Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, famously shared the three things he looks for in hiring are the ability to “Dream Big, Know How to Have Fun, and Get Sh*t Done” and I could not agree more. In the IT world, however, things are a bit trickier. Of course, strong technical skills are a must. But the more important skills are often not-so-technical, and more challenging to assess. When I’m looking for top talent, I have found a few key questions during the hiring and interview process can help reveal those underlying attributes that make all the difference in building a strong modern technology team.
1. Communication—in all forms
While the resume will obviously reveal some level of written communication, real communication skills include verbal, written, non-verbal cues like body language, and even the ability to listen. In IT, it’s becoming increasingly important to be able to articulate ideas, challenges and needs to an audience without speaking strictly in IT terms. I like to ask candidates to describe a time when they received tough feedback from someone in a leadership position, and how they responded. Not only will I be able to assess their ability to communicate a scenario or tell a story, but also will learn if they are capable of listening and remaining teachable.
2. Judgment and decision-making
It’s important to build a team of individuals unafraid to share an objection or propose a different approach, but ultimately everyone needs to trust leadership and respect the final decisions. I like to ask candidates to describe a time when they disagreed with a project timeline or proposed solution, and how they responded in that situation. By using some scenario-based questions during the interview process, I can typically gauge a candidate’s general judgment and decision-making skills, and assess if they are a good fit for the team and work environment.
3. Problem-solving and resilience
Arguably one of the most important skills in any job, is the ability to face a challenge head-on and cope with pressure. When I’m building a team, I need people who have the courage to try new things, can hustle without compromising quality, and exhibit endurance and determination in achieving long-term goals. I like to ask candidates to describe a long-term project and how they stayed engaged and overcame setbacks. If the candidate starts complaining and blaming others, it is a red flag. If the candidate demonstrates resilience, grit and working well with others to achieve goals, those are all great signs.
As a leader, skills assessment doesn’t just end when the candidate is hired. The first question that I will ask a new hire is where they would like to work next. This opens up the lines of communication to an open, transparent and honest relationship. Once I know their end goal, we can reverse engineer their dream and work together to ensure it happens. This process usually involves working together to ensure that the new hire is able to get the proper exposure, training, and experience needed to grow and expand their skill sets and knowledge base.
Like all things in life, management requires constant development, real-time feedback, training and advancement opportunities. And of course, failure is a necessary part of the process. But I have learned that by investing the time in the beginning with an in-depth assessment, hard work pays off. I have built and developed teams who are committed long-term, work well together, and ultimately enjoy what they do. This to me is the true success and obligation as someone in a leadership position.