Finding The Perfect IT Candidate:
Does Such A Candidate Really Exist?
Recruiting in the IT space has been a challenge for many years. The need for skilled IT talent has risen dramatically over the last decade, and there has been a well-documented skill gap in the industry. With the deck seemingly stacked against them, tech hiring managers are left feeling as though there is simply not enough skilled IT talent in the market to meet their demands.
However, many companies have little trouble finding IT candidates who fit in well and succeed on the job. Why? Because they don’t get hung up on finding the “perfect” candidate. While you always want to be selective in the IT hiring process, it’s never wise to assume you have the luxury of waiting around for the “perfect candidate” to find you.
Whether unemployment is high or low, the fact is, the market will always be tight in tech. If you continually hold out for the perfect candidate, you’ll likely be waiting forever. Someone who checks off every box on your skill list is as mythical as a unicorn. There are great candidates out there who could do very well in your open roles; they may just require a little support.
Redefine What You Think “The Perfect Candidate” Really Is
When you think about your perfect candidate, you think about someone who has every skill on your wish list – and then some. But this will vastly limit your pool of available talent. If you really want to find the right candidate, you have to rethink what it means to be the “perfect” fit.
The Perfect Candidates Is Culturally Aligned
Yes, you must hire for skills, but hiring for culture is equally important. In fact, some might argue that it is even more important because a robust list of technical skills does not matter if an employee does not fit in with your team, is unhappy with their job, or has a negative impact on others.
To truly find the right candidate during an interview, make sure to include questions about cultural alignment. Ask people about the types of work environment they thrive in, what type of managerial style they prefer from their higher-up, whether they want to grow in their careers, etc. Look for people whose values align with company values and whose goals and personality traits mirror those of successful people on your team.
The Perfect Candidate Might Be Less Experienced
Hiring managers can often be too rigid when it comes to defining required years of experience. Let’s say you are hiring for a role that typically requires ten years of experience. A rock-star candidate applies who appears perfect in every way but has only eight years of experience. Many hiring managers would not consider this the ideal candidate and would toss them out – or worse, their ATS system would toss them out before any humans had a chance to see their resume.
Do not dismiss people who may be the right candidate for the job simply because they lack one or two years of experience. Instead, talk to them and learn more about what they’ve done in those years and what they have achieved thus far. You could miss out on your ideal candidate if you hold too tightly to experience requirements.
The Perfect Candidate Is Enthusiastic And Teachable
Skills can be taught. Sure, it might take time, but people can always learn new technical skills on the job. What they cannot learn is enthusiasm or passion for their work. Instead of defining the perfect candidates as having a specific set of tech skills, redefine it as someone eager to learn and coachable and also demonstrates genuine enthusiasm for their work. A coachable, passionate employee will be much more effective over the long term than a skilled employee who is bored and disengaged on the job.
To hire the best candidate for the job, look for signs that they are eager to grow their skills and have a real flair for what they do. Ask them why they got into the field, what they do to keep their skills up-to-date, how long it took them to learn their most recent “new” skill, etc. If you find someone who is authentically eager, don’t discount them if they lack one or two skills. That person could end up being the perfect candidate for the job.
The Perfect Candidate is Adaptable
No project ever moves from inception to completion without hitting roadblocks. Budgets can change. Scope can shift. Team members may quit. Clients can stymie timelines. It is extremely important that you hire people who can adapt quickly to change. Someone who has impressive technical skills but cracks in the face of unforeseen change will have a negative impact on both the project and the team.
Conversely, someone who might lack a skill or two but who is flexible and adaptable can be a great addition to the team. These types of people tend to be problem-solvers. They may not have a specific skill, but they may know who to go to that does that skill. Or they may dive in and learn on the fly to ensure things stay on track. Never underestimate the power of adaptability when searching for your ideal candidate.
The Perfect Candidate May Not Have A College Degree
There are certainly some jobs that require a college degree. Engineering, for example, is a field where you cannot compromise. But if you’re hiring programmers, designers, etc., is a four-year degree really something you can’t bend on? The perfect candidate in today’s market may very well not have a college degree, or they may have a college degree in a completely unrelated field.
In fields like tech, where skills matter more than anything, a four-year degree is becoming less necessary. Thanks to boot camps, massive open online courses (MOOCs), open-source projects, etc., people can build technical skills in various ways. If a degree is truly not required, focus instead on certifications, graduation from boot camps, certificates from MOOCs, or other proof of skills. If you find someone who has the skills and previous work history you want and who is a good personality match for the team, they should leap to the top of your shortlist.
Don’t Rely Too Heavily On Your ATS To Find Your Perfect Candidate
As you can see, finding the right candidate for the job requires the ability to see past a resume and look at candidates holistically and use good judgment. This is why it can be detrimental to rely solely on your ATS to screen candidates.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use these tools – in fact, you must. No hiring manager has time to screen hundreds of resumes a day. However, you should be mindful of the criteria you input into the system to weed out the wrong candidates and identify the right candidates.
When considering criteria, don’t enter every item on your wish list as a must-have. Sit down with the manager of the role and determine exactly where you have wiggle room. Are there skills that are listed as required but might be more “nice-to-haves?” Are there required skills that could be easy for the right candidate to learn? Can you wiggle a little bit on years of experience or a college degree?
Be flexible about what you choose to enter into the ATS for screening criteria so that your automated assistant doesn’t toss out someone who didn’t look perfect on paper but was actually the perfect candidate.
Commit To Helping New Employees Learn New Skills
Passionate, adaptable, aligned candidates will be eager to start making valuable contributions once they begin working. Support them in that desire by investing in training on day one. This might mean a custom onboarding process that includes on-the-job training, helping them register for a class or boot camp, or providing them with credits on a learning platform like Udemy or Coursera, so they can learn on their own time without the expense.
If you require technical certifications that a candidate doesn’t hold, you can hire them on a probationary basis and support them as they prepare for their certification exam. Showing new employees that you care about their development will ensure they develop their skills quickly and will reinforce your hunch that they were the perfect candidate all along.
How To Choose Between Two Ideal Candidates
If you redefine what it means to find the ideal candidate, you may end up finding yourself in an entirely different situation – choosing between two candidates. How can you make the right choice? When this happens, go back to your list of criteria and re-evaluate each candidate:
- Degree vs. Certification: A logical place to begin is credentials. One might have a degree while the other might not, but they do have certifications. Think about the nature of the work. People with four-year degrees tend to have a more well-rounded education, and they may have more exposure to business concepts. However, someone who spent six weeks in an immersive boot camp may have a more robust skill set. Determine how to weigh each based on the requirements of the job on a day-to-day basis.
- Go back to your skill list: If a degree isn’t necessary and you still can’t decide, then go back to your list of required skills. Talk to the people who will work with the new hire most closely and determine the five most important skills for success. Then determine which of your top two candidates has those skills or at least has most of them. If both have those top skills, add a fifth and sixth and so on until one person stands out.
- Get input from your team: It can be a wise idea to have your finalists meet with members of the team. After all, these are the people who will be working with that person daily, and informal meet-and-greet allows your existing staff to weigh in on the person who might be a better fit overall.
- Conduct reference checks first: It’s also smart to conduct reference checks on your two ideal candidates before you make an offer to someone. You never know what you could uncover during the process of checking references, so make that part of your decision-making criteria. Be sure to conduct robust reference checks that really dig into the way your two top candidates work, what their personalities are like, how enthusiastic they are, whether they are team players, etc.
- Trust your gut: Remember, hiring is part science and part art form. If you and your hiring team feel pulled in the direction of one candidate over another throughout the course of your decision-making process, don’t ignore it. That gut feeling could lead you to your perfect candidate.
Are You Looking For The Perfect Candidate?
In today’s market, overlooking candidates who don’t meet all requirements limits your talent pool. By instead hiring candidates who are passionate, coachable, and eager to learn, you’ll broaden your pool and shorten your time to hire. These candidates might even end up being some of your best hires.
If you are hiring new people for your IT team and you want to increase the chances of finding your perfect candidate, partner with BOS Staffing. With over 100 years of combined experience in temporary, temporary-to-hire, and direct hire staffing, we can help you find the right fit for your technical roles. Contact us today to learn more about the ways we can help you improve your hiring process.