How to hire for personality and train for skills

Even in a tight IT labor market, finding talent with the right technology skillsets probably isn't your biggest challenge. What's much more difficult is finding talent with the right personality fit.

Finding talent with the right skillset for your company is not nearly as difficult as finding the right personality fit. As important as skills and technical know-how are, team chemistry is just as important - if not more so. One mismatch can cause a negative ripple throughout the organization -- or worse, it could negatively impact relationships with customers and, eventually, the bottom line.

Hiring for attitude, personality and potential, and training for skills is admittedly easier said than done, and there's always a chance of making a bad hire, says Sacha Labourey, founder and CEO of Jenkins Enterprise company CloudBees, a provider of continuous delivery software platform. Because CloudBees' developers are distributed across 14 countries and numerous U.S. states, focusing on personality is a must, Labourey says.

"In our case, a selection mechanism had to exist for personality and potential, because we're so distributed. Personalities have to match, and people have to be very compatible for this to work," he says.

Look for teamwork and independence

Labourey says CloudBees looks for talent with excellent teamwork and collaboration skills that also are independent self-starters.

"We have frequent kickoff and status meetings, so our people have to have the skills to communicate well in those settings, and to collaborate, but when they go back to their home offices, they have to be independent and a self-motivator. If you need a pat on the back every two days, or if you need hand-holding as far as direction, then that's not going to work. They have to be able to take the collaborative vision we've agreed upon and take that in their own direction," he says.

Look for big-picture and conceptual thinking

"Finding talent with big picture thinking starts with doing an honest assessment of your needs. In software development, for instance, most problems are identified and then solved exactly once. So, more important than the specific skills needed to solve those problems is seeing how they impact your company down the road," says John Jersin, CEO of Connectifier, a talent recruiting and matching platform.

"Of course you need people who know the fundamentals of their job, but when your people come across problems, it's important that they see them as just obstacles and roadblocks on the way to overall success; conceptual thinking and abstraction is at the core of this," Jersin says.

As important as it is for talent to focus on their own contributions to your products and services, it's also critical that they can see how their part fits into the larger whole.

"You want people who can hit their own personal targets, but also keep the big picture -- the company's overall success, development and growth -- in mind as well," says Labourey.

Labourey says that when interviewing potential talent he takes note not only of how candidates answer his questions, but what big picture questions they ask of him to determine how broadly they're looking at aspects of the company outside the scope of the individual role.

"I try to keep at least a third of the interview time reserved for candidates to ask me questions about the company and our larger place in the IT industry. If they don't have any questions, that's a red flag, because it can show they're not curious about the big-picture issues," he says.

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