This is a part of a series on Hiring Techies.

Evaluate Potential, Not Accomplishments

I don’t spend a ton of time reading resumes. Depending on the position we’re hiring for, I may look for a few critical skills but I’m mainly looking for themes that tell me that the candidate has a passion for technology. Do you contribute to an open source project? Do you blog? Do you have a history of attending or even speaking at conferences? Show me that technology is an important part of your life.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not want to read about your hobbies or what you do for fun. The fact that you have been the president of your local Pokemon club for 3 years or that you’re and avid White Sox fan is irrelevant. I want to get a sense of what you will bring to the team.

Does the candidate’s resume only highlight individual accomplishments? Are there any bullet points about past team’s successes? How about any experience introducing new technologies or organizing brown bag lunch sessions? I can typically spot a true team player based on how they highlight their successes and what they are proud of.

I want to work with a team of leaders. I want a team of mentors. There are millions of people who can write a web application. There are very few people who can write a web app and help me build a better team.

I’m looking for technological aptitude. A laundry list of impressive technical languages and tools is indeed impressive but it should never be the reason for hiring a candidate. Worse yet, it should never be the reason for passing on an interview opportunity or turning a candidate down. It took me a long time to realize that I don’t need to find someone with that fulfills every item on my wish list.

It’s important to remember that when we hire, we’re hiring a person and not a bag of skills.

Skills and experience are important, of course, but this should support your decision to hire someone rather than be the basis of your decision. This is probably the most frequent mistake I’ve seen folks make. Teams have missed out on great candidates because they were missing some specific tool in their belt. I’ve also seen very smart people hired who end up being culturally destructive.

I can teach an Eclipse user Visual Studio. I can teach a C# developer JavaScript. I cannot teach someone how to be passionate. I cannot teach someone how to fit into our culture.

Every position is different and the skills that are critical for the candidate to be successful in that position will vary. If your domain requires certain skills or experience then, absolutely, screen for that. I would expect this to be the exception rather than the rule, though.