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How to Best Assess Technical Skills When Hiring IT Roles

When it comes to hiring for IT positions, figuring out if candidates have the right technical skills can be a daunting task. But it’s a critical one to get right. Poor hiring decisions an cost time and money and hurt team morale. Luckily, we’re here to help with our top tips on how to best assess technical skills when hiring IT staff.

1. Be clear about the skill, knowledge and experience required

All successful hiring starts with an understanding of what you are looking for. Craft a position description to attract the IT talent you are targeting. You’ll need to distinguish between the essential and nice-to-have requirements. This understanding will inform your hiring process. For example, how you screen, interview, and reference check candidates. From there, you can compare candidates and pick the most suitable.

2. Don’t forget to assess problem-solving skills and a growth mindset

Technology changes rapidly, so hiring IT professionals who can adapt and respond to problems they’ve never experienced before is critical. Openness, resilience, and persistence may be some qualities to look for and to prioritise above technically proficient candidates who are rigid in their approach.

3. Use a variety of assessment methods

It’s best practice to use a combination of tools and approaches to get a better understanding of a candidate’s technical skills.

Technical interviews

Technical interviews use closed questions to help candidates demonstrate their technical knowledge and experience. For example, you can ask candidates to explain a technical concept and their application of it. Situational questions are also used so candidates can talk through how they would respond to real-world problems they would encounter in the role.

Behavioural-based interviews

Strong technical skills need to be in the right environment to thrive. That’s why it’s vital to consider the organisational context in which new employees will work. For example, are you a start-up that requires the individual to be flexible, adapt, and show initiative? Or will the role require the ability to translate technical concepts to business stakeholders? Behavioural-based interview questions will help assess these competencies.

Skills tests

Skills tests are an objective way to assess practical abilities. The results provide an additional data point to inform your hiring decisions. It’s better to view any gaps identified as a development area rather than ruling candidates in or out based on their test results alone, particularly when hiring for permanent roles. As part of our recruitment process, Clicks utilises IKM’s adaptive testing that covers over 200 IT skills – from Programming, Technical Support, SQL, and Disaster Recovery, to Project Management – at no additional cost to our clients. We can also tailor the benchmarking to help understand how prospective candidates compare to your current team.

Reference checks

Talking to people who have observed the candidate’s technical skills is very useful. Ask the referee to discuss specific or broad technical abilities. To get a more well rounded view, it’s also important to enquire about their work ethic and problem-solving ability.

Pair programming

Pair programming allows the interviewer and candidates to work on solving a task together. It’s best suited to mid-level and experienced candidates (not IT graduates) and provides valuable insights into how candidates code and communicate. It also offers some clues on how well the candidate will work with the manager or team member who leads this assessment.

Case studies

Case studies are a good way to assess the technical skills for non-coding roles. Here are some guidelines to get the best results.

  • Provide relevant background information or context.
  • Ensure the purpose of the case study is well-defined.
  • Be clear in your instructions.
  • Provide an appropriate timeframe for the candidate to respond.

4. Create a positive candidate experience

To strike the right balance between ensuring the candidate is the right fit and providing a positive candidate experience:

  • Conduct the more involved or time-consuming assessments later in the recruitment process.
  • Offer a variety of technical assessments and allow candidates to nominate which they would like to complete. For example, if you are currently doing live code sessions or take-home tests include pair programming in the mix.
  • Ensure you always thank candidates for their efforts and provide feedback.

Some companies have stopped doing live code sessions as it creates an unnatural pressurised environment. Similarly, take-home tests have fallen out of favour as it excludes candidates (such as working parents) who may not have the time to complete these assessments.

We hope these suggestions help you effectively assess technical skills when hiring for IT roles and find the best candidates for your team.

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About Clicks

Clicks is an award-winning IT recruitment specialist. With offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, and Brisbane, we connect companies with great IT professionals across Australia each day!

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