Tech Recruiting: Hire for Fit, Train for Skills
Technical recruiting can be quite a challenge. It seems like no candidate ever has the right combination of skills that hiring managers are looking for. What’s going on?
Your head starts spinning. You know technical skills are a must-have, but how do you make sure your top candidates truly have the skills you’re looking for?
Luckily, there are many ways to technically assess candidates these days:
- Have them share a portfolio
- Send them a programming problem
- Have them come into the office for a paired programming exercise with another developer
But how will you narrow the pack from 200 to a manageable 3 or 4 candidates to begin with? On the surface, dozens of candidates may seem technically capable. The last thing you want to do is pass all of them on to the hiring manager, shrug your shoulders and say, “OK, pick one.”
At Treehouse, we are big fans of hiring for fit and general technical ability. Knowing that technology changes rapidly, we’ve found the best hires are the ones that not only have a firm footing in technology but also have great soft skills and a propensity for learning.
Why does this work for us? Well, take a look at the top reasons employees don’t succeed in their jobs. Of course, technical competence can be a big reason. But more often than not, managers struggle with employees that are creating friction because they have poor communication skills, no desire to collaborate, or a lack of accountability. Soft skills are hard (sometimes impossible) to train for. You either have ‘em or you don’t.
So how do you assess for fit? If your company has a set of core values, that’s a good place to start. At Treehouse, we ask questions that dig into our values, all while keeping the interview conversational.
Here are a few examples of real interview questions that we ask candidates based on our values (in bold):
- Personal Accountability – Tell us about a time you made a mistake
- Collaboration – Have you ever taught a coworker a new skill? Tell us about it
- Student Focus – Have you ever had to hold up a deadline because something wasn’t good enough for the customer?
- Work-Life Integration – Describe a successful day
- People Centered Design – How do you explain something very technical to a non-technical user?
- Fiercely Competitive Nature – What tech skills are you interested in learning outside of what you already know?
If your organization already has a list of core values, it can be a very fruitful exercise to sit down with your colleagues to create a similar list of questions that align with your values.
How many times have you considered overlooking a potential fit issue because a candidate was a technical superstar? Have you ever said something like, “Well, she’s not a team player, but she’s a great programmer”? If you’ve hired someone based on this kind of logic, how quickly did you start receiving complaints from co-workers? 1 month? 3 months? Or maybe they resigned before the complaints started rolling in, sending you back to the drawing board.
We’re not suggesting that you forego the technical assessment aspect of evaluating candidates. But knowing that your own company’s technological needs are going to evolve quickly, it doesn’t make sense to hire a new developer every time the need for a new skillset comes up.
If you’re looking for a resource to provide new hires or existing employees with in-depth technical training or a refresher, there are several options out there, including bootcamps, conferences, and subscription-based online code schools. So it makes perfect sense to hire for fit and train for skills as you go. This approach will save time, money and headaches in the hiring process. Additionally, it enables you to keep your staff lean, manageable and provides growth and development opportunities for the outstanding talent you’ve hired.
Does your organization place an emphasis on hiring for fit? Share your ideas with us!
Give your team top-notch, interactive, technical training with Treehouse for Business!
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