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How to assess the competence of an IT candidate?
Recruitment at IT is a real challenge. It's everyone’s ambition to hire a person who is communicative, open to criticism, inclined to think logically, a creative team player able to exert an influence on others, and also an unquestionable expert in his or her field. Sad but true, this is hardly ever attainable… It's possible, however, to look deeper into the key skills in the world of IT – both hard and soft skills – and see whether a person is an up-and-coming one.
The skills of software developers and/or analysts can be verified long before you invite them to a job interview. One of the options available during the recruitment of developers are preliminary online practice aptitude tests. You can use such applications as Filttr, or Technically Compatible, and with a set of tasks devised to cover a certain level of difficulty, you can compare a candidate’s CV with their actual skills and learn about their strong and weak points.
One of the variants of online tests is gamification. Enhancing a task by adding some elements known from computer games – an interesting story, and a bit of rivalry – boosts motivation and helps candidates to push themselves beyond their limits to beat their competitors, and still enjoy doing it.
Hackathons also are an uncommon but very effective method of verifying developers’ hard competencies, the only difference being that anyone who takes part in them does not have the status of a candidate. They will, however, become the point of interest for more than one company if they are able to prove their effectiveness and creativity in carrying out their tasks. Another advantage of watching talented participants of an event is the possibility of gaining an insight into their ability to work under the pressure of time and cooperate with other developers.
Knowledge – yes, but not only
And when eventually your candidate turns out to meet the expectations as far as professional qualifications are concerned, one of the first things that comes to the fore is the need to make sure he or she is a perfect fit for your team. Nowadays, people working in IT are not freelancers detached from others. Quite the opposite, very often – just like in the case of agile software development – it all comes down to communication between teams at daily briefings. These competencies are important at every level of the company’s hierarchy, but when it comes to the people applying for managerial positions, such skills should be treated as having equal significance as knowledge and hard skills.
Different levels, one ladder
Depending on the position and the function, some of the soft skills carry more weight than the other. Regular employees, e.g. software developers, should be communicative, able to solve problems quickly, be impeccably organized and open to constructive criticism. As for middle managers and team leaders, the quality that is most sought-after is the ability to aptly handle change management, i.e. choosing the right pace and time for its implementation, and methods of acting, as well as release management, i.e. managing software editions and implementation of functionality. At the top levels of hierarchy, when it comes to Chief Information Officers, it is crucial to be able to make swift decisions, have leadership qualities, and be good at risk management. People in high-level positions in the IT sector should stand out with their emotional intelligence and the ability to listen to others so that they can build authority and encourage their staff to follow their example.
Good managers are worth their weight in gold
Against the backdrop of the employee’s market and the shortage of specialists – as proved by the number of IT job offers that are being placed – a valuable manager is a key asset for the company’s growth. People in this position should combine the qualities of a team captain, a psychologist, a visionary, and an analyst. They do not have to be experts in every field; however, it would be an extra asset if they were able to use the experience and skills of their direct reports. A good manager motivates, inspires, solves problems and stays alert to all the situations that occur within a team – also known as group dynamics – and handles them like a complex organism, rather than as a set of individuals. In the era of globalisation and international cooperation in the IT sector, the values that seem to be gaining momentum are tolerance and respect for distinct worldviews, and the ability to manage multi-cultural teams, where great emphasis is placed on the ability to release pressure and solve the problems that arise as a result of differences between people from different parts of the world.