When you’re hiring as an MSP or in corporate IT, you need to know that new technicians and IT pros can hit the ground running. However, you often only have the applicant’s CV or resume to go by, and who hasn’t embellished a bit to stand out from the pack? (Confession time: I don’t have conversational Mandarin.)


Here are 5 great ways to test before you hire, making sure you know who you’re inviting to join the A-team.


Prepare specific technical questions targeted to the IT role


If you’ve used a technical recruitment company, you’re probably starting out with some confidence that the candidate is right for the open role. However, sometimes you get an influx of potential employees from social media, job boards, recruiters and more. In your first meeting, you’ll want to move past the fluffy “getting to know you” questions, and get down to the details of the job.


Ask your candidates questions about their experience, and don’t be afraid to mention specific tools and technologies which the business relies on. For example, as an MSP looking for a new IT technician, you might ask your candidates “how would you explain the use of Remote Access to a potential customer?” and in corporate IT, you might ask the prospect to name 3 uses for remote management and monitoring software.


As roles become more technical, the questions should follow suit. Don’t be afraid to be really specific. For example in web development you could ask, “Can you explain the distinction between span and div tag in HTML5?” or “In JavaScript, what is type coercion?”


Set a practical challenge on the spot


Talking to your candidates and asking questions is a great first stage, but if you want to move this prospect onto the next round, you might want to see what they can do in practice. One school of thought suggests that you put the candidate under the spotlight and make them do a practical challenge during the interview. This could be live coding, where the candidate and the interviewer tackle a live challenge together, and the interviewer gets to hear how the candidate works through a problem in real-time.


An added bonus of this approach is that you can map soft skills as well, such as teamwork and communication. However, it can certainly put candidates on the spot, and if they don’t work well under pressure you might not get an accurate view of what they can do. To help with this, make sure you give the candidate as much flexibility as possible, allowing them to lead the process, choose their own integrated development environment, and more.


For less technical roles, you can use a white-board problem solving challenge, where you give the candidate an issue to resolve, such as an unhappy customer or a live cyber-attack simulation, and watch as they walk you through how they would approach the situation.


Use a take-home technical assessment


To solve the issue of putting candidates on the spot, you might want to provide a take-home assignment. This is exactly what it sounds like homework that they can do in their own time. Usually these tests are more comprehensive than live coding or whiteboard tests, and can take up to 4 hours of candidates’ time. This could lead to some friction, as candidates may not want to expend at-home hours preparing for an interview, especially in the earlier stages.


If you do decide to take this route, you can ask your candidates to do a lot more than they could achieve in an interview. Ask them to create a proof-of-concept using your technology stack, or suggest that they come to you with an outline for an MVP that will take your existing offering to the next level.


You could also provide a simple take home quiz or exam, with a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions. Of course, you’ll need to trust that they are answering the questions with their own knowledge, and not researching online.


Use technical skills screening software


If you don’t feel confident about screening potential employees yourself, you can also use a third-party, outsourcing the task to a technical skills screening software provider. For example, you might be a non-technical company who is onboarding a team to manage their new cloud environment. You wouldn’t have any idea what questions to ask to ensure you get the right feet under desks.


In this case, technical skills screening software will usually offer a wide range of technical skills tests that you can use to check the abilities of candidates during the interview process. These range from cognitive ability tests to programming exams, software-skills tests, and specific industry-targeted exams that check the boxes for that market need. Try Codility and HackerEarth for engineering recruits, eSkill for customizable technical employment tests, or TestGorilla to search by your own specific business requirements.


Choose a hybrid assessment model


You might want to consider a mixture of many of the ideas above, as no single candidate will show you their best in a one size fits all approach. If you see that a candidate answers questions well in-person, but their at-home test is poor, suggest a collaborative peer assignment and see how they work in a team. If the at-home test is great, but they come off badly in the interview, maybe they struggle without time to think things through, and in a second interview they would feel more at ease.


Today’s working environments take all kinds of people, so take some time to think about whether this candidate might be a good fit elsewhere in the company. If they are highly personable but their technical skills aren’t there yet, maybe they would be great in Customer Success, and you could support them in growing their hands-on capabilities behind the scenes.


In contrast, if they don’t seem like they have the communication skills to go to customers on-site or support the business in-person, they might be able to knuckle down and get back-end tasks checked off the IT teams’ list with top of the line efficiency.


Looking to add more hours in the day for technical IT staff, and allow them to add strategic value to the business? You need an all-in-one SaaS tool for IT professionals, and hey, we happen to have a great one in mind!


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