Perhaps the real question is … what is a good person? If technical ability is the only criterion for your selection process, then finding people should be relatively easy. However, we all recognise that technical skill alone does not make a “good” employee or a “good” team member.
Your current investment
You already have thousands (or perhaps millions) of dollars committed to employee costs including salaries, training, equipment, buildings, insurance and general expenses. The introduction of a new person with a negative attitude into your existing infrastructure can sometimes result in a ripple of dissatisfaction that permeates every pore of your organisation, creating unrest.
Conversely the employment of a “good person” can have an equally subtle, but often extremely beneficial effect on your team and ultimately your organisation. Jim Collins in his best-selling book Good To Great talked at length about making sure you have the right people on the bus, and making sure each person is sitting in the correct seat.
It is widely accepted that technical skills are only a small (but critically important) part of an individual’s personal portfolio. You are also typically looking for good communication skills, tenacity, intuition, diligence, honesty, a willingness to learn, integrity and a great attitude.
Suggestions and ideas
Modify your initial interview process to also include questions designed to highlight personal attributes, in addition to technical competence. Look beyond current technology skills and listen for vocabulary clues, attitude indicators, openness and the ability to connect (with a person, not a computer). Discuss the reading/learning habits of the individual, types of books read, how frequently and how recently. Listen carefully and probe the reasons given for wanting to leave the last place of employment, always contact the references provided and include some questions that could highlight an attitude issue.
It is critical that you have knowledgeable IT people, but just as important is their ability to communicate with your customers and to peacefully co-exist with your current team members.
Some books that can often indicate a desire to succeed, an interest in people and/or an interest in positive psychology are:
How To Win Friends And Influence People - Dale Carnegie
Think And Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill
The Five Love Languages - Gary Chapman
Personality Plus - Florence Littauer
A fabulous book to read on positive psychology is How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton (Donald Clifton is often referred to as “The grandfather of positive psychology”).
Please note that the content and suggestions in this article are based on my extensive IT experience, including successful (and not so successful) selection of team members, business ownership and a passionate study of positive psychology for more than 30 years.
The author is the account manager for Wired Internet Group, a New Zealand organisation specialising in IT resource and website development and is a member of the Institute of IT Professionals New Zealand. Reach him via http://nz.linkedin.com/in/keithlightfoot and at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.