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Choosing Between 2 Qualified Tech Experts

Despite the large layoffs that have taken place across the tech industry, there’s actually still quite a shortage of IT talent. That means it’s usually still tough for tech recruiters to find the right person for the job. But, now and then, recruiters find themselves with not one, but two or even three strong candidates for the same position. When this happens it can be tough to choose who to select.

At Plan A Technologies, we hire fewer than 3% of our applicants and vet thousands of candidates each year. When we do find two really qualified candidates for an open role, we usually try to hire both of them! But if we can’t, here are some quick tips on how we make that final decision about who would be the best choice for a specific job.

The fundamentals

First, when choosing between two great options, we ask if one of the candidates has more specific industry expertise. On the tech skills side, assuming both candidates have passed all the tech interviews and coding tests, we then look to see if one of the candidates brings more creativity to their coding or proposed software architecture. We like to see people who look for the best solution instead of just resorting to the same ol’ tried-and-true methods.

We also consider what kind of soft skills each candidate has outside of pure technical proficiency, such as communication skills, leadership capabilities and attitudes. And we also look at cultural fit, of course. One of the fun criteria we often ask ourselves: If I were stuck in a car for three hours with this person, how would I feel? If the answer is “dread,” then we pass.

What if I’m a contingency recruiter hiring for a tech company?

Of course, contingency recruiters face certain limitations when hiring candidates — no matter how specific the mandate from the employer, there are situations where you’ll have to make your best guess as to who they’d want to hire for a specific role. And the world of tech doesn’t make it any easier, with its super-specialized skill sets and deep knowledge of sometimes obscure programming languages and the latest tech developments.

But, for the most part, you’re going to be able to figure out a lot of this on your own, just as you would with a candidate in any other field. It’s easy enough to check a software engineer’s skills against the list of those the job requires, and you can tell a lot from a person’s résumé alone. Even the off-the-books skills don’t necessarily require input from your client.

So when do you need to ask for the employer to weigh in? Unless you’re thoroughly familiar with the corporate culture of the company you’re representing, it’s better to check in with your clients when faced with two or more candidates who are equally great fits on paper but where one may be a better cultural fit. After all, they will know best whether Ted from Sheboygan or Jane from Honolulu is going to get along better with that notoriously tetchy angular lead of yours.

And you may want to be clear from the start whether the role will require a lot of creativity and outside-the-box thinking. It’s one thing to find a programmer for a job that’ll be exactly like previous jobs, but building a new application from scratch for a completely unique use will require a deeper understanding of the position than a third-party recruiter will probably have. In those cases, establish with the client whether or not they’ll require particularly specialized skills or a certain kind of perpendicular thinker. Once you’ve found candidates with the necessary fundamental skills and career path, then it may be necessary at that point to rope in a technically well-versed manager from your client’s team to conduct another round of interviews. (Or the client may instruct you to ask candidates specific questions and then review the answers themselves.) It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Good luck as you make your decision between two equally qualified tech experts! With the right criteria in mind, it’s possible to find the best choice for the job. Happy hiring!

This article originally appeared in The Staffing Stream.


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