6 IT Hiring Tips to Weed Out the Duds

One bad apple can ruin a good team, which is why Nathan Brown sometimes prioritizes personality over skill set when making a hire. Here are six other rules he follows when filling an open position.

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Nathan Brown is one of a growing number of CIOs who are experienced in moving from one sector to another, including from commercial to government and from for-profit to nonprofit. He's currently in an IT leadership position at Care.com after recently leaving the role of senior director of IT for Year Up, an IT workforce development program for young urban adults, and he was previously CIO for Harvard Law School.

Regardless of the sector he's hiring for, Nathan has six rules he follows when building a new team. 1. Don't hire out of desperation. 2. Never ignore a red flag. 3. Personality fit matters. 4. Skill sets are sometimes less important. 5. Involve team leaders in the process. 6. Interview all potential internal hires before an offer is made, even if they won't report directly to you.

What have you learned about the hiring market while on the nonprofit side?

Hiring for many IT positions in a not-for-profit isn't much different from hiring in a for-profit. However, generally, salary offers are lower and there are no stock options. Because of this, I find I'm focused on looking for people with a passion for the mission or people who are looking to use the position as a launching pad.

I'm also careful not to overemphasize skills. I look for people who will grow into the role. It is a huge negative for me if someone says they applied because they have done everything listed in the posting and know how to do it all well. If they aren't looking for growth and a challenge then they probably don't have the motivation I'm looking for.

I interviewed someone several years ago for a startup who was clearly smart, motivated, excited about the company and role, and loved technology. He also had the right personality fit for the team. Unfortunately, since he was looking for a career change, he had extremely limited experience supporting technology. I took a calculated risk and hired him. He become a really strong addition to the team and later went on to be an IT manager at other companies. This strategy clearly does not work for all roles. Application development obviously requires a great deal of experience if you want someone who will hit the ground running. However, the fit is just as important.

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