Launching a Microsoft Gold Partner custom software development firm 12 years ago, I learned all too well the challenges facing business leaders that need qualified IT job candidates. There weren’t, and still aren’t, enough experienced candidates to meet the ever-growing employer demand, and spotting the ones who are is no easy feat. That’s one thing that led me to start Coder Foundry, an intensive coding bootcamp that offers rapid hands-on training and professional job placement for programming careers.
As the head of any company with IT applicants trying to get their foot in your door, it can be difficult to separate the good candidates from the great ones. Most business owners agree a resume will only take a potential hire so far. This is especially the case when it comes to IT related jobs, since not every hiring manager is versed in those skills. I’ve found there are a few key indicators of high-performing IT job candidates that show they can hit the ground running day one, but you have to know the right questions to ask to be able to spot them.
Explore Working Portfolios
When it comes to IT job roles, it’s probably no surprise that a thorough and diverse working portfolio is vastly more important than a cover letter or hand-written thank you card. This is the interviewees best opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, with tangible results of the work they can produce start to finish. The Coder Foundry curriculum includes building a portfolio as the course progresses specifically to arm graduates with a strong showcase of their work, but there are also self-taught candidates with just as impressive portfolios. Since real-world experience is such a huge determinant for success in IT, you’ll want to look for clear evidence of hands-on programming in these portfolios, whether from amateur work or a coding bootcamp like ours.
The portfolio can serve both as a way to display work the applicant is capable of producing, and also as a way for the applicant to brand themselves, which has the added bonus of allowing you to learn a little about who they are. You can also get a glimpse into the diversity of their knowledge and experience by keeping an eye out for differences in approach or common findings from project to project. In most cases, it’s vital to make sure your next IT hire has a broad skillset so you can trust they will learn and adapt quickly in different aspects of the job.
Get Them Talking
You may want to start off with some generic coding questions or tests, but make sure to take it a step further by asking employee-hopefuls to explain their own coding work. This may put them on the spot a bit, but the communication can’t just stop at the technical level. Candidates should be able to clearly verbalize their code and also explain ideas visually through methods like whiteboarding. If you’re the person in charge of hiring and are a programming novice, you can search whiteboarding examples online to learn what parts of diagrams are industry standards, like using specific shapes or symbols, so you’re able to spot when its being done correctly.
It’s also valuable to ask questions throughout an interviewees’ explanations to gain an understanding of why they did things the way they did, giving you a look into their thought process and how they strategize to complete a project or reach a specific goal. High-performing candidates can speak conversationally about their technical abilities to anyone, in any field. As someone who makes hiring decisions, I almost always choose the IT candidate with great verbal communication, even if someone else displays more technical skills. Strong communicators typically work well with others and those are the people who will ultimately help grow your business. After all, how can you ensure you’ve found a stellar employee if they can’t clearly communicate to you what they bring to the table?
Problem Solving is Key
When you’re interviewing an IT candidate, you’ll want to ask questions that give you insights into their problem-solving skills – and if those skills will be rapid enough for your company’s needs. Prompt them to discuss a few specific issues they have encountered and what their approach to solving them were. Dig deeper if you’re getting surface-level responses. What you really want to hear are smart shortcuts they found and implemented, ways they boosted productivity and other tangible processes’ they applied to conquer roadblocks.
Great solutions to look for are the use of frameworks, libraries and boilerplates, as these things all help streamline workloads and save time. Depending on the IT problems your business can encounter, you likely won’t want someone who spent a week only to come up with a novel solution. Rather, you want the person that identified a well-worn solution and put it to use the same day.
Don’t Limit Yourself
A common mistake in hiring within IT is limiting candidates to those who must know the specific platform your company has adopted. This can become expensive, as you’re often trying to poach employees from other jobs and paying to relocate them. There will always be a learning curve due to the particulars of your system and everyone’s favorite “how things work here” mantra, so your time will be better spent finding candidates with vast fundamentals and real-world experience that can carry across any platform.
It takes time to find the ideal candidate for any position, but when it comes to IT, understanding a person’s level and range of the role’s most important skillsets, quality of their past work or experience and how they present themselves can be telling in identifying the right fit for your business.
Focus on IT candidates with a strong, diverse portfolio of work, advanced verbal and visual communication tactics, and rapid and strategic problem-solving abilities. As the IT field continues to grow and change with new trends and tools almost daily, it is becoming even more crucial to quickly spot the type of candidates that can contribute to your business from the minute they are hired, before another company does. Asking the right questions is key to staying ahead of the hiring game in this competitive market.