CXO

How to avoid a bad hire: 4 red flags to watch for

Want to hire and retain better employees? Check for these warning signs with potential job candidates.

Hiring skilled and reliable tech workers can be a challenge. The tech industry has long been plagued with a tech talent gap, and now, more companies are implementing tech and undergoing digital transformation projects, increasing the number of empty positions while fewer candidates are able to fill them.

As the gap widens, some managers are scrambling to find the help they need. But are they hiring and retaining reliable employees?

The market for tech talent is as hot for hiring managers as job seekers, said Paul Wallenberg, the unit manager of technology and recruiting services at national recruiting firm LaSalle Network.

SEE: Hiring kit: IoT developer (Tech Pro Research)

"Hiring managers can't assume everyone wants to work for their company when the market for tech talent is so competitive," Wallenberg said.

For hiring managers to find the help they want, they might need to revise their recruiting strategy. According to Wallenberg, tech recruiters should approach the hiring process the same way that colleges approach recruiting athletes to their schools.

"You need to delicately imbue your vetting process with the mentality of selling your company and the role itself to the candidate, rather than the candidate having to sell themselves," Wallenberg said. "In this way, you'll create a consistent and compelling message that your other interviewers will reciprocate if you get them all on the same page. Job seekers have a lot of options, and hiring managers need to make it feel like it would be a privilege for the company to have them as an employee."

For retaining the best talent, Wallenberg recommended implementing a more focused and thorough process—specifically, a three-part interview including a phone interview, a coding assessment, and an on-site interview.

During that on-site interview, Wallenberg encouraged hiring managers to show candidates around the office and introduce them to other teams. Seeing how candidates interact with current employees can provide a sense of how they would be as an employee.

While it is easy to imagine a dream employee, hiring managers can't assume this candidate actually exists. Because of the current shortage of experienced technical workers, finding an employee who matches a long list of qualifications may be a potential problem area.

"Sometimes hiring managers have to make sacrifices to net the hire they need," said Stephen Zafarino, vice president of national recruiting for recruiting agency Mondo.. "You might want this perfect candidate, but they might not necessarily fit the mold. They might not fit the budget or the location for the role. Sometimes you'll need to loosen the requirements for what you need and be more flexible, like opening up the applicant pool to remote workers or offering a relocation package to a strong candidate currently located elsewhere."

SEE: Job description: Front-end developer (Tech Pro Research)

Hiring managers who have a clear idea of what they actually need an employee to do tend to have more success in finding the right kind of worker.

Here are four red flags to look out for when hiring your next developer.

1. No managerial references

If the candidate you're interviewing hasn't listed any managerial references on their resume, this could be a problem. A lack of references from a past boss could mean the candidate had a personnel or work product issue with a previous employer, Wallenberg said.

2. Short employment tenures

It is common for developers to stay with the same employer for about two to three years, Wallenberg said. If the candidate only worked at a job for three to six months or less, it could signal commitment issues, or problems completing difficult projects.

"Shorter-term engagements typically mean that the candidate's work product didn't meet expectations," Wallenberg said.

3. Resume gaps

When viewing a candidate's resume, Zafarino suggested noting any gaps in employment. If a candidate had been out of work for longer than six months, this could be a warning sign.

"The demand for tech talent is so high and supply of qualified talent is so low that you always need to ask why this individual was out of work for so long," Zafarino said.

While this red flag comes up often it's key to learn the reason behind it, Zafarino said. A candidate could have been doing well in a job, but was laid off due to budget cuts, for example. In a case like this, the candidate may have received a severance package for weeks or months, and chose to spend the time with family, or traveling. This situation would not be an example of a red flag, Zafarino said.

4. Admitting to leaving an employer during a project

If a candidate admits to leaving an employer during a project before a high-visibility initiative or deliverable is met, they could potentially have problems with high pressure situations or conflict, Wallenberg said.

However, there are some circumstances where this is out of the employee's control, such as budgetary constraints, he added.

"If they willingly left before a project was completed, it could mean that they give up easily or don't respond to conflict well," Wallenberg said. "At the very least, this type of career decision says something about the candidate's character and their perseverance, and it's a reflection of how they'd react when facing difficult circumstances."

Overall, when considering candidates for tech positions, Wallenberg emphasized the importance of showing the company's value to the candidates.

"When hiring, don't assume everyone wants to work for you. You have to sell your company, explain why you're a good manager to work for, and elucidate how the employee and their role will create value to the organization and their customers," he added.

Also see

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Image: iStock/MangoStar_Studio

About Laurel Deppen

Laurel Deppen is a student at Western Kentucky University.

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