Evaluating a Candidate’s Enthusiasm

February 12th, 2016

The skills and experience a candidate brings to the job are important indicators of how qualified they are to perform the task, and you’ll want to consider them seriously when you make your hiring decisions. You’ll also want to consider factors like the candidate’s personality and their enthusiasm. If two candidates are equally qualified, consider hiring the more enthusiastic candidate. If two candidates are not equally qualified, but the difference in qualifications is slight, you should also consider hiring the more enthusiastic candidate. Here’s why:

  • Enthusiastic candidates are more likely to pursue training and improvement. People who are excited about the work they’re doing want to get better at it. These candidates will invest time in training and learning, both on the job and on their own time, letting them develop new skills that bring more value to their work.
  • Enthusiastic candidates will do better work. When you don’t like what you’re doing, you don’t put much effort into it; you aim for the minimally acceptable level of quality. Enthusiastic candidates who enjoy what they’re doing take pride in their work and want it to be exceptional, so you can expect they’ll put more effort into it. You can also expect an enthusiastic employee to go above and beyond in other ways, looking for ways to contribute outside the strict boundary of their official role.
  • Enthusiastic candidates will fit in and be team players. If their positive, enthusiastic attitude carries over from the interview into the workplace, the candidate will be a positive, enthusiastic employee who is fun to be around. Their good energy will be beneficial to the team as a whole.

Finding an enthusiastic employee means paying attention to job candidates’ attitudes during their interviews. You shouldn’t expect them to be enthusiastic about their current job—they’re looking to change, after all—but they should be able to be enthusiastic about something they’ve achieved. They should also sound excited when asked about what they’re looking for in their next position; hopefully, what they’re looking for matches what you have to offer. You can also gauge enthusiasm by how thoroughly they’ve researched your company prior to the interview and the kinds of questions they ask.

It can be hard to maintain your own enthusiasm when searching for a new employee. Working with a staffing agency like InReach IT Solutions can help you stay positive by sending you top candidates to interview. Contact us to learn how our services can help.

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.

The Difference Between Leaders and Managers

January 8th, 2016

Once technical workers move out of the individual contributor role, where the main responsibility is to work hands-on with the technology, the technical career ladder offers leadership and management roles. Projects may have project leaders, technical leads, team leads, as well as project managers. Every company can define the job responsibilities differently, but there are similarities between all the “leadership” roles. The difference between a lead role and a manager role can be subtle, but it’s important to understand in order to identify the best worker for the position.

Project Leader Responsibilities

In technical projects, roles with “lead” titles usually aren’t fully hands-on but aren’t completely removed from the technical work either. Individuals in these positions know the details of the technology. They have a vision for how the project should be executed and how the product should develop over time. They make key decisions regarding choice of technology and the architecture and design of the system being built. The project leader usually assigns specific tasks to other members of the team and oversees their work, but doesn’t have the administrative responsibility for performance reviews. Project leaders are responsible for identifying when a project is in trouble and reporting problems to the project manager; while they can propose solutions, the project manager is usually the one with the responsibility of speaking with customers to reach a resolution.

Project Manager Responsibilities

Project managers have overall responsibility for a project that extends beyond the technical details. They work closely with the business to make sure the functionality being built will meet business needs. They make sure the project is staffed appropriately and the budget for tools, training, and other needs is spent wisely. Their staffing responsibilities include performance reviews and making hiring and firing decisions. When there are issues that affect the ability to deliver on schedule, they coordinate with the business to make sure a change in scope, budget, or delivery date is acceptable. While the project leader works with the quality assurance team to address quality issues, the project manager will typically make the decision of whether the quality is acceptable for shipping the product or not.

Whether you’re hiring a leader or a manager, working with a staffing agency like InReach IT Solutions can speed the hiring process. Our experience lets us screen candidates to make sure their skills fit the position. Contact us to learn how we can help you find the right people to fill your open jobs.

Should You Hire a Candidate who Doesn’t Interview Well?

December 28th, 2015

Interviews are part of the hiring process, but that doesn’t mean they should be the only factor in your hiring decision. Particularly for technical positions, you should rely on other factors besides interviewing skills when deciding to make an offer. After all, you aren’t hiring the candidate to answer interview questions. You’re hiring them to write or test code or perform other technical tasks. Communications skills may not matter as much as their technical ability. Use these other ways to judge whether they can do the job:

  1. Ask them to solve a problem. Answering technical questions doesn’t demonstrate the practical abilities the candidate has nearly as well as having them solve an actual problem. Ask them to write some code, design a database schema, or write a test case. Step out of the room and let them work on the problem the way they would if it was really their job. You could even have them tackle a real problem from your current project. After they finish writing the code, schema, or test case, go over it with them. If it’s perfect, that’s great. But almost nobody’s work is perfect. See how the candidate reacts to suggestions or questions about how to improve it. This will give you a sense of what they’ll be like to work with as team members.
  1. Take references seriously. These days, many employers won’t let references do more than confirm that the candidate once worked for them, but try to get more information from the reference than that. You want to find out about the projects the candidate worked on and the problems they solved. The more details you can get about the nature of the work and the way the job seeker tackled the challenges, the more you can get a feel for whether they would fit well in your organization.
  1. Consider their involvement in technical organizations or continuing education. If the candidate is involved in technical organizations or continuing education, that suggests a commitment to remaining technically current. Would your department benefit if the candidate shared this knowledge with the team?

Interviews are important, but they’re just one source of information during the hiring process. Work with  InReach IT Solutions to make sure candidates are fully evaluated and you end up with a great new employee.

Planning Your 2016 Hiring Strategy

December 18th, 2015

As you plan to address your hiring needs for 2016, look back at your hiring process in 2015 to see what worked and what didn’t, and to make adjustments so that your 2016 hiring is successful. Think about these questions and consider making changes where needed.

  1. Did you define job responsibilities clearly? It’s impossible to find the right person for the job if you can’t clearly say what they’ll need to do in the job. Take the time to define exactly what the role will be. Make sure you evaluate all candidates equally against these requirements to find the best fit.
  1. Did you make the hiring decisions by yourself? Once you’re a manager with the ability to make hiring decisions, your hands-on time with technology diminishes and so does your ability to assess technical qualifications. Be sure to have candidates evaluated by other members of your team who are closer to the technical work. And since your team will probably work more closely with the new hire than you will, listen to their input about the candidate’s interpersonal skills. It’s also important to check the candidate’s references; don’t settle for verifying dates of employment, but also verify the candidate’s competence.
  1. Is it taking too long to hire new staff? Did you fill all your positions this past year quickly, easily, and with the right people, or did you struggle, leaving positions unfilled for a long time? If you found it difficult to hire, you may have been looking in the wrong places, or you may not be offering the competitive salaries and benefits needed to attract candidates as the job market heats up.
  1. What are you doing to retain staff? The more staff you retain, the less you have to hire replacements. Pay attention to your staff morale. Take individual development planning seriously, and work with each team member to evaluate where they are and where they want to go. Understand what your staff values—respect, money, recognition, challenge—and deliver it so they have no reason to go elsewhere in search of rewards.

Need help with your hiring in 2016? Work with InReach IT Solutions to make sure next year’s new employees meet your staffing needs.

Hiring Top IT Talent in Dallas-Fort Worth

December 14th, 2015

Finding top technical talent has always been challenging, but in the second half of 2015, it’s getting even tougher for employers in Dallas-Fort Worth. Almost 1/4 of hiring companies reported that they plan to do additional hiring, specifically to expand their IT teams. Another 2/3 said they would fill open positions, while 0 percent—zero—said they would cut staff. That means when companies need to find new employees, not only are they competing with a large number of other companies to attract job seekers, there will be fewer people seeking jobs due to staff reductions.

Demand is expected to be especially high for network and windows administrator jobs, as well as PC support staff. On the developer side, projects related to security and website development will be the focus for many business IT teams.

The Benefits of Working With a Staffing Agency

Because of the competition to find the best candidates in this job market, companies that work with specialized staffing firms will have an advantage in recruiting. Staffing agencies know how to word job descriptions and make them appealing; they know where and how to publicize them so the right technical workers will see them.

The staffing agencies have large networks and relationships with candidates, including those they’ve placed previously who might be open to making a move. The agencies are also skilled at identifying new candidates through effective searching on sites like LinkedIn and in-person recruiting at events. They have the time to woo passive job seekers and turn them into an active candidate. Agencies are able to screen candidates and send only the most qualified to an employer, reducing wasted time during the interviewing process.

Staffing agencies specializing in IT recruiting can help the employer understand the current job market and create reasonable expectations regarding how long it will take to fill a position and the type of candidates on the market. Agencies have knowledge of market salaries and benefits that employers may lack; sharing this information can help the employer make a competitive offer to win a candidate.

The Benefit of Working With InReach IT Solutions

InReach IT Solutions is a boutique staffing agency focused on information technology hiring in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area. With more than 20 years experience in IT and recruiting, we have the expertise to find the specialized IT talent organizations need. In today’s competitive hiring market, our expertise could be the competitive advantage that helps you fill your staffing needs. Contact us to learn how we can help.

How Contract Employees Can Help Your IT Team

December 11th, 2015

The start of the year can be an uncertain time in business. Project commitments and budgets for the new year may not be final yet, while work may have missed end-of-year deadlines and carried forward to the new year. Departments that are struggling to cope with the challenge of high volumes of work in the first quarter may find temporary help to be an ideal solution.

Catch Up on Deadlines

If you missed deadlines at the end of the year, adding temporary staff can help you get back on top of your projects. Contract employees can bring specialized skills your team was missing, enabling you to solve problems the team was struggling with. Alternatively, bringing in contractors with basic skill sets can free your team from grunt work and let them focus on the value-added functions that require the business knowledge only long-term employees have. In either scenario, using contractors means there’s no long-term commitment on your part, so once the project’s back on track, they can be let go without any hard feelings on either side.

Get a Jump on New Projects

If you have projects line up for the new year that need to be staffed and can’t afford to wait to bring on new permanent hires, using contractors lets you build an IT team quickly so the project can start without delay. You can continue to search for appropriate permanent employees without the pressure of hiring somebody, anybody, just to get work started. You can also avoid the risk of adding permanent staff until you have management’s final commitment to the project and know it won’t be canceled just as you bring on new developers.

Keep Budgets and Headcount Under Control

Not every company has budgets and headcount for the new year finalized at the beginning of January. If you aren’t certain how many resources you’ll be able to support in the coming year, using contractors gives you flexibility to adapt when changes occur. If you do have final headcount and budget numbers, and they’re lower than you requested, using contract employees can be more cost-effective, as you don’t have to factor in the cost of benefits.
Whether you want to hire permanent staff or use contract employees on a temporary basis, working with a staffing agency is the most efficient way to find the right people for your team. Contact InReach IT Solutions to find out how we can help you solve your staffing problems.