When it
comes hiring the right person, you have to look at skill set and personality,
though not necessarily in that order. Knowing the skills your ideal candidate
should possess is the first step to hiring success. Here’s my recipe for
finding the right person.

Define what you want. Your first step in the hiring
process is to create a list of skills that your idea candidate would posses,
along with a rating for each skill. This list will come in handy when you get
to the technical portion of the interview process.

Review resumes carefully. When you know what you want, you
know what to look for in a resume. Many IT placement firms will take liberties
will the resume of their applicants to make them more appealing to the hiring
company. Be sure to place a premium value on education and experience.

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Be wary of the over-certified. If someone is a Microsoft
Certified Systems Engineer, Systems Developer, and Database Administrator, then
you either have found a diamond in the rough and you should hire them
immediately, or you have found someone that has no problem with studying test
answers. Unless this person has considerable real-world experience, you can
rest assured that they are the latter.

You get what you pay for. There will always be isolated
cases when you can find a very talented person who will accept a position, and
associated pay scale, for which he or she is overqualified. Don’t rely on
finding this person. For example, suppose you’re staffing up for the migration
of an enterprise application from a legacy application to an entirely new
platform. Expecting to hire a high-level developer at the pay scale of a
mid-level developer will just waste your time, and the time of your applicants.

Personality Counts

The team
chemistry of your IT group ultimately determines how successful you will be. A
team that has fun together and communicates well with each other will be more
successful than a team that does not. It’s your job as a manager to hire not
only individuals that are technically proficient but also people who have
personalities that fit in with the rest of the group. When you interview these
individuals, you want to walk away with a sense that that applicant has a
desire to contribute to your team, not just some person seeking employment. These
people are not always going to be the candidates with the most experience or
the best technical skills. Always put a premium on those candidates who you
feel will work the hardest, not only for the team, but to improve themselves. These
are the people you want on your team.

Personality red flags

Be wary of
candidates that you feel may impede on your team chemistry. In the past I have
interviewed overbearing, overly-confident developers. These are the individuals
who want to come into an organization and take over how things are handled, and
are always difficult to deal with. If you hire people bent on change from the
moment they step through the door, more often than not you ultimately will
sever the organization’s relationship with them, and only after considerable
time and money has been wasted.

Put them to the test

When it
comes to finding the right candidate for an IT position, take the interview
process very seriously. I suggest breaking the
interview process up into two different phases. The first phase should consist
solely of the technical interview. Create a series of hands-on technical tests
and administer them to the applicant.

example, suppose you are looking for a developer who is proficient in C# and
TSQL. In this case, you may want to consider designing a test that integrates
the two technologies. Give candidates a strict time limit in which the tests
need to be completed.

results of these tests will give you valuable insight into the technical
background and knowledge of the candidates. For your technology test, measure
the applicant against the list of metrics I mentioned earlier. Human Resources
will like this approach because it ensures that you compare your applicant’s
skills on a level ground. In addition to providing you with information
regarding technical skills, a technology test for your applicants will give you
insight into their ability to follow directions, and their ability to perform
under pressure. Use the tests to whittle down the list of potential employees.

example, you won’t want to have a face-to-face session with an applicant you want
to hire as a C# developer if they don’t know the language; a technology test
can shed light on the qualified candidates for you.

Once you
have a list of candidates that did well on the technical exam, it’s time to
have face-to-face sessions with them. I always find it to be advantageous to have
applicants speak about their experience listed on their resume, because I want
to make sure the topics listed haven’t been fabricated. If the candidate
doesn’t have real-world experience, have him or her talk about projects
completed in class.

During the
interview, I like to place the applicant in a variety of business situations to
see how they’ll react. For example, here is a question I typically ask an
aspiring database developer:

actions would you take if the report you created regarding financial estimates
was viewed by the business owner as being inaccurate? How can you remedy the

With a
scenario like this, there are literally dozens of ways to handle the situation.
What you are looking for as the hiring manager is to see how the applicant
plans to handle stressful situations.

The value of references

As the
hiring manager, you want to be completely confident in the choice you make when
you hire a new employee. If you still have questions about the applicant after
the technical and traditional interview, consult references. References can
give you a wealth of information regarding your applicants.

Of course,
you must also be careful when consulting the references because you may come across
a former employer that has a grudge against the applicant. All reference
conversations must be taken with a grain of salt. Also, some companies have
strict reference policies that require no information other than date of
employment is given.

a technology test in your hiring process has numerous benefits. Testing lets
you gauge the applicant’s technical skills, personal skills, and business
expertise. If after testing and interviewing you are still unsure about your
candidate, consult references for more information. When
evaluating candidates, put technical expertise first, and personality a close