Building your Tech team — Part 2 finding the Diamond in the rough

Tanya Lung
May 17 · 5 min read

In Part 1: Digging for gold, I discuss how to redefine your definition of talent and provide ideas about forming job descriptions. Hopefully you’ve found this helpful and have gotten a few more applications than usual. Now it’s time to make decisions for who to interview and who to hire.

Pair down those resumes

How do you shortlist when you’re looking at a pile of non-traditional applicants? Look for candidates who show the ability to continuously learn. Have they taken courses, attended conferences, and have been able to rise in rank in past experience? Pinpoint skills which can come from any industry and are helpful. Examples are communication, meeting deadlines, and working well with others. There may also be skills and knowledge related to the software you’re building or your industry. An example is you’re building financial software and a candidate worked as a bank teller. They may have picked up financial knowledge that can help your software. The interview is the time to identify whether these skills are really there.

Put your best foot forward — Interview

Before you start interviewing — let me introduce you to two of my fav HR/Recruiting personalities on LinkedIn. Liz Ryan and Lauren McDonald are excellent at educating employers, job searchers and employees for how to treat one another. Building your team starts before you interview that first person and Liz and Lauren’s tips are helpful for all involved.

Running the interview process

We are no longer in the age where the employer holds all the power. Employees no longer give their loyalty to those who offer them a position — you have to earn it. You start this at the interview so treat them with respect from the beginning. Respect their time by limiting the length of the interview, be flexible with the time you will have the interview (they may have a current job they need to work around), and limit the number of interviews you have with them.

You’re thinking — if I limit interviewing, how do I know if they’re the right candidate? Guess what, even the big hitters like Google and Microsoft with their extensive hiring procedures make the wrong hire. Having longer and more numerous interviews does not guarantee you’ll get the right person. Instead, be prepared for when you hire the wrong person — I’ll talk about this in a bit.

In the interview, have a two way conversation with them. There is more to finding the right match than making sure they can write code on a whiteboard while a hiring committee stares at them and the candidates ability to answer questions about what type of fruit they consider themselves. Be truthful to them and they’re more likely to share the truth with you. Don’t be scared to lose a good candidate because you shared the truth. The likelihood is that if you said something that disinterested them, they are not the right hire.

What to look for

There are a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to finding a good hire when dealing with a team. In my opinion those include ability to champion your culture, support diversity, and succeed in the role.

Culture

After attending the UP conference, my biggest takeaway was that every company identified the importance of hiring to ensure candidates could operate within their culture and sustain it going forward. Some people may be extremely talented but if they don’t fit your culture they will just end up sabotaging the team(s) they work with.

Diversity

Diversity is a big key which can help your organization. There are many reasons to support diversity. Sometimes you can’t always make a diverse hire, but you can ensure you hire people who support diversity so that your culture will be able to support future diverse hires. If you can maintain hiring diverse employees, this is not only important for attracting the right talent, it’s also good for business.

Diversity can lie in different areas: age, gender, and ethnicity are just a few. A few different studies were done which show that diversity is good for business. As an example: Hunt, Layton & Prince found that “more diverse workforces perform better financially”. They identified that “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above the industry mean.” They also found that “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians”

Success

Finally, look for someone who can succeed in the role. To me success in the roles I’ve hired for means the person fits with the culture, is happy to do their job, and does their job well while striving to continuously learn. They may not have all the technical skills to start with so the ability to continuously learn is key. It also helps if they’re modest and willing to learn and share knowledge with their peers.

Moissanite and not a Diamond? Say Goodbye to mismatches

As I mentioned before, be prepared if you make the wrong hire. Make sure that you have a method for determining when someone is not a good match for your organization. Work with the candidate to define clear goals and expectations. The goals should reflect the traits needed to succeed in the role as well as be achievable by the hire. Also ensure the goals are continuously modified.

Have a continuous feedback cycle setup with the new hire. I like to have weekly check ins with new hires for the first month, bi-weekly for the second month and then monthly going forward. This helps identify problems to the new hire early, and gives them the chance to correct the issues. It also works the other way around, giving them the opportunity to tell you what they need to succeed in order to meet those goals.

When they’re clearly unable to meet goals it is time to say good-bye. Firing is such a dirty word but, sometimes this must be the solution. For whatever reason a person just does not work out but to keep them means risking losing the rest of the team. But just because they didn’t work out for you, doesn’t mean they won’t be a great hire for someone else. Help them with their search:

  • Give advice on resumes and cover letters,
  • Offer to introduce them to those you know who are hiring where you think they’ll be a better fit,
  • Recommend training they can take.

The good-bye process doesn’t need to be negative. Remember, their experience going through this could be communicated to others — Glassdoor comments are important for your future hiring.

Hopefully you’re fully armed to identify and dust off that diamond. Just remember that sometimes you might find someone who appears to be a diamond but isn’t. It’s ok to say good-bye for both your sakes.

Tanya Lung

Written by

Partner of Dyad Solutions, Tanya managed and built many IT teams & software over the last 18 years. She thinks outside the box when she’s hiring and so can you!

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