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How to Hire the Best Employees for Technical Jobs

May 12, 2016

job-candidate.jpgRecruiting and assessing candidates for technical positions often presents its own unique set of challenges. As the demand for technical related positions continues to grow, the need to properly recruit and assess candidates will become even more critical. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that demand for technical positions across a variety of industries will increase by nearly 20% from now through 2020. This includes technical positions across IT, scientific, manufacturing, and environmental sectors.

The importance of technical skills and knowledge

When employers are seeking to fill technical positions, they will often work with specialty or “niche” recruiters who can better help them hone in on finding the candidates who possess expert knowledge of specific technical skills. Asking targeted technical questions and confirming specific degrees and certifications can help determine to what degree a candidate can understand and perform the technical aspects of the job. These are obviously critical components of a well-sought after candidate.

The equal importance of non-technical skills and competencies

Technical knowledge and competence aside, one detrimental pitfall that many employers find themselves in is not putting equal importance on assessing the non-technical skills and abilities of candidates.

Just because a candidate has expert technical knowledge, do they:

  • Adapt to frequent changes that occur on the job and not lose effectiveness?

  • Demonstrate initiative to seek out continuous improvement opportunities and help the company grow?

  • Remain positive and enthusiastic about projects or their work when things do not go according to plan?

  • Have the ability to work as a team and collaborate with others, even if it means they will not be the main decision maker?

  • Work well with individuals from diverse backgrounds? How would that individual perform managing a global team of people?

  • Take feedback, criticism, and instruction from their supervisor?

A candidate can have all of the technical qualifications in the world and still be a difficult or demanding team member that no one wants to or enjoys working with.

The value in assessing for non-technical skills

Pre-employment testing with an emphasis on evaluating the non-technical skills required in a position is the best way to get a measure of how a very technically competent candidate may fare in relation to the “softer” skills needed to truly be effective in the role. It is typically the candidates who excel in the latter who are the “rock star” employees. These employees tend to stand out above and beyond their counterparts who may just possess strong technical skills.

Assessments that include interactive realistic scenarios, personality inventories, and role plays can be very beneficial and serve as a comprehensive, deeper dive into a candidate’s non-technical competencies such as adaptability, initiative, teamwork, influence, self-awareness, and sensitivity to diversity to name a few.

Identifying candidates for future promotion

Having a baseline of the non-technical skills that a candidate may possess coming into a position better helps managers identify which candidates may be ahead of the game in the softer/people side of things. This means that candidate might make a good option for future promotion.

Assessment of non-technical skills = Cost Savings and Less Headaches

Bottom line: Taking the time to do a more in-depth assessment of a candidate’s non-technical skills and abilities in the pre-employment selection process is likely to be a good investment and money well spent. Don’t forget about the cost of making a poor hire for a position of this nature and level. You’ll save yourself plenty of headaches if you avoid hiring someone who may be prone to demonstrating these poor non-technical behaviors.

The Ultimate Hiring Manager’s Guide

Connie Gentry Connie Gentry was a Consulting Associate at PSI. Connie’s work experience includes job analyses, validation, assessment design and customization, EEOC analyses, behavioral interview guide and anchored rating scale development, multi-rater tool (360 Feedback), large-scale competency-based selection and competency model design, and executive assessment.