Sorin’s comment got me thinking. How do you make the decision that a candidate’s technical skills aren’t worth the candidate’s lack of relationship, communication, listening, or some other soft skill? Esther was talking about collaborative teams, so someone who won’t or can’t collaborate is not going to work in your environment. But there are other qualities, preferences, or skills you may not realize you want in a candidate. If you don’t realize you want these in a candidate, you won’t ask about them.
You’ll need to evaluate your environment. In Sorin’s other comment, he said “a hiring manager should look for is the ability and willingness to learn”. I haven’t met a technical environment in which those qualities weren’t necessary. But what if you find someone who knows your technology now, understands your product, has the requisite functional skills, but is not willing to learn a lot more? My answer is: it depends. It depends on how desperate you are for a candidate who can be productive tomorrow, at the expense of the high probability you’ll have to hire someone else in a couple of years.
What’s most important is to consider the qualities, preferences, and skills you require in candidates. Sorin’s right, the perfect candidate doesn’t exist, but knowing the kind of person you want is necessary, so you can make the most appropriate decisions. I have a bunch of qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills listed in my book. (Here are some: initiative, flexibility, tasking preferences, goal orientation, how the person takes on responsibility, teamwork and collaboration skills, facilitation, oral and written communication skills, curiosity, perseverance.) In Buckingham and Coffman’s First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, there’s an appendix of what they call “talents.” I’m traveling right now, so I don’t have access to their book for examples. As you consider these qualities, preferences, and skills, you’ll need to consider which few are essential and which are desirable. Then you can ask the candidate questions about the essential and desirable skills.
If a candidate can’t meet your environment’s needs for your essential qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills, then drop the candidate. (Yes, be nice 🙂 Because how a person works is as important to their success in your environment as their technical knowledge.