Over the last couple of months, I’ve done more interviewing than in the previous years of working in IT. I’ve had a very good time training and helping employees improve their skill sets and unfortunately take positions in other companies. So I’ve had a lot of time thinking about who I wanted to hire for my open positions and I don’t take the hiring of someone lightly, this is a decision that impacts me. Yet, because candidate that I look at is considered an entry level position, it’s sometimes hard to find someone with the level of experience or the flushed out resume with experience that I would like. This leaves me with a unique position to think outside of the box a little bit and make sure I’m getting the level of candidate that I can use.
My number one advice, is to hire people who are willing and constantly wanting to learn, as apposed to someone who is set in their ways. In my opinion IT people generally fall into one of two categories: Niche fillers and Learners. For the longest time in IT or business in general, is to want to gravitate to the people with Niche knowledge, someone who is an expert at what they do. I have many friends who are this kind of IT, they know their job well, and they get uncomfortable when things vary from their knowledge base. I on the other hand of had the career path, of not being Niche, but as someone who will figure out the new tools or learn a new skill to get a job done. I don’t necessarily know if this was something I had set out to achieve or if it was something I achieved out of necessity. Through my career a lot of my jobs required me to constantly push my comfort zone, we didn’t have money for a web developer, so I had to learn PHP and SQL or we didn’t have money for a real backup solution, how do we accomplish a backup solution. I don’t want it to appear, I’m totally knocking the Niche players, I’ve had my share when I needed to rely upon them, it was just more complex that I could understand. There’s defiantly a place for that kind to worker, just not every position.
I’ve found in my career, that while companies are attracted to the Niche worker, because their resumes are usually well polished, they generally have held positions for longer, the generally have certifications and specific education and knowledge from year ago that may no be common in your newer technicians. Plus as technology becomes more and more complex Niche workers have the correct keywords on their resume that tends to get recruiters and hiring managers attention. Yet, even though they make a great resume, that does not always mean will that translate well into your organization.
Remember Abraham Maslow’s saying “if all you have is a hammer,everything looks like a nail”, this can apply to Niche workers as well, they specific knowledge in their field can cause them to rule our or over analyze (sometimes incorrectly) and issue just because their expertise. On the other hand Learners can quickly adapt to a scenario and have a larger knowledge base to pull possible solutions and different methods of attacking a problem. Also in my experience, Learners tend to be software or tool agnostic, it doesn’t matter the tool they are using it will adapt and change over time. Some of the tools I started out using, I’ve ditched and used other tools that better got the result for me.
It’s important to remember, that not ever Learner is the same and not every Niche worker is the same. Make sure you know what the best fit will be for your organization and position, and do your due diligence in your hiring process. Some companies may be very resistant to hiring the Learner over the Niche worker, but it may pay off for you and your company in the long run to have these discussions. Remember identifying and hiring lifelong learners will take an effort during the hiring process, but it can provide you with a flexible technology employee that will last far beyond whatever the “next big thing” in IT becomes.