How to interview an IT specialist. Challenges, questions and pitfalls

How to interview an IT specialist. Challenges, questions and pitfalls

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The importance of IT professionals is underestimated. Moreover, regardless of the size of the company the share of "tech persons" relative to specialists in other aspects of activities is very small. However, one good IT specialist can sometimes be more important to a company than an entire department. IT specialists are responsible for the smooth operation of the enterprise, bringing new technologies to the company, and for optimizing business processes and saving or competently allocating funds for the purchase of equipment, and much more. Hiring a good professional is not easy.

After analyzing our own experience, including the experience of providing IT outsourcing services, IT Support want to tell you how to talk with an IT specialist when applying for a job and what problems may arise during such an interview. The main problem is that IT specialists are often recruited by people who have no direct relationship to IT. HR may know (and it’s good when they know) a lot about the psychology of behavior, can determine the level of communication skills, personality type and much more, but where the crux of the matter begins, that is, the level of professional training and competencies of an IT specialist, HR competencies end. It is very difficult to determine the candidate's level, even in companies where there’re IT departments. There are two ways that can facilitate this process: analysis of a specialist's experience, that is CV, or a background-blind interview when you check the qualifications of a specialist without looking back at his or her experience. Let's try to figure out what is important to consider in each of these methods.

Background-blind interview

Two fundamentally important points can make you use blind interviews. Firstly, at an interview, IT specialists quickly find themselves in a comfort zone: usually they reluctantly change jobs, and after settling in one place, they stop developing within the framework of strictly defined tasks. That is, a line in a CV about ten years in a large company, among other things, may indicate that new tasks and new challenges in the industry will be too tough for a person. Actually, the second important point is that the industry is developing very (very!) fast. And even a ready-made script for a conversation with an IT specialist, which is used by a non-specialist, can become outdated. And you won’t even understand this. A “blind” interview implies that you do not analyze the candidates’ experience, but, having determined their personal qualities (and finding them suitable for your team), give a real (hypothetical, but the effect isn’t so obvious) task: describe the problem and propose not only to describe solution, but also strike a balance and close the issue. Here it’s important to pay attention to the fact that the mission must be “field” one, something from the real experience of the company, since good IT specialists do not particularly appreciate working “for rainy days”. With this approach, you don’t need to understand the intricacies of specialists’ work, and in addition, you get the opportunity to assess the level of their professional responsibility. You can go something like this: “Our site crashes from time to time. How long will it take you to study and solve the problem? ”. And if they really solve the problem within the assigned time period, then they can be trusted.

Experience analysis

The previous method may not work for everyone. Sometimes there is no time for this, sometimes there are no resources, and sometimes there are not too many unsolved problems that would be indicative, as there are candidates for the position of an IT specialist. In such a situation, an interview is indispensable. Most interviews are divided into two stages: selection of candidates and personal interview. Sometimes there are three stages, when there is a conversation on the phone that takes place between the proposal and a personal meeting (usually it takes half an hour or an hour). It is impossible to assess professional qualities and competencies at the selection stage. The recruiter (or, in some cases, the head of the department, director or an assistant) reads the CV, spending no more than 10 seconds for each, and decides to contact the candidate using one or two illustrative markers: for someone, education is important, for someone these are work experience or additional skills. When considering work experience, it is important to evaluate not the total number of years in the industry and in a particular company, but the details, however the necessary details are often not present in the CV. Most people write the name of the company and the time period they have been with it. It doesn’t tell a lot. Therefore, a big plus at the stage of selecting a CV will be the assigned professional responsibilities at previous jobs: achievements, leadership experience or experience in a large team, and so on. The intermediate stage – a telephone interview – in most cases is needed precisely in order to clarify the details of the experience.

What is to be asked?

It is important to remember: IT specialists are not verbose people. They often lack self-presentation skills. And this is also a double-edged sword: the younger the specialist, the better the self-presentation skills. For most modern universities, this is akin to speaking English language, but a specialist behind that sugarcoat might not be able really back anything. And vice versa: an inconversable person can turn out to be a brilliant professional. In order not to be fascinated by a "dummy" or not to miss a good shot due to problems with communication skills, you need to operate with questions to which the person will answer accurately, no matter how eloquent. So, for people with experience there are two main questions: what did the specialist “raise from scratch” and what did he or she maintain? How many employees and workstations in the companies he or she worked for. That is, if a person who worked in a company with 500 workplaces and 10 servers comes to a company with 10 times less staff, it’s worth considering overqualification issue: you will have a thumbs-twiddling employee. Moreover, if a person says that he or she served a company of 500 computers, you need to ask: did he or she raise an IT infrastructure of this scale from scratch? If not, then this is totally different level of qualification. It is necessary that such a candidate (in fact, any candidate for any position) concretizes his or her role in establishing or maintaining the IT infrastructure, regardless of scale. What exactly did he or she do, what tasks did he or she do and how quickly? The last part of the question is especially important if the recruiter is not good at the specifics of the future co-worker’s activities. During the internship or probationary phase, it will be possible to compare words and actions. Let's say the candidate said he or she single-handedly set up a server backup of 10 workstations in one week. Fine! The clearer the words, the easier it is to test them. Check not only the time that the candidate is in the industry, but also pay attention to the breaks in professional activity. So, if your company does not have time to "warm up" the staff, and he or she has not been involved in IT for more than two years, it is better to withdraw from hiring this type of person.

Better safe than sorry

Call their previous employers. Talking to the ex-bosses is one of the easiest ways to get your bearings. Were the tasks completed on time, what was the load, and in general, is the list of tasks and areas of responsibility that the candidate voiced during the conversation consistent with reality? The former employer can tell about this, although here the human factor should also be taken into account.

So, what do we have?

It is difficult to hire an IT specialist as they are in short supply. The probability of hiring an employee who will actually cope with the tasks has nothing to do with the presence or absence of an interview, especially if you are not delving into details or are not an expert in the industry. Either they present themselves poorly, or you cannot check them properly. Our tips can help you navigate the problem, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Much depends on the specifics of the company. What to do? The solution may be to invite a consultant, a specialist who had experience in hiring employees for IT departments. The two views of the recruiter / director and the visiting expert provide a deeper analysis of the candidacy to reduce the risk of making the wrong choice. However you will have to spend time, resources and, ultimately, will have the same problem with the interview. But who are we to judge? Another solution is IT outsourcing. Do you have a task or a series of tasks to create and / or maintain an IT infrastructure and do not have time to understand the intricacies that specialists have been studying for years? Therefore, you invite a company that takes responsibility for the quality of personnel and offers you not people, but solutions to problems. The IT Support Group offers this kind of service: you either get constant consultations, remote control over the server and workstations or call a specialist if necessary, or have a cool specialist in your staff. The cost of such an employee doesn’t exceed the cost of a hired specialist, but what is the likelihood that the random person has the many years of experience in a large IT company? This is not an advertisement for IT Support, but rather a desire to give the market maximum information about a service, the quality of which is just coming to the proper level and can make your life easier.