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Hiring Quaility Technical Staff for your Organization. PDF Print E-mail
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Mar 26, 2002 at 12:00 AM
How do you go about hiring quaility Technical staff?

William R. Welty discusses this in a series of articles to be published here. How do you hire quality technical staff who can do what they say they can do? For most non-technical managers this is quite intimidating. Often unwilling to show what they don't know, they don't ask enough questions to get to the root of the issue.

Or they turn the technical analysis over to a technician or programmer who is more interested in showing off then evaluating potential and talent. Obscure questions in technical detail show the strength of someone's memory, not their potential, or experience.

The evaluation of a technical applicant need not be so complicated or difficult. Some basic rules applied carefully can allow most any non-technical manager to hire effectively. Firstly, if technical details are required, have the existing staff prepare questions and cross test them with the staff. Have them justify why each category is important and why the depth of detail they have asked for is relevant.

For instance, don't ask questions whose answers are easily looked up in a manual. That is what a manual is for. The quality you are looking for is in the application of the technology. You are not hiring a virtual manual. Those are nice, few and far between, and usually don't do well working with people.

Remember what you are trying to do is hire someone who will work with other staff to implement some technology for the purpose of making a product or service that can be sold to generate revenue.

Let's look at the broad picture of what we want to know. We need to look at several categories of skills. Communications, Personality, Sales skills, Experiential knowledge, and finally Technical Expertise. The importance of each of these varies based upon the type of job you are looking to fill. We will look at each of these categories independently.

Is the candidate capable of communicating, period. If you cannot communicate to them and he/she cannot communicate with you, then you are not going to get work done. This is a broad range of levels including basic language skills to experiential communication.

This is not as simple as it seems. You have to find out if you have a basic commonality of information and experiences to communicate. This why you should start the interview with small talk. Create a base for discussion. As the interviewer, NEVER, go into the interview with the perception that there is EVER, a right or wrong answer to a question.

Technology is amazing. There are many ways to accomplish the same things, find out how much your candidate knows. NEVER be judgmental on issues dismissing out of hand solutions you are unfamiliar with. Enter in discussions of the problems you might have seen with a solution that you don't think is good, but never expose your feelings in such a way that will shut down the candidate.

Start with some simple questions pertaining general knowledge. Remember you are not proving what you know, you are asking what the candidate knows. I prescribe to the theory that a good manager hires people smarter than he/she is. I usually position myself in asking the question less knowledgeable than I actually am. I change this as the interview goes along. I want to know if the candidate is arrogant and condescending. They have to work with other folks including me.

Give the candidate as much room to hang himself as he needs. The best quality staff recognize what they don't know. But will have a suggestion as to how solve the issues/problem anyway.

Next issue: Categorizing and Classifying the interviewee.

W.R.Welty has spent 25 years in the industry with a Bachelors Degree in Business Management and Adminsitration from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. He directed the hiring practices and oversaw "Hiring events" at the consulting firm, Collective Technologies.