IT Hiring: Curiosity Is Back In Town

During my business life I've hired (and fired) numerous people, interviewed ten times more, and threw away another factor fifty of resumes. People often ask me what my recipe for finding and hiring people is, and how I cope with tight markets and resource shortage. Thinking about this I lately noticed an important change.

First of all I need to explain my "habits" around hiring, probably completely against HR-theories, standard practice, headhunter approaches etcetera, but it works for me.

To keep it short, just some bullets to give you an idea:

  • CV's are mostly crap and over or underselling the person; so I look for keywords/elements that make me curious and that can generate not so obvious questions.
  • Any decent methodology to interview people can help but in the end gut feeling is needed (both to say yes or no).
  • Cultural compatibility is more important than a previous track record. If you where successful once you might be successful in the same role elsewhere, but there is no guarantee.
  • Killing questions which make an interview short:
    • A marketing candidate that asked within the first five minutes "What will be MY budget?".
    • A sales candidate who states: "I can sell anything; hardware is not different to software".
    • A consultant who begins to tell that there is "one and only method/tool/language/hardware that is needed, and that that will solve all issues."
  • Headhunters: they hate me and I neglect them unless: they are willing to invest/take risks/ask normal rates and prove they go the extra mile.
  • If after interviewing a candidate there is no consensus between all involved on hiring within max five minutes, don't hire.

So far some of my rules. Now to the change I see: Curiosity is back in town.

Of course, money and security will always remain important factors for people that want to change jobs. But my observation is that especially the better candidates within the IT industry are now looking with curiosity at culture, personal development chances, and non-commodity environments.

This is good news for smaller companies: applicants know there is a job for them in the big companies, but they regard that as a safety net, not as the prime alternative. Interviews change as a result of this from the "ask me questions" mode to far more interesting bi-lateral exchange of ideas, experiences, and beliefs.

As a result candidates are far more free, "real" and busy with assessing the internals of the job and the company. From my perspective I see a far better picture of the candidate, and thus a quicker and better gut feel if I should hire or not. Last but not least: I find interview also more fun again.

Did you make the same observations, or do you think I'm nuts? Let me know.

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