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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
11/5/2014
12:06 PM
John Yurkschatt
John Yurkschatt
Commentary
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What Makes A Great IT Candidate?

For an IT job candidate, being qualified is just the beginning. Here are six traits IT hiring managers look for the most.

Most of IT candidates that make it to an interview are quite qualified, but the one who ultimately gets the job offer must be more than qualified. He or she will have to prove they go beyond expectations and have the right stuff to be an asset to the company.

Every day I speak with IT hiring managers in a variety of industries, and regardless of the type of IT role or project, there are six traits that hiring managers routinely say make a great candidate.

Extremely coachable and adaptable
Often a candidate's education and skillsets are just not enough. Because IT is an ever-changing environment, it's more important that candidates be coachable and adaptable. These traits are at the top of an employer's "must have" list and are equal to a candidate's ability to fit into the company's vision and culture.

[Hear from CIOs, CTOs, and recruiters on what it takes to stand out during an IT job search. Read 9 IT Job Hunt Tips For Beginners.]

New hires who are coachable and adaptable are open to change, appreciate fresh perspectives, keep challenging themselves, have higher motivation, and take action to move themselves and the business forward.

Willing to go beyond job description
Most IT departments feel that candidates who demonstrate that they're willing to go above and beyond are a rare find. The ones who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done always stand out. One way to determine whether a candidate is willing to give it his or her all, plus more, is to look at past behavior on a previous job and contact references.

Also, when interviewing IT candidates, ask them to describe a time when they went over and above to achieve success on a project. Ask what they did in their last job that was new and put into practice by the supervisor. These types of questions are part of behavioral-based interviewing, a great way to determine behavior patterns and success in a particular job.

High emotional intelligence 
It once was thought that a college degree was the best measure of potential and a predictor of a candidate's success. Now emotional intelligence (EI), often associated with soft skills, is seen as an important factor in professional success. EI is the ability to monitor one's own and other people's emotions and use this information to guide thinking and behavior.

With high EI, a candidate is more likely to learn quickly on the job, be competent, work effectively in a team setting, have problem-solving skills, negotiate effectively, and demonstrate leadership potential. More companies are putting employees through critical thinking and personality assessments to gauge EI.

Hybrid employee
The hybrid employee is a generalist and a specialist all in one. A generalist tends to be someone who knows quite a few technologies but only at an average level. A specialist knows only one or two but at an expert level. A hybrid knows about a great many things at an advanced level and can adapt to any type of project. With a hybrid employee, you're basically getting two people in one.

Passionate about profession
Passionate people genuinely care about the company, team, and project. They don't allow themselves to get bogged down by difficult personalities or office politics. Passionate people dig in for the long haul, even when it's incredibly challenging. They strive for continuous improvement and innovation and are up on the latest IT trends through research, training, and participation in industry associations and conferences.

Entrepreneurial spirit
Today's younger candidates are driven by an entrepreneurial spirit that we've rarely seen before. Employers consider it a type of mindset, attitude, and approach to thinking that brings about change. It's about seeing the big picture and taking ownership and pride in projects.

Once on the job, candidates with an entrepreneurial spirit tend to be self-motivated. In fact, just recently one of my clients told me that he’s looking for people who don't have to be micromanaged. His day is filled with juggling budgets, resources, and new projects. Therefore, he needs people who can work independently as well as on a team, handle multiple tasks with confidence, and thrive in a fluid IT environment. I assured him that candidates like that really do exist.  

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John Yurkschatt is the Director of the IT Services Practice for Direct Consulting Associates (DCA), an IT consulting and staffing firm. View Full Bio
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dinterliggi450
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dinterliggi450,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2014 | 10:26:23 AM
What Makes a Great IT Candidate
Excellent Article. One thing that I might add is how sophisticated is the candidate on security issues.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/10/2014 | 11:10:40 AM
Re: Evaluating & developing EQ
I think emotional intelligence comes through in someone's LinkedIn recommendations. How do people describe the person? Also, you can see it in social posts. Does the person praise others or is it me, me, me.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/10/2014 | 7:42:31 AM
Re: Hybrid
@Alison_Diana, I look for specific skills that someone who is used to covering many bases knows that they have to have.  This may not work for everyone but for nearly any IT position I want someone who has pulled cable at least once in their life, I want someone who has at least done some low level switch or router configuration (changing port speeds, setting VLANs, etc) and I want someone with at least some low level hardware support experience.  To me that is the base to build off of.  Then I look at work experience and titles.  I've found that even programmers tend to start out a tinkerers and that mindset makes for the best IT workers.  

To work with me you can't be afraid to get your hands dirty, you can't be afraid to apply something you have just learned and you need to show that you can think on your feet.  In instances where I've inherited employees without that baseline I make sure they get that.  I've had programmers pulling cable and project managers editing login scripts.  My theory is that in a team if you understand at least part of what someone else is responsible for you'll have a greater appreciation for what they do.

 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/10/2014 | 7:28:44 AM
Re: Hybrid
@TerryB, That's how it goes sometimes, when executive management or HR starts looking at titles and department structures the word specialist gets extra attention.  Someone who leads from inside the team and operates as autonomously tends to get overlooked.  I've been fortunate not to be pushed to the side during restructuring because I have a tendency to find myself in the middle of everyone else's projects delivering key pieces and that kept me front of mind when things got shaken up.  My last two positions have all seen acquisitions from the buying side and I've been at the top of the IT structure so hopefully the fear of getting lost in a re-structure is something I'll never have to worry about again.  

The AS400 story brings back memories. That was my first step into the IT world.  I was tricked into grading papers for an AS400 class my stepfather taught.  He was a data coordinator and would have me work part time during the summers monitoring jobs and replacing parts in PCs.

 
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
11/7/2014 | 1:27:19 PM
Re: Evaluating & developing EQ
Just a note - the ability to learn quickly is more closely tied to IQ, not EI. However, the soft skills of high EI definitely make someone more valuable because they can work better with team members as well as resolve conflicts in a positive way. It is something I personally struggle with, but constantly strive to improve.

I am not sure how you would "test" someone for a high EI though. Lots of those "tests" are easy to fake out.
BruceHarpham
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BruceHarpham,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2014 | 12:10:07 PM
Evaluating & developing EQ
" Now emotional intelligence (EI), often associated with soft skills, is seen as an important factor in professional success."

Certainly EI (or EQ as the book on the topic called it) is valuable. How would you evaluate this capability?
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
11/6/2014 | 5:03:08 PM
Re: Hybrid
How do you express those capabilities on a resume or look for them on candidates' resumes, @SaneIT? With so many skillsets and so little space, what are the key words that pop out at you as you're scanning hundreds or thousands of CVs, long before you get to the interview stage?
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/6/2014 | 4:16:16 PM
Re: Entrepreneurship Comes in All Ages
I would agree with Alison. I know people who have remade their careers in their 30's and 40's. Then there are people who start their own business after "retiring." Entrepreneurship is not about age.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/6/2014 | 1:32:06 PM
Re: Hybrid
@SaneIT, I've always enjoyed your posts. Could tell we came from similar backgrounds, although I suspect your current biz unit a little bigger than where I've been now since 1998. I'm the freaking Lone Ranger here.  :-)Actually funny, I have a division level title of Application Lead of our Special Products division but no one reports to me, no other developers in this division. That is fairly recent, Corp centralized IT about 3-4 years ago and I got that title/job. I was just "IT Manager" of this biz unit before that, with one Windows admin guy reporting to me.

But my Hybrid nature helped in this new division role. One of other units in this division ran their business from an old Windows application called Shiva (then TigrAps) integrated with Access databases. I've had to keep them running also, even though my only Access experience was using for billing system when I had my own consulting company for a year. :-)

I've been working with IBM i5 (AS400) server since 1988 when it was invented, writing apps and supporting ERP that runs on it. That used to be green screen work (and sometimes still is) but have been writing browser based apps hitting i5 since late 1990's. At first it was pure HTML/CGI coding, now I have standardized on Sencha's Ext JS. You've got to keep up with tech if you want to last in IT.

One bad thing about being like this, and working with so much autonomy for most of my career, is the one time my biz unit got bought by bigger company I did not fit in very well. I'm pretty sure it was them, that company got absorbed by an even bigger company (and disappeared) about a year after they bought us. I was long gone by then, took my severance and went into consulting for a few years. The bureaucracy and slow pace that company had was not something I could deal with. In my opinion, the IT leaders were incompetent fools there. But nothing I could change, even though the business people I worked with there liked me a lot.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/6/2014 | 11:37:29 AM
Re: Hybrid
Those individuals that possess all the traits in these article are one of a kind.  I think for job seekers. If they can potray themselves having such qualities they will have greater changes in being offered a job.  I think those individuals who are just starting will have a difficult time having these qualities because of the little job experience they have.
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