If hiring for a technical position that you do not have domain knowledge on, it's easy to be mislead. How to approach this largely depends on the type of IT job you are hiring for. While it is important to pick someone with the right skills for the job, it is equally important that they can deal with changes in the environment and industry. You also have to make sure you understand the level of skill required, as opposed to the skills themselves. Think of each skill level as its own domain in which you have both entry-level and advanced employees. Hiring someone with ambitious talent means they will get bored; hiring someone with too little talent means you will get frustrated.
Because such intangibles can be difficult to measure, the more important distinction to make is between skills and competencies. A new hire wants to know that they bring something more to the table than just a set of skills, and you should want the same from them. That means interviewing about frameworks, programming languages, or management systems is only a starting point.
A few crucial IT competencies to consider are:
- Communication as a means of obtaining information
- Willingness to ask a question when you don't know the answer
- Adaptability, execution and follow-through
- Knowledge about industry trends
Cornell University also makes a distinction on IT competencies. They say that it is a fluid process between "function and behavior". In terms of critical thinking, here is how Cornell breaks it down:
- Gathers and uses all available information and logic to make a decision, including evaluating the long-term consequences.
- Makes timely and sound decisions based on data and facts.
- Makes decisions judged to be right for the [group] versus what his/her group might prefer, even though they may be difficult choices.
- Takes ownership for decisions.
- Sees power of peer review and feedback.
When hiring a new position, you can take a qualitative approach to get this information from your candidates. Sometimes, it's more about how a candidate answers the question than the answer itself. Try to find ways to observe the problem-solving process, and you'll become better at measuring applicant quality.