You don’t hire based on traditional roles. Instead, ask candidates the problem the business wants to solve.

Allison Todd, Coach and Consultant

June 22, 2022

5 Min Read
magnifying glass looking at abstract job candidates
Nataly Turjeman via Alamy Stock

The labor shortage is alive and well in the US. In November 2021 alone, the US saw 4.5 million workers leave their jobs and 6.8 million job openings.

This creates a bigger problem in the IT sector. According to a report from Gartner, 58% of IT leaders plan to increase emerging technology investments. Digital transformation requires qualified IT talent, however, which is in short supply.

Based on the same survey, leaders believe the shortage of talent is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of 64% of the tech they’d like to adopt. This demand comes during a significant talent shortage.

Companies that don’t revamp their hiring practices to secure the top talent will soon find themselves without the necessary skill sets for transformation, and in turn, they won’t be competitive.

Don’t Hire Based on Traditional Roles

What’s your typical process for filling an open IT position? Do you follow the same tired hiring process of writing a job description with standard information, posting it to a job board, and screening candidates based on algorithms and required fields?

Then, you interview the IT candidates you’ve selected -- possibly putting them through several interviews -- and get opinions from major stakeholders. During the interviews, you probably ask questions like:

  • Why do you want this job?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Why did you leave your last job?

Based on the interviews, you choose your favorite candidate and inform the other candidates. Then, you onboard and train them, which may take weeks or months. This is on top of the weeks or months already devoted to the hiring process.

That’s a lot of time to fill a position, and even more time until the employee gets into the groove of your business and starts contributing. You’ve also invested resources into the hiring process and new employee.

This process needs to be repeated every time an employee outgrows their role and finds a new position or leaves because they’re unsatisfied or unfulfilled, and that’s a big problem in the IT sector.

According to research from TalentLMS and Workable, 72% of US tech employers are considering leaving their jobs, and 40% of them said that limited career growth opportunities are among the reasons. Another 85% said they felt that their company was more interested in attracting new talent than reskilling or upskilling current staff.

And unfortunately, you’ve created that situation with your hiring process. You hired based on traditional roles and responsibilities -- once the employee grows beyond that, they seek out other opportunities that challenge them, build new skills, and offer more satisfaction.

Fortunately, you can create this kind of satisfaction for your employees.

There’s a Better Way to Hire

Let’s examine the hiring process from a different perspective. The general process is the same -- assess the need for the position, determine the benefits and salary range, and create and post a job listing.

Here’s where it changes. Instead of screening candidates based on arbitrary requirements, keep your mind open. Of course, you may have non-negotiables like years of experience or educational requirements but consider whether they’re really necessary. What are the necessary skills vs. the nice-to-have skills?

For example, you may want IT talent with a decade of experience with cybersecurity and AI, but that candidate probably doesn’t exist. If you’re creating hard-and-fast rules and disqualifying candidates because of them, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Now for the radical idea -- maybe any years of formal experience are irrelevant. If your candidates could demonstrate their knowledge and expertise with assessments, skills tests, or small test projects (which is HUGE in tech), wouldn’t that be better to learn how they work in reality? After all, you’re searching for a skill set, not the “good on paper” candidate.

Once all this is complete, conduct interviews with your candidates, considering their demeanor and chemistry. Instead of presenting them with the same tired interview questions that only test their ability to interview well, consider out-of-the-box questions that test their creativity and problem-solving.

For example, instead of asking about strengths and weaknesses or obscure questions meant to trip them up, ask them how they would solve a problem your company is currently facing. Consider asking the candidate what they would improve about your website or app. What about your staff tools and processes?

The answers to these questions will give you great insights into the candidate’s ability to not only think on their feet, but provide your company with real, lasting value.

Once you have all your candidates interviewed, you need to revamp the way you evaluate and rank them. Remember, you’re shifting the focus from years of experience and standard interview questions to problem-solving, creativity, and cultural fit. You want to pick the candidate who’s not only a good fit now but has room to grow and be challenging to serve themselves and your business in the future.

Revamp Your Hiring Process for Long-Term Success

The working world is changing and evolving. Technology is necessary to stay competitive, but IT leaders are hamstrung by a lack of talent with the necessary skills to make this a reality. If you want to attract and retain the top talent, you need to approach the hiring process with a mindset of evaluating the candidate’s creativity and problem-solving skills.

About the Author(s)

Allison Todd

Coach and Consultant

Allison Todd is a coach and consultant with over 20 years of experience transforming small and large businesses' operations and profitability. Whether it’s beginning, launching, or scaling a business, Allison founded her coaching and mentoring business with the hopes of helping clients conquer their fears and build confidence to take their business to the next level.

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