The background

So for those of you that do not know me, I work at a Open Source company called Alfresco and we are hiring a lot of people this year. As a result we are suffering like all other IT companies trying to hire in the UK at the moment, there’s a skills shortage in IT and it is not something that we as an individual company can solve. If you are a person currently looking for work and struggling in IT I suggest you stop reading now.

What’s the real issue

It’s not a lack of candidates, we get a regular stream of good looking CV’s, but we’re not in the habit of looking for just anyone, we want people that are passionate about open source, people that want to make a difference. I suppose that by it’s self is not difficult, but when you combine that with a relatively decent job spec, and then the personal fit of the team etc it becomes a bit more challenging. We quite regularly get either very personable people that are lacking the technical skills to do the job or some very technical people that are missing the personal skills, needless to say it’s about compromise.

The above is based on a good candidate that just isn’t right for us, however in most cases (80% ish) the candidates are, how do we say this, overly optimistic with their CV’s? there’s been a number of people we’ve interviewed off of the strength of their CV and then they honestly expect us to not ask questions about their past experiences. Quite a number of CV’s have items on them where the person was part of a team doing the task and they claim (on the CV) to have been more or less the sole member, it all becomes very painful in the interview when you start asking questions on it. Do people really think we won’t ask?

So with that in mind, be weary of CV’s that have a lot of jargon on them, if possible aim for CV’s that have less on them, especially if that’s backed up with years of experience. it is more likely that that candidate is only listing things they are proficient in rather than things they have touched, or watched someone else touch.

The right compromise

If you think you won’t have to compromise on some element of the job spec / candidate persona then you should also probably stop reading this and go back to that wonderful place you come from where pigs fly and monkeys act as butlers.

It’s easier to say this than to live with the consequences, needless to say I have been unfortunate enough to live with some compromises that just weren’t quite right. Lets look at it in little chunks.

Technical ability is not everything, if you do have to compromise, compromise on this, you shouldn’t shoot your self in the foot, but choose a candidate that can do the job at hand and has room to grow. Hopefully the candidate will want to learn new things and develop their careers so it wouldn’t be the end of the world as long as they show signs of wanting to progress and develop.

Personality is key, there’s no point hiring someone that will come in and act as a rouge agent or isolated because they can’t gel with the team. I’d say the personality of the person is an area where you really don’t want to compromise on, if they only seem to slightly not fit with the team don’t worry about it, the team dynamic will change slightly but it should settle, you would need to identify which elements of the team’s “quirks’ you want to preserve and which ones would be benefited by having a slightly different personality in the team.

A little digression but probably valuable at this point, in the past I’ve had a sysadmin working along side me who seemed personable and would fit in personality wise (and they did) they seemed a little weak technically but we hoped that would develop; it turned out when they started they thought they were more technical than they actually were. They were the sort of person that you could give a task to and eventually they’d have something that worked, but they may not necessarily know how they got it to work. They also had issues arguing technical points, sticking hard and fast to their guns while not having a good reason to at the time and requiring a few days of googling to come back with a link that summarised that you could do it their way or the other way, so it also didn’t back up their ideals.

To be honest it was a real struggle for me personally as what I needed in the team was someone that was technical enough to take some of the workload off of me, but despite spending time training and explaining why things were done that way, the knowledge didn’t sink in. I’d feel bad that I couldn’t get the information in, but other people tried and failed as well, so the common problem is probably the cause. The biggest issue was that they were not willing to progress, maybe because they thought they knew it all, or because they just weren’t able to grasp the technical detail.

So if you have to compromise on technology skills make sure they are personable and willing to learn and progress, people can develop technical know how if they have the personality that allows them to, but changing someones personality is much much harder.

If you’re interested in working at Alfresco you should keep a regular eye on our Careers page, it doesn’t have all of our jobs on it so feel free to email your CV through just on the off chance, we’re always looking for good people.

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