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Strategies for hiring managers in 2019, part 2

When you become a hiring manager, you may consider approaching the process with a laundry list of skills you are looking for in a candidate. While that’s tempting to do, it could mean a lot of highly qualified people are overlooked. Based on a survey Indeed conducted in 2016, the popular job-related search site found “86% of companies face challenges finding technical talent, and they find that applicants often meet less than half of the criteria in their job posts.” That criteria could be holding you back from getting talented workers.

Take engineering talent, for example. Ninety percent of developers on Stack Overflow are self-taught. Consider which skills are really required for a role and which are just nice to have. According to a recent Textio survey, almost 40% of job seekers said they didn’t apply for a job because of a bad job description. This is especially true for women applying for engineering positions. Don’t inadvertently scare these people out of applying for your role. Here are some more tips on how to move past the list of skills to find the right person for your job.

Hire for culture add, not just aptitude and experience.

It might seem like the best indication of how successful a candidate will be in the role you’re hiring for is what they have done in the past, but there’s more to it than that. Textio Director of Engineering Chris Harland said, “Don’t over-index on the past experience that someone has. You need to create an interview that allows them to demonstrate who they are, not what they have done.

“We look for people with a point of view, who are low ego. This is demonstrated in engineering by being very willing to tackle a solution, period. A candidate may have no idea how to do something, but are they willing? They either have a strong aptitude for learning or they don’t, and that’s what I look for.”

Any prospective candidate should be able to show how they demonstrate your company values as well as an ability to work effectively within a team. Josh Clow, Engineering Manager, agrees, “I weigh soft skills a lot. Having experience with a particular tech stack or programming language is substantially less interesting to me than if you have experience with things that are harder to teach. So you don’t know JavaScript, but you’ve programmed in another language and you know how to do all these other things, plus you’re really, really good about something like user empathy? That’s a whole person.”

Particularly when resources are scarce and competition is tight, there might be a temptation to “fill the seat” just to get the work done. Engineering Manager Max Winderbaum advises against that. “One hiring mistake I have made is valuing experience and aptitude over low ego and teamwork, and actually making the call to hire brilliant jerks. Because in my mind, their brilliance made up for them not getting along with people or being abrasive. I saw very poor results from those hires, and it’s a mistake I won’t ever make again.”

Engineering Manager Orion Montoya put it even more simply: “Demonstrations of raw skill are less interesting than a practice of adaptability. There is no contribution that we need more than we need someone’s contribution to be positive…to be unequivocally positive and nontoxic.”

Stay tuned for part 3 in our series on strategies for hiring managers. You can find part 1 here.

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