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7 Qualities of Top Tech Talent: What to Look for in Your Next Hire

Posted by Templeton on Friday, 25 November 2022

What are you looking for when hiring top tech talent? After reading this blog, you might want to reconsider.

Hiring for any position can be difficult, but nowhere is this more obvious than in the tech world. Recruiting IT professionals has its own unique set of challenges: tech talent shortages, skills gaps, increased demands from candidates, intense competition for the best and the brightest, slow hiring processes, constant struggle to stay relevant, and the list goes on.

7 Qualities to Look For In Your Next Tech Hire

To accomplish their technology or digital transformation goals while fighting an uphill battle against the obstacles of tech recruitment, many organisations are no longer just looking for professionals with the desired technical expertise. To build a strong tech team, companies are now focusing more on acquiring candidates with rare skill sets and qualities that bring diverse perspectives to the table – the foundation of success.

As the industry continues to evolve and change at speed, hiring the right tech people while competing with other organisations for the same skills requires looking beyond just technical abilities. The perfect candidate is no longer just the most qualified for the role but also the most compatible with your company's overall values, competencies, and ways of operating. This means you need to weigh not only their IT skills but personality traits, qualities and soft skills as well to decide to whom you should make your offer.


 

However, given each business or industry's wide range of needs, it's not always easy to determine which qualities or personal skills to value over others. To help bring some clarity, Templeton's tech recruitment experts weigh in on the characteristics to look for when making critical hires for your tech team.

Keep reading to discover:

  • The current challenges of the tech employment market.
  • The importance of qualities in technology hires.
  • Which are the qualities of a good IT candidate you should always look for.
  • How to identify and assess your candidates' personality traits and qualities.

 

The Challenge of Tech Recruiting

The global employment market is tight for many types of workers today, but that's especially true for employees in the tech field. DevOps Professionals, Cyber Security Specialists, and Data Scientists are only the beginning of a long list of critical tech skills in short supply. According to Korn Ferry research, the labour skills shortage in the tech sector could reach as high as 4.3 million workers in 2030.

Although we're almost a decade away from this scenario, the war of attracting and retaining top tech talent is already fiercer than ever, as IT has become increasingly crucial for businesses across sectors. It is no longer just tech companies competing against one another for the best candidates – other industries have also jumped into the race to win their fair share of tech talent.

The emerging winners recognise that the key to overcoming the tech crunch is to look beyond just the core technical qualifications. As the demand for highly-skilled professionals grows, many tech and non-tech companies widen their funnel of potential candidates by seeking those with a broader set of desired capabilities from a much more diverse talent pool. Added to the tech skills and experience, organisations are now looking for candidates with demonstrable business acumen, good attitude, and other positive qualities, ranging from innate curiosity and desire to learn to teamwork, integrity and ambition.

The Challenge of Tech Recruiting

The Growing Importance of Traits and Qualities

To fill several IT roles, mastery of technical skills remains critical, especially for roles that require strong software development and coding expertise. There are, however, some growing jobs that require fewer technical skills, including:

  • Operations Manager
  • Data Analyst
  • Information Architect
  • Project Manager
  • UI and UX Designer
  • Software Quality Tester
  • Product Manager
  • System Administrator
  • Tech Support Specialist, and many more.

Especially for these types of jobs, an IT professional's abilities must go beyond their tech skills to perform well in their role. They need to also have certain qualities that support their technical knowledge.

Knowing that, HR leaders and hiring managers are now thinking harder about what skills are truly essential and which are trainable, and candidates' qualities, personality traits, and soft skills are coming to the forefront of the must-haves for the job. They acknowledge that if they find a candidate with the qualities most predictive of success –collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and motivation – they can learn the rest on the job through training.

Moreover, companies who adopt this approach find that they can attract a larger pool of candidates by focusing on a wide range of capabilities relevant to each role rather than just hard skills.

 

What Are the Key Qualities of Top Tech Talent?

There is tons of evidence out there – from case studies to research reports – highlighting that soft and technical skills are equally important when looking to make the best tech hire for your company. But, out of the dozens of traits and qualities, which exactly are the ones of the perfect IT candidate?

To have a better chance of finding the right people and avoid the scary costs of a bad hire, look out for the following qualities when recruiting tech talent:

 

     1. A Curious and Creative Mind

Genuine intellectual curiosity is essential in a field like tech, where innovation and progress never rest. A curious mind will never stop learning, ask insightful questions, and think or act like they know everything. On the contrary, they are often the ones going the extra mile when it comes to researching new technology or understanding how a digital tool works. This type of curiosity sharpens their ability to think through complex problems and come up with out-of-the-box solutions that can be solved with technology. Additionally, it shows that they are adaptable to change and willing to take on technical tasks outside their comfort zone.

Likewise, a creative mind will always approach problems as challenges and is more likely to come up with ground-breaking solutions, even for the seemingly impossible. Creative employees are a driving force for innovation and progress in a workplace. In addition to bringing new perspectives and ideas to the table, they also act as a motivating force for those around them, boosting morale within the organisation.

Creativity and curiosity cannot be taught, so if you happen to find a candidate who possesses both qualities, you'd better hold onto them. When problems arise, it's more likely that these are the staff you'll be able to lean on to find a solution.

IT aspects where these qualities are applicable include:

  • Troubleshooting
  • IT Architecture
  • Software Engineering

The Key Qualities of Top Tech Talent

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     2. A Good Communicator

Effective communication is what gets things done in any working environment. But being a good communicator doesn't just mean being great with words. You need to be able to clearly get your message across (in verbal, written or physical language), successfully interpret what is being asked of you, and grasp people's attention by targeting your audience.

Especially in tech, where many roles lay at the intersection of business and technology, communication is crucial in bridging these two aspects of an organisation. A good IT professional should be able to translate technology into the business sphere, express their ideas clearly, answer questions, clarify tasks and explain complex issues in simple terms, even to non-technical staff.

Apart from supporting their team with technical issues, tech workers also need to be able and willing to share technical knowledge with their colleagues and higher-ups. In many cases, they need to also act as an intermediary between the company and the clients or users. An IT support, for instance, should have great communication, listening, and interpersonal skills to deal with users: they need to listen to the user's problem, translate it into tech language to the IT department, and then go back and explain to them the solution given in simple words. Moreover, they should be able to educate the user and handle difficult or angry customers appropriately.

Communications skills are essential in almost every IT job, especially in:

  • Project Management
  • Web Development
  • IT Support

 

     3. Eagerness to Learn and Improve

With the rapid changes in technology, an IT professional must be motivated to learn and upskill continually. This lifelong learning mentality is a must nowadays, especially in this field where new technologies and knowledge emerge all the time. However, this goes beyond just learning new things. It also means adapting to changing circumstances and systems within the industry. Adaptability is also a great quality for tech candidates, especially given the need to stay competitive in an ever-changing market. Those not eager to learn and adapt risk staying behind, regardless of their experience or position.

Technology employees who take an active interest in continuous improvement are not just those who will stay at the top of their craft but are also those who will continue improving in all areas, including their soft skills and qualities. Moreover, they're more likely to seek out challenges, be creative, and be passionate about their job. So, if you're seeking high-quality candidates for your tech team, look for a pattern of continuous learning. Contributions to open-source, structured training and community involvement are all expected among top-tier IT talent.

A willingness to learn is essential for any IT job, especially in those that involve emerging technologies like:

  • Machine Learning (ML)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Robotics

 

     4. Teamwork

Of all the qualities you need to have on your tech team, teamwork is quintessential. That's because most roles require some degree of collaboration with others, even those often seen as self-contained, such as software development – working in a team is key to faring well in their role and bringing the best possible results. A team player is more likely to collaborate effectively with others in problem-solving, engage more people in a shared vision, share their technical knowledge with the team, and give a helping hand when needed to ensure projects run smoothly. Furthermore, a team player is often someone approachable and open-minded who brings positivity to the workplace.

Nearly 75% of all employers rate this quality as "very important", acknowledging that a single person can't run a company. Teamwork is a desired quality in any candidate, and hiring those who can thrive within a team in key technical roles will set you up for success.

Some tech roles require more teamwork than others, such as:

  • IT Project Manager
  • Scrum Master
  • Software Development

 Interviewing tech candidates

     5. Passion for Technology

Skills can be taught, and experience can be gained. But passion is something you either have or don't. Yet, it is probably the most significant aspect to look for when interviewing tech candidates. Since technology is constantly evolving, you'd want to hire someone who can keep up with the latest tech devices, networks, and software on the market. In other words, someone passionate about technology who's up to date on the latest tech developments and always hungry to learn more.

Passion is the one trait that makes the most difference in employee output and their commitment towards your company. Individuals who are passionate about their jobs are usually more eager to contribute, deliver better quality products and services, and foster better team dynamics. Moreover, their passion for technology ensures they will always strive for innovation and challenge. So, the next time you want to make a tech hire, don't just look for the smartest person in the room. Someone hungry, with a drive and enthusiasm, is the one truly unstoppable.

Passion is a highly valued quality in every tech job, particularly in:

  • Cyber Security
  • Cloud Computing
  • Software Engineering

 

     6. Initiative and Self-motivation

Self-motivation is the force that pushes us to do our best, an internal drive to achieve, develop and keep moving forward. But it shouldn't be confused with passion. This quality is about enjoying what you do enough to want to do well no matter what external rewards you receive.

Self-motivating employees have an innate drive to hustle and go out of their way to deliver, even if they have no prior knowledge, skills or training. Often they demonstrate an intrinsic curiosity to find creative solutions to problems while pushing the boundaries of what is normal. They are resourceful and can take initiative when the situation demands it. Moreover, candidates who exhibit this trait are typically strong problem-solvers and become invested in the company's success.

When recruiting tech talent, this is the type of candidate you should be looking for – someone who can plan, solve issues and get things done without running to management every five minutes.

The ability to take initiative is particularly important for:

  • Cloud Architects
  • DevOps Engineers
  • Full Stack Developers

 

     7. Cultural Fit

Although this means something different for every organisation, it's equally important to each one of them. Since every business has its own way of doing things, alignment is key. In addition to their technical capabilities, a potential hire should fit with the company culture, which goes far beyond just getting along with coworkers and managers during after-work drinks. It's more about understanding and embracing the workplace and mode of work, adapting to the company's core values, as well as actively engaging in its vision and purpose.

When looking to fill a tech role, seek individuals who can relate to your organisation's mission and bring their skills, positive attitude, and enthusiasm to work. Happy and positive people can also inspire others to bring their best selves to the workplace. These qualities are also essential in building relationships, communicating effectively and properly handling difficult situations.

Pro Tip: A good fit has attitudes and aptitudes that sync with the team's beat. When you're looking to make an addition to an already winning tech team, make sure they are happy with the new hire.  

How to Identify and Assess Tech Candidate Qualities

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How to Identify and Assess Tech Candidate Qualities

Evaluating a candidate's qualities and personality traits is one of the toughest tasks in the selection process. You need to determine if a potential hire possesses specific natural abilities, and that's not always easy. However, there are some tips and tricks that can help you identify and evaluate a top tech talent's qualities at all stages of a recruitment process (sourcing, screening, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding).

 

1. The First Impression Counts

No, we are not talking about when you'll first see or even speak to a potential candidate. From the moment you view their application, you have already formed an opinion about them, which will stick with you throughout the hiring process. A CV, cover letter, or portfolio can tell you a lot about their qualities as a potential employee.

Apart from a candidate's strengths and soft skills (which you can probably find in bullet points on their resume), you can tell a lot by the way they've written and structured it. A well-written CV, for instance, could indicate a candidate's ability to communicate, convey, and prioritise information. Or if you spot on the experience section that they tend to stay with a company for a long period of time, this shows a high level of commitment. Have they listed coding as a hobby or that they are a member of a tech club in their interests? Then there's no doubt they are passionate about technology and probably enjoy being part of a team.

 

2. Take a Different Approach

Avoid the standard job interview process when evaluating a tech candidate's qualities. You'll have a much better sense of your potential hire if you get them from behind a desk and watch how they behave. By getting them out of the room and observing how they interact with others, you'll get a better sense of their personality traits.

  • Take Them on an Office Tour: Show the candidate around your company and introduce them to some colleagues. If they're curious to learn more about the business or ask questions about what everybody does and how things work, that's a good sign. Also, observe how they interact with them. Are they confident when speaking about themselves? Do they treat anyone with respect? Do they show enthusiasm and good manners when meeting new people?
  • Take Them for Lunch: A trip to a restaurant will reveal a lot about someone, and for many leaders, this is the most important part of the recruitment process. The key is to watch whether the candidate is considerate of others – an essential quality of effective team players. The candidate's personality comes out during a meal, providing answers to key tests: Are they polite to waiters or get frustrated easily? Can they keep a conversation flowing with smart questions? Are they able to make a connection or a bad fit?
  • Still not sure who to hire? Allow your employees to help. They are the ones who will be working with this person, and their opinion should matter.

    3. Ask the Right Questions

Smart candidates will be prepared for the typical interview questions. If you want to understand how they truly are or think, you'll need to get more creative with the questions you ask.

Here are some unusual questions that can reveal a lot about a candidate's qualities:

  • What would you do if you were given multiple tasks with the same deadline? This question will reveal the candidate's ability to adapt. If they possess this quality, they're more likely to stay calm under pressure and willing to try out new tools and techniques when needed.
  • How would you explain a complex technological topic to a new user? This question can test the candidate's communication Regardless of how qualified they are, if they're unable to communicate effectively and share their knowledge with others, they won't be able to help the organisation grow.
  • Which values are most important to you? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but ideally, you'll want their values to align with your company's culture. Hiring a good match will increase the chances of success.
  • Have you ever been in a dysfunctional team? How did you handle this situation? This question is to test their collaboration In a technical job, working well with others and being an effective team player is crucial in getting things done on time.

How to identify a candidate's qualities

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4. Observe Them in Action

Before making a decision on who to hire, you'd probably want to see some hard evidence of their abilities and traits. Giving a candidate a small task to complete and watching them in action is the easiest way to determine if they are a good fit. This way, you can observe how they approach a challenge, what attitude they exhibit when confronted with a problem, how they respond when under pressure, or how well they do with meeting deadlines. A challenging situation is more likely to bring out their true colours.

  • Are they asking for feedback and going the extra mile to find a better solution? These are great indicators of a person that is committed to getting things done and is not afraid to take initiative.
  • Did they come up with a much more creative alternative solution than you expected? Then they probably have a problem-solving and creative mindset.
  • Are they good at working on a team project? Then there you have a good communicator and team player.
  • Did they manage to meet the deadline? This shows a lot about their work ethic and how well they manage themselves and their time.

    5.Take Advantage of Recruitment Tools and Resources

There are many credible online personality and attitude testing tools out there you can leverage to make a better and more informed decision when it comes to hiring tech talent. However, they can only help you make a quality hire if you have already determined which personality types and traits positively impact your organisation.

Moreover, tools that combine neuroscience and technology are no longer science fiction. HireVue, for instance, combines AI technology, deep machine learning, and facial and voice recognition software to assess taped interviews. By utilising technology, assessments can go beyond the actual answers to also evaluate phrases, facial expressions, voice inflexion, and even subtle physical movements that humans would not have been able to detect.

How to Make the Best Tech Hire

Ready to Make the Best Tech Hire?

When looking for tech candidates, it's easy to focus on their skills and competencies. However, finding a person with the right personal qualities and traits will help you ensure that they will be a right fit for your team and company, now and in the future.

We Can Help

There are thousands of exceptional candidates on the market today who have the power to transform your business, and our tech recruitment specialists are up for the challenge of finding the best tech talent for your team.

Templeton holds a 26-year track record of recruiting thousands of IT professionals around the globe and a vast database filled with potential candidates that suit your needs. Find out more about our multi-award-winning recruitment services.

 

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Topics: Management & Thought Leadership