Tom Kwong's Infinite Loop
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Hiring talents is not the same as finding someone with specific experience

Apr 9, 2022


Photo by Jason Hogan, retrieved from Unsplash

Often enough, I hear hiring managers complaining that they cannot find the right person for their jobs.

You may wonder why – nowadays there are robots that can screen resumes for you. Just enter a keyword and it gives you everyone with the specific experience that you are looking for. Isn’t that great?

That is precisely the problem.

I am not talking about the robots. Those are great tools to cut down the volume of resumes that you have to spend time reviewing. I am talking about the strategy of finding talents.

I don’t know much about other industry or roles. But I am in the software engineering role for almost 30 years. I have seen hiring, firing, promoting, demoting, and everything in between. I have seen engineers rise like a star, and engineers that struggle. It makes a huge difference when you hire the right talents.

So you need somebody to work on a Python-based application? Taking a simple path, for example, you could punch in the keyword Python and get a ton of resumes with that keyword.

But, finding talents is not like looking for a tool. You cannot just look at the spec. In my humble opinion, it would be a mistake to say, “this person had done a similar job with Python for the past two years, and that would be a potential fit for us because we are doing similar things here.”

The most serious drawback about that approach is that you are missing out everyone else who had not had Python experience before but could potentially learn Python quickly and become a star.

At one point of my career, I had to introduce a new programming language to the company. One of the questions was: can we hire people with that skill. My response was a little blunt - if we hire the right person, they will get the job done. You do not need to hire someone with that specific experience, instead, you just need to hire someone who is interested about doing that work, learn and ramp up quickly, and deliver.

So, do not focus on specific technology when you look for candidates. Instead, broaden your search to include others who may not have that specific experience that you are looking for.

Here are some of the traits that I would be looking when finding talents:

  1. Does that person seem to have signed up and worked on a diverse set of technologies? This is important because different technologies have different trade-offs. Having worked on a broad set of technologies would give the person good insights about how to choose the right tool for the right job.

  2. Does that person seems to have worked on a large project and stay focused for a long time? The last thing you want is to hire somebody who just keep switching around and never deliver.

  3. Does that person seems to know the fundamentals of programming? This is a tough one. I believe everyone that have a growth mindset can learn and succeed. However, lacking fundamental computer science or software engineering knowledge is an impediment. Most college graduates today know some programming fundamentals. So I do not think this is a tall order.

  4. Does that person seem to have good verbal and written communication skills? I believe a large portion of software engineering work is about analyzing a problem, designing a solution, and implementing that solution. The first two part of the job require significant thought process, discussing the requirements and design with teammates, and writing down the design and implementation plan.

Job search robots, listen up! Get smarter about how to screen candidates more deeply. Don’t just look at keywords.

Pick a technology X that you used today. You are hiring someone to work on a project that require X. Now, when you are interviewing someone, do not ask whether that person had done X before. Seriously. Do not ask that question. Instead, focus on whether that person is a good fit for your company’s culture and focus on assessing communications skills and other factors described above.

Coming back to the use of robots and résumé screening tools. I would encourage you to continue using these tools to reduce the volume of resumes to review.

However, next time around, try to get rid of some technology buzzwords in your search. You may be surprised what other candidates you can find!

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