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Prioritize personality in your IT recruitment strategy

An effective IT recruitment strategy weighs a candidate's qualifications -- and personality. Cheaper Than A Geek's chief nerd explains his approach to hiring and retention.

In this unique industry, good IT people make all the difference, so the quality of your hire is especially critical.

When companies begin their talent search, they often ask the right questions and carefully assess whether a proposed candidate can do the job. However, while determining whether a person is capable of meeting job performance requirements is important, you should ask additional questions.

Below you will find recommendations about how to make sure you're hiring the right people and what to do to keep them.

Get to know candidates

When you're looking for the right job candidate, you're really looking for a needle in a haystack. Sure, every person you interview is going to bring something different to the table. But the exact match for the job will bring the right combination of skills and personality.

While both are important, I prioritize personality over skills. To do this, you'll want to consider the following IT recruitment strategy points:

Company culture. This new person is going to be a part of your organization. If they can't fit in with the company culture, they won't succeed no matter how qualified they are. I like to ask off-the-wall questions toward the end of the interview to get a better insight to their personality -- for example, what their spirit animal is, and how many tennis balls fit into a limousine. While these questions are somewhat silly, they give you a window into how a job candidate is wired and thinks.

Christopher BarberChristopher Barber

What can't be taught. Personality is more than just a person's outlook on life. Their ability to cope with pressure, learn on their feet and effectively handle unexpected situations is an instinct that can't be taught through training or instruction. In addition, their personal standards and drive play a huge role in how well they'll manage in their new position.

As we all know, IT is not for the faint of heart. Clients are often in a bad mental state when they need to get us involved. I like to hire folks that take a "fireman getting the kitten out of the tree" approach vs. the stodgy geek who gets annoyed when end users dare interrupt them with an issue.

Go with your gut. When you have the right people to conduct job interviews, they can tell who will work well with your team and who won't. Ask reliable employees to participate in the interview process and give you input on candidates. It took me years to figure out this part of the hiring process, and it's a big deal. Bonuses to this are that your current employees feel appreciated and their opinions valued. They will also have more buy-in when the new hire succeeds. Everybody wins!

My goal is always to find the right personality first and the right skill set second.

How to retain talent

If you hire the right people, they'll be assets to your company. You'll need to treat them well to keep them, however, as retaining talent means more than simply offering a competitive salary and decent benefits.

To inspire loyalty from your employees, you'll want to develop a strong company culture. You can do all sorts of things to achieve this. Everything from hosting events designed to give employees a little extra fun to creating a supportive environment where they feel they can express their ideas and be taken seriously. It's your company culture that keeps your employees loyal, and if you hire talent designed to fit in, that environment will only get better.

Any ideas that inject a little fun into your employee's lives and show off their personalities will help them feel more connected to the company and, by extension, keep them engaged. We have all heard of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But there is a better one for retaining employers: "Do unto others as THEY WANT you to do unto them."

Like snowflakes and fingerprints, we are all different. We all have different communication preferences and motivations. I give all new hires a DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientiousness) assessment to determine how they are wired and the best way to communicate with them. Unless you hired your twin, you would benefit tremendously from using something like a DISC assessment as well -- instead of winging it and inadvertently risking upsetting folks.

At our company, we know exactly what it's like to hire talent that fits our particular brand of nerdiness. You can teach anyone IT skills, but you can't teach them to have a sense of humor or be a good cultural fit. My goal is always to find the right personality first and the right skill set second, and that is why my employees are our company's biggest asset. By following that rule of thumb in your IT recruitment strategy, you can cultivate your own employee pool to give your company exactly the vibe you want -- whatever that might be.

About the author
Christopher Barber is chief nerd at
Cheaper Than A Geek, an IT services provider based in Crofton, Md. Barber is a member of The ASCII Group Inc., a North American IT community of more than 1,300 MSPs, solution providers and systems integrators.

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