Hiring good people

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Hiring good people is now an art mixed with some divinity and a good dose of luck. With unemployment rampant, and good skills scarce, it seems anyone can become anything until put to the test. These are my thoughts on a few issues I have been experiencing in the hiring process.

It is now a norm to test developers before interviews with the likes of IKM, eSkill or Codility and similar. What most potential hirers are not aware of, is the fact that these methods should only be weighted at about a third of the decision-making process of onboarding a new developer. Having said that, these methods can, and do, indicate the level of knowledge of a developer and should be a serious consideration, in fact, I highly recommend it.

Fair warning though, I have seen developers passing these tests with flying colors, only to be completely incompetent in the workplace; conversely, I have met and worked with developers that failed the test and have been great hires and stars in the team. Admittedly, in my experience, there are more of the former than the latter.

As a result, I arrived at the conclusion that an average pass mark in these tests did not mean a mediocre developer, and I started considering the value of these tests very differently.

There are a few other factors in hiring staff who are the right fit. Two of these I consider very important to me. One, the willingness to take ownership, complimented by a can-do attitude is probably the most important. The ability to own a problem and run with it to resolution is far more important to me than diplomas or technical knowledge. The second is the hunger for continuous learning, this shows me that growth is important to the individual.

Lastly, an individual that challenges preconceived ideas or methodologies is also important to me, if the above three points are true, these individuals find new, efficient ways to do things and that is good.

These individuals can also be harder to manage, but often yield better results overall, which is what any organization wants in a solid, long-term team. The challenge, of course, is that these ideal individuals are hard to find in an instant-gratification society, often because of legal requirements or that these individuals are seen as being potentially “too disruptive” or not knowledgeable enough.

In a society where managers are still often promoted for their seniority, knowledge or technical experience rather than leadership abilities, people who will not be a good fit in a leadership role, get hired for the wrong reasons. The result is usually very real problems in delivery, a problem which like the “Junior developer startup” is becoming all too regular.

Unfortunately, many human resource departments have not caught up to these ideas yet and corporates are all about conformity and processes, this causes them to lose the opportunity to hire the kind of people that will change their organization for the better, the fresh or alternate thinkers.

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