Finding good IT specialists is difficult, even if you know a lot about IT yourself.  The problem is only compounded if you’re not an IT specialist, and you’re simply looking for someone to look after that side of your business for you.  How can you make sure that the person you’re hiring really does have the skills you need?  Instead of just reading their CV, consider asking the following questions in your interview:

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Experience Counts

One of the biggest problems with the IT industry (and many other industries for that matter) is that certifications are often based on theory.  You may have heard people refer to the “Paper MCSE” – someone who is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, but has never really worked with Microsoft networks or systems – everything they know came from a classroom.

While some of the people that learned everything from books go on to be great developers or network engineers, that isn’t always the case.  So, if you’re looking for someone who knows their way around the Oracle e-business suite, don’t write off applicants that have learned on the job and haven’t finished taking their certifications yet. Experience matters.


What Makes an IT Specialist Indispensible?


Can They Learn?

Ask any experienced computer science lecturer about programming, and the first thing they’ll say is that the choice of language doesn’t matter.  A real programmer can learn any language – it may take them a while to get up to speed with the syntax, but once they learn the quirks of a new language, they’ll be able to apply their logical mind and analytical skills, and write good programs.

So, don’t go into the interview looking for a Java developer, instead, look for someone that displays good critical thinking skills.

Some people recommend using programming tests such as “Fizzbuzz” or “How would you reverse a string?” as a way to figure out if a developer knows their stuff. This is not really a good idea.  Anyone applying for a job as a java developer has probably studied the answers to the most popular job interview programming tests.

Rather than testing someone on something that’s easy to revise for, consider asking interviewees to do something else that will show problem solving ability – perhaps assemble a toy or an appliance, or complete a level in a video game.  Someone that shows the ability to think on their feet will be more valuable than someone who knows only one language, and can only apply solutions put together by rote learning.

Are they Keeping Their Skills Current?

If you’re not a tech expert yourself, spend a few minutes before the interview reading blogs related to the topic you’re hiring for, and ask the interviewee what they think about current developments.  For example, if you’re hiring a web developer to work with the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl), you might ask them “So, we’re looking for a LAMP developer, but I’m curious, what do you think of Ruby on Rails?”  You might ask a Java developer whether they think HTML5 really is the future.

The exact answer to those questions doesn’t matter, all you’re looking for is to see whether or not the interviewee is keeping up to date with current technologies.  There’s no point hiring someone if they’re going to let their skills become outdated, leaving you stuck with obsolete code a few years down the line.

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