It’s both more serious and less serious than we’ve admitted
I’ve recently seen a lot of very anxious responses from people in tech at anything which suggests that their “core skills” may be devalued, especially in favor of other skills which they haven’t spent their lives on. Most importantly, this shows up in the argument over “hard” versus “soft” skills. That anxiety is itself a signal of how important this has become. But there’s a hidden assumption we’ve been making that (I suspect) has increased the anxiety far out of proportion: and maybe perversely, it comes from not taking soft skills seriously enough. Today, I’d like to share some thoughts on what’s actually happening, and a set of things we can do to help fix it for all of us.
Regardless of experience, these are the five traits I look for in potential employees.
Hiring is hard. It’s a stressful process where you’re trying to find a good fit, both personally and technically, all in a few short hours. Over the last five years I’ve hired numerous developers and while they haven’t all worked out, I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to work with some excellent people.
In every case, as I’m sitting across from them in the interview, I focus on trying to see if the candidate exhibits the following five traits.
It’s a decision every business has to make: Should you bring in a recruiter to help you find job candidates, or do it yourself? There’s no single answer that is right for everyone. Let’s assume, though, that you’re charged with building a development or technical staff for a new project or company. What special issues have an impact on your decision on hiring your staff?
When you hire for professional positions, you’ll likely hear the siren call of professional employment recruiters, especially if those positions are in areas of high demand with a limited candidate pool. You can turn over large pieces of the hiring process to the recruiter, and step in for interviews of the most qualified candidates. Of course, in return for this help, you also turn over a significant percentage of the new employee’s first-year salary.
Avoid people whose skills complement yours! Consider the “cell division” approach instead.
Early hiring, yet another area where startups often reverse Muggle business logic. Conventional hiring wisdom says to add people who excel at important skills you lack. “I’m great at product and engineering. We need sales, though, so let’s hire a fantastic salesperson!”
It’s understandable. Founders start out doing everything. As you run out of time in your day, it’s natural to want relief. Wouldn’t it be nice to bring on a person who excels at the things you find unfamiliar? So you hire someone to do that new job — sales, marketing, community management, something. Magic!
Culture defines a company — but it also limits it. That’s what Pip Jamieson discovered while working for MTV in Australia. “Everyone we hired were just mates and mates and mates,” Jamieson says. Hiring friends of friends was an easy way to find creative talent, but she felt hiring based on employee recommendations created a homogenous culture that lacked a fresh injection of ideas, skills, and talent.
To solve that problem, she founded The Dots, a UK-based online network where creative professionals can showcase their portfolios. Companies can find talent on the platform, and creatives can find job opportunities from companies like MTV, Spotify, and others. The platform is also building a community. Like LinkedIn, you can add people to your network and even recommend them. The site is also a resource, listing co-working spaces, courses, and networking events. “I really believe that creativity is a force for good,” Jamieson says. “Soon machines are going to drive, code, do our laundry … The last things humans are going to be good for is creativity. So, we help harness that community.”
It’s 2016. Nobody can reasonably expect to have a ‘job for life’, or even work within the same organization for more than a few years. As a result, you’re likely to dip into the jobs marketplace more often than your parents and grandparents did. That means it’s increasingly important to be able to prove:
who you are
what you know
who you know
what you can do
Unfortunately, hiring is still largely based on submitting a statement of skills and experience we call a ‘Curriculum Vitae’ (or résumé) along with a covering letter. This may lead to an interview and, if you like each other, the job is yours. We have safeguards in place at every step to ensure people don’t discriminate on age, gender, or postal code. Despite this, almost every part of the current process is woefully out-of-date. I’ve plenty to say about all of this, but will save most of it for another time.