Software Project Staffing Strategies: How to Avoid Bad Hiring Decisions By Evaluating Tech Skills Effectively

In many fields and professions, recruiters and HR professionals routinely request work samples; samples that are representative of the individual’s skill and abilities. But the reality is that this approach just doesn’t work for most segments of today’s tech industry. The industry’s shift toward agile development and other cooperative, team-based methodologies has created an environment where the finished product is in no way representative of a single person’s skill level and talent.

Today’s tech industry is very collaborative and cooperative, with entire teams, not individuals, taking ownership of a given project. In most cases involving medium to large scale projects and enterprise level projects, it’s impossible for a developer to say, single-handedly wrote the script for this functionality, or I developed the entire front end of this app. What’s more, technology is rapidly evolving, so any work samples older than a year or two offer little insight into the person’s ability relative to today’s standards.

This makes it very challenging to assess and evaluate technical and development skills, while increasing the chances of costly hiring mistakes. Fortunately, HR professionals in search of IT talent can leverage a number of software staffing strategies to accurately evaluate skills and abilities.

The Anatomy and Cost of a Bad Hiring Decision

When hiring IT staff, app and software developers or other tech professionals, an individual’s capabilities could easily be misrepresented, exaggerated or misconstrued. Sure, you can review a person’s CV, LinkedIn profile and recommendations. You can interview the candidate in person and speak with references. But it’s rare to find a clear, true testament to one’s capabilities. This makes staffing decisions far more challenging. And the stakes are significant.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh once indicated that his company has lost well over $100 million to bad hiring decisions. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that bad hiring decisions have a price tag of at least 30 percent of the individual’s annual salary. The cost is even higher for industries, including the tech industry with complex onboarding processes, which according to recruiter Jorgen Sundberg, carry an average cost of $240,000. These figures will make any company leader cringe, impressing upon them the necessity of hiring the right talent.

IT and Software Staffing Strategies to Maximize Your Chances of Making the Right Hiring Decisions

Strategic staffing approaches allow companies to evaluate talent in effective and accurate ways, and often include the following strategies.

Involve team leaders in the interviewing process. As a HR professional or company executive, you may lack the on-the-ground insight that’s required to determine if an individual will be well-suited to the company. Many major corporations, including Google (which is well-known for its hiring successes), now involve a person’s prospective supervisors in the interview process. Supervisors and other front lines staff are best-positioned to spot subtle signs that an individual’s tech skills don’t align with your company’s needs.

Let them show you their talent. With the rapid rate of technological evolution and the widespread usage of collaborative, team-based approaches, work samples just don’t work for most candidates. Instead, ask the individual to complete a test project. According to a study examining over 85 years worth of data, work sample test performance is the single best indicator of a good hire. Many believe that it’s best to include a timed element with the work sample test, as this adds an element of stress. The theory is that if someone can perform well under pressure, then they’ll perform well under other circumstances, too.

Take the time to call past employers and references. While a CV, LinkedIn recommendations and written references are useful, they only scrape the surface. What’s worse, they can sometimes be deceptive. So take the time to speak with a candidate’s past employers or clients to get a feel for their prior work experience and their skill level and range. You’ll also get insight into soft skills, such as reliability and communicativeness.

Test the waters in terms of interpersonal dynamics. In some cases, you may even ask the individual to join your team for a brief trial period. This allows you to evaluate tech skills, soft skills (like communication abilities) and their overall dynamics with your team. This is an opportunity to gather useful feedback that will help you determine whether they’re apt to be a good fit for your company culture. Tech skills matter little if the individual can’t mesh with your team in a productive way.

Another tech staffing strategy is a bit outside the box: Don’t hire anyone at all. Companies are often hesitant to outsource, and for good reason, as this model has numerous downsides. But another option is to turn to a company like iTech, which offers insourcing IT staffing solutions.

Instead of hiring new talent or sending a project off-site, insourcing entails calling in a qualified, pre-vetted team to work alongside your staff to complete the project in-house. Once complete, the team departs and moves on to their next endeavor. This innovative HR practice ensures you pay for resources only when you need them. We handle all aspects of the staff augmentation process, allowing clients like you to avoid the expense and hassle that’s associated with the hiring process. Contact iTech today to learn more about insourcing, consulting and our high-tech and IT staffing solutions.

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