Four Common Distractions That Decrease Productivity

April 8th, 2016

For most IT workers, avoiding distractions at work is impossible. It’s inherent in the way the workplace is designed with low-walled cubicles that mean there’s no such thing as a confidential conversation. You probably can’t do much about the office layout, but there are things you can do to reduce these other four common office distractions and help your team stay focused and productive.

Massive Email Blasts

Keeping everyone informed is important, but massive email blasts that cc: everyone on a project are more distracting than useful. Target your emails to only those who need to respond to them. If there’s valuable information you want to make sure doesn’t get lost, use a collaboration tool and either save a document or create a discussion thread that will be archived and searchable for future reference. That way, the knowledge is saved and accessible, but it doesn’t clutter up email inboxes and require everyone to figure out whether they need to respond, decide whether they should save the message, and create a filing system to keep things organized.

Ban Smartphones From Meetings

Keep meetings on track by banning smartphones from the conference room. This lets everyone focus on conducting the business of the meeting, rather than reading unrelated emails or stepping outside to take personal calls. You can minimize the withdrawal symptoms by having a concise agenda to keep the meeting brief. Make sure that having a meeting is the most effective way to achieve your goal. And start meetings on time, even if you’re missing some attendees; otherwise, you’re wasting everyone else’s time.

Funnel User and Support Requests

Requests from end users for help can pull developers off project work into production support. Don’t let end users call their favorite developers for help directly. Have a support hotline to call and assign one person to staff it (possibly on a rotating basis). That person will buffer everyone else on the team from user interruptions, bringing in them in for assistance only when needed. It’s important to have a cookbook of common problems and solutions to help the support person resolve issues without involving the rest of the team.

Automate Routine Tasks

Routine tasks often take longer than they should, because employees find them boring and look for ways to avoid doing them. Instead, use technology to free up routine tasks like packaging releases or deploying them into a test environment. That will help the tasks get done quickly and consistently, and reduce the need for your team to seek out distractions during the process.

The time you spend searching for employees is a distraction from your main job responsibilities. Working with a staffing agency like InReach IT allows you to offload this distraction to an experienced team of recruiters who will focus on finding the right people for your open positions. Contact us to learn how we can help streamline the hiring process and make you and your team more productive.

Why Open Source Projects Set Candidates Apart

March 25th, 2016

When you review job candidates, their employment history isn’t the only thing you should look at. Their activities outside work giveyou insight into their interests and motivations. When those outside activities include open source projects, you should view that as a strong positive factor. Here’s why:

  • Contributing to an open source project shows a candidate has strong motivation and is self-directed. There’s no requirement for a candidate to work on an open source project, so their participation is entirely voluntary. And once they’ve signed up, their work is entirely self-directed; there’s no specific work assignment and no project manager assigning a deadline.
  • Shows a candidate keeps current technically. If they’re working on a widely used open source project, they’re also implementing leading-edge technology. Most open source projects focus on packaging new software techniques to make them easy for wider use.
  • Working on open source projects require strong communication skills. Open source projects are highly collaborative; they’re also highly distributed. The workers aren’t in a common location and communicate almost entirely through collaboration tools.
  • The candidate understands agile development. Almost all open source projects are structured as agile projects. Besides being comfortable with working in an incremental fashion, working on an open source project makes developers familiar with the typical tools that support that methodology, including source code control tools and bug trackers.
  • Boosts the candidate’s technical ability. The best way to learn to code better is to write more code. Contributing to open source projects lets candidates write more code, plus have it reviewed by a community of top programmers. That feedback can only help them become a better developer.
  • This type of work showcases passion. The candidate probably already has a job they spend at least 40 hours per week on. They wouldn’t spend their free time working on more technical projects unless they really loved it. Bringing their enthusiasm for technology into your workspace can only boost morale.

When you need to hire a new employee, consider all facets of their experience. At InReach IT Solutions, our candidates have strong resumes, including work at their jobs and contributions to open source projects. Contact us to learn more about how our Dallas IT staffing professionals can help you find the right employees for your open positions.

Questions to Help You Understand a Candidate’s Employment History

February 5th, 2016

A resume presents a picture of a candidate’s job history, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Candidates present their work in the best possible light, and may mention projects and technologies where they had little involvement. Resumes that aren’t organized chronologically can make it difficult to see the progression of the candidate’s career. Because of these issues, it’s important to ask good questions during an interview to get a deeper understanding of the candidate’s work history. These questions will help:

Walk me through your positions and how your career has developed.

This question gives the candidate a chance to clarify the sequence of their jobs and explain how they’ve developed new skills through each new job.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

This question lets candidates tell you what they are best at. The technologies they mention are likely to be the ones they’re most skilled at; follow-up questions can help confirm that.

Why is there a gap between jobs?

As long as the answer isn’t that the candidate was in prison, the most important factor is that the candidate seems to have a prepared response. Candidates should expect they’ll be questioned about gaps in their resume, so if they stumble over an answer, it indicates a lack of preparation that might extend to their performance on the job.

Why are you leaving your current position?

This question will help you understand what the candidate doesn’t like about what they are currently doing and whether they will be happy with the work you have available. Don’t settle for boilerplate answers like “it isn’t challenging”; ask the follow-up question to find out why it isn’t challenging and what kind of challenge they hope to find in a new position.

Tell me about how you used technology X on project Y.

Questions like this let you probe whether a candidate really has experience in the technologies and business domains they claim, or whether they’re simply throwing buzzwords onto their resume. It’s appropriate to ask more detailed technical questions in the areas they claim expertise.

When you work with a staffing agency, candidates are prescreened to make sure they have a solid employment history. Contact the experienced IT recruiting team at InReach IT Solutions to learn how our screening process ensures we send you the best candidates to fill your open positions.

Are You Conducting Post-Interview Reviews?

January 29th, 2016

The hiring process often involves multiple interviewers talking to multiple interviewees. With that many candidates and resumes being passed around, it’s easy to lose track of who said what, who left a positive impression, and who left a negative impression. If you don’t have a process to pull together everyone’s input, the final hiring decision may be made based on fading memories. An effective post-interview review process ensures that information is shared and documented so you can refer to it once you’re ready to make a final decision.

Get Input from Everyone Who Spoke to the Candidate

If you have people meet with the candidate but don’t get their thoughts, that meeting was a waste of time. Solicit opinions from everyone who spent time with them, even if they only took them to lunch. Let junior staffers speak first to make sure they aren’t pressured to conform to their boss’s opinions.

Talk About Details

Go beyond gut feelings to discuss the specific ways the candidate left both positive and negative impressions. It’s important to identify whether there were any discrepancies in how the candidate presented themselves to the multiple interviewers. If anyone has specific concerns about the candidate, they should be shared with the group.

Keep Track of Candidates in a Standard Way

Use a consistent set of criteria so all interviewees are evaluated on the same metrics. Make sure the criteria are relevant to the position, and don’t have so many that providing ratings becomes a chore. You can assign a score to each category and also come up with an overall ranking of the interviewees. This will help you decide who to extend an offer to and how to proceed if they turn you down.

Don’t Wait Too Long to Schedule the Review

You don’t have to have a review meeting after each interview—it’s fine to discuss more than one candidate—but if you’re bringing in a series of candidates over a series of weeks, you should have a meeting every week or two to make sure candidates are discussed while you still remember them.

Working with a staffing agency can help bring in better candidates, and simplify and streamline your interview and post-interview process. InReach IT Solutions will work with you to understand the skills your open positions require and provide strong potential hires for your consideration. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you solve your staffing problems.

Retaining Top IT Talent

January 22nd, 2016

The most effective way to meet your staffing needs is to hire good performers and then retain them. In the IT industry, both parts of that are tough: There are lots of people with superficial knowledge of technology but fewer with real expertise. And there’s lots of demand for staff with real expertise, so top employees know they’ve always got the option of taking a new position somewhere else. In order to keep your best employees, you need to make sure they continue to find their jobs rewarding.

Financial Rewards

The bottom-line reward for many employees is simply their bottom line. Salary surveys are published in the technical press and by technical recruiters, so your staff will know if they’re being fairly paid and what kind of increase they can achieve if they leave. So it’s important that you provide competitive financial rewards, starting with base salary and an annual increase that bumps pay to keep up with inflation and industry trends. In some industries, bonuses and stock options may be routinely expected. Other financial rewards include retirement plans, insurance coverage, and paid time off.

Technical Challenge

Most technical staff enjoy working with current technology, so make sure they have the opportunity to develop new technical skills each year. This means letting people work on different projects; tempting as it is to keep the “expert” assigned to their current project, let them move to a new project. You’ll still be able to ask them questions, which you can’t do if they get too bored and move to another firm. Also budget for your staff to take training, and don’t limit training to technologies you have immediate plans to use.

Career Development

Make sure staying with your company long term aligns with your talent’s career goals. Don’t assume what those goals are; make a discussion of goals part of the year-end review process. Create a development plan that addresses the employee’s wishes, whether that means they want to become a technical expert, they want to understand the business better, or they want to develop leadership skills and move out of the individual contributor role.

Before you can retain top IT talent, you need to hire top IT talent. InReach IT Solutions has connections to a deep pool of IT workers who can meet your needs. Contact us to learn how we can help you hire workers you’ll want to retain.

4 Common Reference-Checking Mistakes

January 15th, 2016

Job seekers are selling themselves, so you can’t take everything they say at face value. Their resumes and answers to interview questions put the best light on everything, and possibly even stretch the truth slightly. To get a fuller perspective of their experience and capabilities, you need to talk with others who’ve worked with them. That means checking references. But how do you get the most out of doing that? To make reference checks meaningful, you need to avoid these four mistakes:

  1. Not requiring professional references. Even when hiring someone straight from school, it’s important that the references are people who’ve worked with the candidate in a professional capacity. While other references can provide insight into the candidate’s character, you need more than that; you need references who can validate the candidate’s technical capabilities. Only former supervisors can give you that assessment. Former co-workers can offer information, but their perspective differs from someone the candidate reported to.
  1. Asking only closed questions. If you ask only yes/no questions, you’re likely to get only yes/no answers. Leading questions will also limit the kinds of answers you get. References will offer much more useful information if you ask open-ended questions that let them provide details that support their opinions. Don’t just write down their answers and move on to your next planned question; ask follow-up questions based on their responses to explore the response further.
  1. Waiting until late in the hiring process. Reference checks are often conducted as a formality before sending out a job offer. In reality, they should be checked before you decide you want to make an offer. Identify your top two or three candidates and interview references for all of them. If you conduct effective reference checks, you can use the references’ opinions to promptly follow-up interviews with the candidates or as important information in choosing between them.
  1. Not hiring someone based on bad feedback from a reference. It’s true a bad reference can be a source of concern. If the reference name was provided by the candidate, they clearly expected the reference would provide positive information. However, you need to consider the feedback in light of all the other information you have as well as the requirements of the position you’re hiring for. The negative remarks of the reference might relate to a technology or interpersonal skill that isn’t important in your open position.

Bonus: The biggest reference-checking mistake? Not doing one.

Increase the odds of getting positive feedback when you check references by interviewing candidates prescreened by a staffing agency. InReach IT Solutions has more than 20 years’ experience finding top-notch candidates. Contact us to learn how we can help you fill your open positions.