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Beyond the Resume: Hiring the Best IT Employee

it business analysis

By Sanjay Khatnani, Managing Partner, J2 Solutions

As the year kicks into gear, many organizations set their sights on bringing in new talent. But what goes into effective recruitment practices? What should employers be thinking about when it comes to hiring technology professionals in the year ahead? How does a hiring manager go about hiring the most qualified candidate for a specific role?

At first it may seem all very black and white. You have an open position with specific requirements in mind. Simply pick the person whose skillset most closely matches those requirements and you’re done. In IT, there’s really not much more to it than that.

Or is there?

Actually, there is, and here’s why. In an IT environment, it seems natural to focus your efforts predominantly on finding someone with top-notch technology skills. But I’ve seen how that approach can cause issues down the line. There’s so much more to a new hire than skills on a piece of paper.

For starters, you’ll want to ask yourself this critical question: will this candidate fit into my organization, culturally?

Maybe you’ve heard of the term emotional intelligence. That’s what I’m talking about here.

If you want a team that’s open-minded, collaborative, forward-thinking and approachable, hiring someone that’s got excellent IT skills but lacks these emotionally intelligent traits will only get you so far. Sure, this person may be a great developer, but can he or she interact with others, communicate effectively and work on a team? While those “intangibles,” as I like to call them, can be learned, they tend to be inherent personal qualities that a candidate brings with him or her into a job.

I recently came across an Accenture study of 251 executives in six countries on workplace performance. According to this research, interpersonal competence, self-awareness and social awareness were all directly correlated with professional success. And that’s just one of numerous studies out there on the topic. Take this Fast Company article on emotional intelligence and success, for example, that cites research done by the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Their findings revealed that 85% of one’s financial success was due to skills in “human engineering,” personality, and the ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Only 15% was due to technical ability.

While the above stats may be eye opening to some, to me they confirm what I already knew to be true: it’s not book smarts or the hard skills that determine professional success, but rather the intangibles that make up the core of an outstanding IT employee.

I get it… finding good talent is challenging, particularly as you look at a low technology unemployment rate of about 2%. You have an immediate need and want to fill the role quickly. But investing the time to find that right person based on the whole of what they bring to the table, rather than just quickly plucking from the pool of available tech workers based on skills listed on a resume, will pay off in the end. What you may be giving up in hard skills you’ll make up for with a plethora of soft skills, or emotional intelligence.

Case in point: I worked with one client who was initially looking for an experienced developer, but ended up hiring a junior level developer instead. Why? It was his interpersonal skills and vibrant personality. He’d also made it clear that his long-term goal was to become a Java developer. In the end, they realized he’d had the soft skills they needed—the rest could be taught. It was a successful hire. This junior developer worked his way through the organization rather quickly, and today leads and mentors a team of developers.

Sure, a good developer adds value to an organization. But hiring someone based on development experience alone may only increase your head count and reduce your organization’s efficiencies. Think about it: you’ve got someone with great tech skills but they fall short when it comes to interacting face-to-face with executives or customers—now you’re faced with hiring someone who meets that need as well, thereby creating an extra unnecessary layer. And from a talent retention perspective, fill the role with someone who works in a silo and you may see a negative ripple effect make its way through the organization, leading to increased turnover.

Find that person with the skills to interact and communicate well with others at all levels of the organization, and they’ll be happier, the teams they’re part of will be more effective and you’ll retain high-talent staff.

So remember, it’s the soft skills—the emotional intelligence of a person—that lay the foundation for success. Take your time, look at the bigger picture and find the person who will fit into your organization on every level.

What do you think? Are soft skills as important as technical skills? Would you turn down the perfect candidate on paper because they just didn’t fit with your company culture.