Many organizations look more for specific skills rather than broad experience and ability to rapidly learn new technologies when evaluating technology job candidates. The assumption is that the ramp time will be short because the candidate already has the needed skills. In many cases this can be very short sighted. When things change you may have the wrong technologist. Plus it often takes more time to learn your specific systems than a particular technology. I look for candidates that invest heavily in personal research and development – pick up new technologies on their own because they have a passion for technology. They constantly learn new technologies on their own time. Maybe even use vacation time to go to a technology conference. To them it’s more than a job, it’s what they do. Look to see how many different technologies with which a candidate can have an intelligent conversation about. And which technologies cause a candidate to really perk up.
A job candidate also needs to have a passion for the use of technology in product and business areas, particularly if they would be working closely with those teams. Can the candidate carry on an intelligent conversation with product and business folks? Are they inquisitive or passive in these areas? A candidate that is just interested in technology can become a real issue if product and business folks are looking for a technology partner.
Resume scanners can be effective at identifying potential skill sets. But you are going to have to dig much deeper to determine the breadth of a candidate’s experience, or how rapidly they learn new technologies. Team based interviewing (including product and business partners) can be a very effective technique to determine depth of experience and passion for technology. In team interviews, everyone gets to hear the candidate’s responses at the same time, rather than giving a candidate an opportunity to change their responses to fit the specific interviewer.
Using a consultant can be effective for a specific project (with very specific skills). The candidate review process can be shorter, and there are no expectations of a continued assignment after the project. Plus if the consultant turns out to be a super star, you can hire them later.
Looking for a broad set of technology skills (and passion for technology) is critical if you are going to build teams that can adapt to changing direction. Otherwise you may spin your wheels getting new talent up to speed.