Determining whether a candidate is a good fit for your organization is always challenging, but finding the right technologist for the job presents its own set of unique challenges. Tech is a demanding field in which workers operate in an ever-changing environment. As any seasoned veteran of the industry will tell you, technical skills alone aren’t enough to excel. Equally important is who you are and how you think.
Certifications, grades, and degrees can be somewhat useful. After all, at the very least they illustrate a candidate is disciplined enough to complete a program and establish a baseline skillset. But what’s on paper rarely tells a candidate’s full story.
So what does? What should tech employers look for beyond a resume that shows a candidate has what it takes?
Being a successful technologist requires passion, curiosity, an ability to collaborate effectively with others, and strong communication skills. Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult to suss out these qualities.
What a person does in their free time can be extremely telling. Does the candidate attend tech meetups in their free time? And, more than attend, do they actively talk to and interact with participants? Do they spend their evenings having heated debates about the merits of coding languages, gaming programs, or other tech topics? Maybe they religiously listen to engaging tech podcasts. Even during a pandemic, it’s possible to give a talk to a Linux remote users’ group.
Don’t be too quick to dismiss these activities as hobbies. They show tech isn’t just a J-O-B to the candidate, it’s something they are personally invested in. If a potential hire spends their free time as an active participant in the tech community chances are they didn’t earn that cert just because a guidance counselor lectured them about financial security.
Another good question to ask is if the potential employee has mentored or taught anyone else. Whether it’s teaching a parent to use an online shopping platform or a classmate how to program, the willingness and ability to share knowledge speaks volumes about a person’s character and ability to communicate. Both are soft skills that can make or break a team’s dynamic and ability to complete a project.
Tech is also a sanctuary for intelligent, talented introverts who may be less inclined to attend a group session, even virtually. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to assess their off-resume skills. Maybe the candidate has a blog or website they regularly maintain. Even if the topic is not about tech per se or relevant to the position they are applying for, this again illustrates creativity, commitment, and — a huge request among tech employers — writing ability.
On a more technical level, asking if they have any projects listed on GitHub or GitLab can be an easy way to assess their coding ability and style. Computer science isn’t static and an illustrated interest in new technology, techniques, or issues facing the industry means the candidate takes their job seriously and has an inherent desire to be — and remain — knowledgeable.
It’s important to abide by your human resources department’s guidelines; after all, they know what they’re about in terms of requirements, benefits, and more. In tech, however, it’s crucial to remember what’s on paper is best used as a guideline or starting point. The rest is up to you as the employer to discover.