Hiring for open IT jobs can be difficult. Writing job descriptions that accurately capture the skills a candidate needs — especially when most tech projects are a moving target — is often challenging. Add to that the fact that there’s already a lack of qualified IT professionals in the US — this creates a strong job seeker’s market, where the candidate can set the terms and be picky about the jobs they take. Then there are the usual stresses of hiring: how do you find somebody who can do everything they say they can do and mesh well with your team?
But while hiring for open tech positions can be difficult, figuring out what questions to ask shouldn’t. If you want to find the best candidate for your team, here are four questions IT recruiters suggest using.
1. What was the environment like in the last job you held? The one before that?
IT staffing firms suggest this question, especially first, because it gives you a strong sense of a candidates’ technical experience. The candidate should respond to this question by giving you an idea of what technologies they used in their past jobs, what development method was used and the size and scope of responsibilities. With this info, you’ll quickly hear if the candidate is prepared to handle your company environment. If, for example, your candidate is a Sys Admin coming from a small company, you’ll know they may not be ready to take on a huge company with numerous servers instead of one or two.
[Related: Checklist for Staffing Pros]
2. What do you like to do? What don’t you like to do?
IT recruiting firms find this question helps create an open, honest dialogue about the job description. Since, as discussed earlier, IT professionals are in demand, most feel comfortable being blunt about what they want in their next position. Listen carefully to see if the candidate quickly lists off work that will be a big part of the job description. You’ll also be likely to hear how happy (or unhappy) a candidate is to interact with a team, end users, etc. If you don’t hear any of this, then you can certainly go back and ask it explicitly.
3. Describe the biggest accomplishment you’ve had at a previous job.
This won’t always get you a technical answer, but it usually will, especially for more advanced technical jobs. This question will reveal more than technical skills and strengths, though. The way a candidate answers this question will also tell you about how teamwork-oriented they are. Listen for the pronouns — does the candidate use a lot of ‘we’ or ‘I’? How does this mesh with your company culture?
4. What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at work?
This question reveals a few things, both technical and not technical. You should get a more technical answer from candidates who are applying to higher level roles, like an ERP Systems Analyst, Solutions Architect, Lead Developer, etc. This will illuminate some of their strengths for you. Beyond technical skills and experience, the answer to this question will also tell you a lot about the candidate’s attitude as an employee. Listen for the tone of the answer and the solution. Does the candidate focus on the challenge and how much it hindered them, or do they focus on what they did to overcome it? Great candidates will use this question to now only show off their technical acumen, but also use the opportunity to tell a story of how their skills helped them fix a major issue — not badmouth former employers, bosses, coworkers, etc.
Samantha Keefe is an Interactive Marketing Manager at AVID Technical Resources. AVID Technical Resources is a leading information technology recruiting company with offices around the country.