you will be able to quickly gage if the candidate has the chops for the gig. If so, finalize the hiring process and start sending the new employee out to calls. If not, thank them for their time and send them packing.

3. Create a problem

Sandbox repair is a great way to throw a candidate into the mix and see what kind of skills they have. This sandbox should at least contain a server, a desktop (or two), and a printer. Break something on that isolated network and see how quickly the candidate can resolve the issue. Depending upon the level of technician you are looking to hire, the problem on the sandbox could be simple or very challenging. Just don't make this a Kobayashi Maru.

4. Do the background check

Background checks are a sure-fire way to get immediate red flags about a potential employee. These are fairly standard procedure, but one that is often overlooked by managers and owners. Those background checks will help to give you an insight into various types of behavior from that employee's past and present. Do not, however, be fooled into thinking this is the one-stop-shop of vetting techniques. This should be considered a first- round process which would lead into the next pieces of the vetting process.

5. Involve others

Vet by committee is an outstanding means of getting your department's input on the prospective candidate. The one thing so many companies forget is that new employees will have to work well with the current staff. That new employee could be an absolutely brilliant engineer; but if they can't get along with your existing department, that genius will be wasted. This process also makes your staff see that you do, in fact, value their input – so it's a win-win that you wouldn't have going through the standard vetting process. The only caveat to this process is to make sure your staff understands you do have the final say.

6. Set up a short-term apprenticeship

This is really a temp-to-hire take on the process. Should a prospective employee pass the first stages of the process, bring them in for a trial period to make sure they are a solid fit for the day to day business of the department. This trial period could offer a small stipend to compensate for driving, parking, lunches, etc. It's not the usual fare, but it's an outstanding way to see how someone fits without you losing your shirt.

7. Shadow another employee

Shadow senior engineer is another inexpensive way for a candidate to be vetted. After the initial interview, have the applicant come in for period of time that will allow for them to work along side a senior engineer. This will not only give your senior staff the chance to get up close and personal with the person, it will also give the candidate a chance to get into the nuts and bolts of the day to day work flow. Once they've gone through this process, if they return for the next phase, you know they are definitely interested.

8. Check the social networks

Social networking is a bit of a tricky route to take, but it's one that can help you to get a much more complete picture of a prospect. What you do not want to do is require the applicant give you their Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest information. Instead, just casually look them up and see what you find. This is the double-edged sword of social networking in general – everything is always out there.

9. Put together an informal gathering

Department gathering is a unique way to see how well candidates interact with your staff. This should be done away from the office, in a social setting. Allow the staff to get to know the candidate – even covertly grill them on their skills and knowledge. This could lead to a lot of bonding as well as your staff finding out pieces of crucial information that will help lead you to the right solution. "Hey boss, she's a Linux guru!" You never know what your staff can find out.

10. Let a pro do it

Third-party vetting is where you turn when you either don't have the resources or time to do a full vetting of a possible employee. There are plenty of on-line vetting services (such as HireRight), but I highly recommend you use a local company. Yes, you will pay for this service, but should an employee not work out, you have somewhere to turn. This should be your last-ditch effort – not your go-to process.

The hiring of new employees shouldn't be a daunting process. At the same time, it shouldn't be something you brush over lightly. You want not only to get the best employee for your needs, but also fit that incoming staff member with the best job. With a thorough vetting you can avoid a lot of the traps others fall into. Just understand this – even with the most complete vetting process, things fall through the cracks. You can run an applicant through every wringer you have and still wind up with a dud.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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