"Hiring is SO hard! Knowing what to ask is a dark art!"
These are the words of hiring manager tasked with recruiting IT Project talent and, thankfully, it's both true and untrue. Like most things in life, hiring IS hard BUT ONLY if hiring is not your strong suit.
Sadly, as IT Projects become more and more complex, hiring is becoming the strong suit of fewer hiring managers.
This HR manager said that she had felt "thrown under the bus" during a recent IT Project recruitment drive. "The project experts were too busy managing projects to join in many of the interviews," she told us, "candidates sensed I was out of my depth and either bamboozled me with questions I couldn't answer or left with a bad impression of our firm."
Candidates have also told us that they have turned down otherwise attractive roles because they were asked questions that were "facile", "not relevant to the position" or "not reflective of the complexity and seniority of the role".
The old saying goes, "There's no such thing as a stupid question," and while this may be true, when interviewing talent for IT Project roles there is such a thing a question that can easily lead to a bad hire. Hiring isn't like it used to be, especially in IT Project Management, which is increasingly a candidate driven market. Ten years ago, candidates would be nervous before an interview, now it's the hirers who can have sleepless nights before a round of interviews.
You need to ensure that your questions elicit the information that you need to recruit the best and, when possible, use a specialist IT Project recruitment expert to access talent. The latter is becoming increasingly sensible, recruitment takes time and money and you want to bring your A-game to the process. You need to ask the right questions!
Another manager above put it in these terms, "I added up all the time I've spent on this process: Writing an ad; finding the right online portal; searching through LinkedIn contacts for a suitable candidate; reviewing CVs; arranging interviews; preparing for interviews; conducting interviews; reviewing the interviews; making an offer; perhaps renegotiating the offer; maybe (if rejected) making an offer to a second, third or fourth choice; onboarding the successful candidate; training them; three to four months of reduced productivity while they get up to speed with the business culture! If I went to my board and suggested spending this much time on something else which I have a layman's grasp of, say replumbing the toilets, I'd be laughed out of the boardroom."
Here are 5 GREAT QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP HIRE THE BEST IT PROJECT TALENT (when you don't know what to ask!).
1 - Tell me what you know about our business?
Your candidate knows IT Project Management, it's their Mastermind specialist chosen subject. If it's not yours, why go down that route? Ask them about your business and find out how much research they've done. Even, actually ESPECIALLY, in a candidate-led market, the best candidates should have a solid feel for your company and your culture. I say 'especially' because they have the pick of the crop - they should only be attending interviews at the firms they REALLY want to work at. Asking this gives you insight into why they'd make a great hire for YOUR business.
2 - What did you LOVE about your last job?
My colleague calls this a candidate’s ‘paw’ – passion at work. Get them to demonstrate where their passion at work comes from. I love this question! It puts the ball back into your candidate’s court without giving them licence to go all technical on you! The ideal hire may light up the room at this point as they explain what totally excited them about their last gig. Let them talk, listen to their words and watch their body language - you can't fake passion!
3 - Why did you LEAVE your last job?
This is the natural follow on to the passion question. Really listen to the answer - it tells you almost everything you need to know about your candidate's mindset. Those with a growth mindset cannot help showing it off at this stage so look out for those who dream bigger than the challenges that their last role offered - they are the keepers!
4 - What will you offer in terms of business value?
Most candidates will have prepared for a question about what they'll bring to the role and most of what they say should be a given! These days, IT Project Management is all about business value, return on investment - IT doesn't support the business - IT IS the business. "What business value will you add?" is a great question because the answer you get will usually be unprepared and from the heart. Listen!
5 - How did you add business value in your last job?
This question has two purposes. Firstly, the previous question can be a stinker and can broadside even the best candidates, this supplementary allows them to regroup and draw upon experience of adding value rather than trying to imagine what value they could add! Secondly, it allows the candidate who gave a great answer to the last question to put their money where their mouth is and demonstrate a time when they did what they are promising you. Again, it's all about listening and knowing what answers will fit best with your specific needs.
So, it's more than just asking the 'right' questions, it's knowing what answers to listen out for to match candidates with your business vision. Access Talent specialise in finding the right people for your business, it's our responsibility to ensure that your investment in hiring talent adds productivity and value in harmony with your culture and values. We know the questions and we know the right people to ask. When you recruit IT Project talent, make sure that you do too.
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