Measuring the Calibre of IT Job Candidates

According to the global Manpower Talent Shortage Survey, IT roles are amongst the most difficult to fill. There’s a global shortage of people with the right skills to be effective in an ever evolving industry.

Finding potential candidates is tricky enough, but evaluating whether or not they’re really right for a new job is even harder. In our last article, we looked at the things that you should consider before you start the recruitment process. In this article we’re taking a look at the things you should focus upon during the hiring process. These considerations should help you to quickly and effectively measure the calibre of any potential new hire and make sure that they’re right for your role.

Team chemistry

Team chemistry should always be a large consideration for any new IT hire. This is simply due to the fact that many IT employees work a lot of hours, which means they spend a lot of time with their co-workers. IT departments certainly run more smoothly if employees get along well!

Bring existing team members into the recruiting process and allow them to ask questions of the candidates. That way you’ll be able to get a view on potential chemistry right away, straight from your team.

Don’t be afraid to pass up extremely well-qualified candidates because they have weaker social skills or if they just don’t seem to mesh well with the team. Technical knowledge is important, but so is getting along with — and not upsetting — the team.

Think outside of technical skills

All IT roles require technical mastery and specific ‘hard’ skills are an absolute must for any role. But don’t fall into the trap of only thinking about technical skills when recruiting. Technical knowledge is only of value when accompanied by affinity and empathy with the users at the business.

Carefully examine candidate’s softer skills. The essential habits of new IT hires is a subject all on its own but it’s necessary to mention a few key habits and attributes (aside from technical skill) here however:

  • Desire to learn new skills
  • Curiosity about the business
  • Confidence to deal with service providers
  • Prepared to take on the jobs no one else wants
  • Mature and sociable
  • Desire for progression (at some point…)

If you want to read further on this subject, CIO.co.uk published an excellent article on the 12 essential habits of new IT hires.

Creative compensation

Let’s say you were to find the ideal candidate but their salary expectations are beyond your budget. Is your only option to simply pass this opportunity up? Don’t worry, all is not lost.

Have a frank conversation with the candidate, tell them your maximum salary band but explain that you can make the overall package work for them with other perks. For this to be attractive to the potential employee, the perks need to be built around their needs and desires – hence the honest conversation. We are living in a changing business landscape where remote and flexible working options are becoming more desirable. Could this be just the advantage you can offer over other employers?

You would be astonished by the perks that can win people over; I know someone who took a job with a lower salary because the company offered them Friday afternoons off. The perk worked for the individual because it meant that they could spend more time with their young family; something they valued above salary.

Interview schedule flexibility

The very best candidates may be in roles that prevent them for taking interviews in working hours.

If you want the best, be prepared to take interviews early in the morning, at night or even at weekends.

Practical tests

When hiring additions to the IT team, they’ll need to be competent in specific technologies right?

Well, why not get them to complete practise “exams” to determine if they are as competent as they say they are.

You could create these practical tests yourself and make them specific to the job role. Or you could utilise a resource such as Trancender (online IT certification resource) to put your prime candidates through. This approach is ideal if your time is limited, or if the role you are recruiting is specifically for a new technology you’re not 100% confident in.

Other benefits of practical exams include:

  • To pass an exam you must study, or at least brush up knowledge. This helps highlight candidates that really want the job.
  • It offers you a data driven indication of additional training requirements once hired. This helps the new employee be effective as quickly as possible
  • Trust; if someone claims to be Microsoft exchange proficient, but scores 15% in the practical exam, you know they have lied about their skills and experience.

Creative thinking

Anyone who has worked in IT knows that sometimes you have to get creative when solving business problems.

So, if you know creative thinking is a must, then why not come up with a way to test this aptitude when interviewing? Creativity in a formal interview setting isn’t the easiest of things to tease of candidates, so here are a few ideas:

  • Use competency based questioning such as “Describe to me a situation whereby you solved a technical issue with a creative solution”?
  • Create a problem (whereby only through creative thinking can resolution be found) based scenario and give the candidate 15 minutes to think up and note down their solution.
  • Employ a more hands on test of creatively, such as the LEGO test (details to follow). The thinking behind this test is if someone can be creative with LEGO, they can be creative in solving other types of problems as well.

Lego Test

  • Give candidates a box of random Lego pieces and 15 minutes to build whatever they like.
  • At the end of the time ask them to show you what they have built.
  • Look for creative ideas that the candidate is proud of and can explain clearly.

What is the true cost of a bad hire?

If we simply look at the average hiring costs, then it’s not a huge amount. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) put average hiring costs at £4,000, increasing to £6,125 when the associated labour turnover costs are included.

But many business experts put the true value much higher than just recruitment costs. Recruitment superstar Dr. Brad Smart estimates the true value at four times annual salary for a supervisor level role, rising to an astonishing fifteen times annual salary for VP and Executive level.

This estimation is attempting to quantify the intangible negative effects of a bad hire, which include:

  • Loss of client revenues
  • Loss of prospect opportunities
  • Damaged employee relations and morale
  • Theft or embezzlement
  • Poorly or miss-spent company budgets
  • Lost productivity – not only isolated to the ‘mis-hire’
  • Legal cost
  • Public scandals and negative publicity
  • Lost company reputation

Conclusion

The real cost of a bad hire is probably much larger than we all initially think it is, so it’s of high importance that you make sure you do all you can to get the right candidate. This includes everything from perfecting the job description and honing interview questions, right through to creating specific creative tests. As the hiring manager, the harder you work in the recruitment process, the better suited to the role the successful candidate often is.

The cardinal sin is to recruit just to fill a role. Ask any manager who has done this (if they admit to it) and they will say “never again”. Extending or re-running the recruitment process is normally  worth it in the long run!

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