Non-Techies Hiring the Right Tech Talent

March 24, 2017 The TNS Group

Towards the end of 2015, I had the awkward opportunity of helping with hiring the right tech talent for TNS.  I say it is awkward because we were looking for engineers and help desk analysts. Two key positions that I knew next to nothing about, especially when it came down to determining the correct qualifications to do so.  These positions have everything to do with technology and I prefer to stay far away from getting into the nitty gritty of tech-speak; a language that I still only speak at a mediocre level.

For non-techies, hiring the right tech talent can seem like an impossible task.  Anyone who can put together a sentence with terms like “Citrix” or “DNS” or “FSMO Roles” seems like a tech genius to those who have no idea what they might mean.  So how do we non-techies hire qualified technical individuals?  While its hard for a non-techie to completely assess a candidate’s skill-set, it is vital to know two things:  What you are looking for in the position and what you are looking for in a candidate. 

How do you define the position?

What position are you hiring?  What are the day-to-day tasks?  Who do they report to?  Does anyone report to them?  What are the salary requirements?  Do they need any specific certifications?  These are all vital to answer before interviewing anyone and will require you to consult with someone who has a bit more of a technical understanding, and someone who knows the required skill-set to get the job accomplished.  If you are lucky enough to have engineers or support desk analysts working for you already, they can be a wealth of information regarding what skills are needed and can assist in putting together a decent job description.  Recruiters are also great since they can often weed out individuals that are not at all qualified.  They can give you a sense of what you will have to pay for the skill set that you need. 

Don’t be afraid to seek assistance in determining what the details of the job will be.  You will only run into issues if you don’t start with a proper job description.

Once you have that finalized the job description, you can begin the interview process.  For the final interview, you will definitely need someone with technical skills to ensure that the candidate can fulfill the job responsibilities.  You can assist by eliminating candidates that look like great candidates on paper but lack the secondary skills that ensure success. 

Can they communicate clearly and effectively?

This is probably the easiest qualification to determine, especially if you are hiring for a technical role that will be communicating with clients or vendors that may not necessarily understand tech-speak.  A qualified technical candidate should be able to communicate technical concepts in layman’s terms.  How do you determine this?  Find an interesting technical concept that is related to the position you are hiring for and have them explain it.  My go-to question was always “Can you tell me what DNS is?”  For me one of the best answers I received was as follows:

“DNS stands for Domain Name Servers/System.  DNS is similar to your phone’s contact list.  When you want to call your mother, you scroll down to Mom and click “call.”  Your phone translates that to dialing your mom’s phone number, whatever that might be.  You don’t have to memorize her number, you only have to know the name you are calling.  Makes things easy to remember.  So it is the same with DNS.  If you want to hop on the internet and go to Amazon, you merely type into your web address bar and your computer takes you over to that website. 

The truth is that your computer doesn’t know Amazon by name but it knows it by its “IP Address” (which I believe is  If you type that number into your web address bar it still takes you to but it is far easier to remember then it is to remember a bunch of numbers.”

Does their thought process make sense?

For individuals in the technical field, it is vital to be practical and efficient when problem solving.  While determining, this may require you to ask somewhat technical questions. The candidate should be able to walk you through the process and explain why they are taking the steps they are stating. 

I started by asking our tech guys what steps they would take and what questions they would ask if someone called up stating that they are no longer receiving email.  They provided me information starting from the first and easy steps all the way to the final, last resort steps you would take to resolve an end users email issue.  While the candidates didn’t need to repeat each and every step mentioned, I made sure that they started off on the right foot and proceeded from there. 

If you do not have technical people to assist you with this, try a less technical question.  Ask them what their process would be if their television didn’t turn on one day.  If they say that the first step they would take would be to go out and buy a new television, you realize immediately that their process to find resolutions might be a bit off.

Can they handle the pressure?

There is not one magical question that you can ask to get to the truth of this answer easily. It’s important that the individual you hire can handle the day-to-day issues that they will run into.  Technology is often a thankless field.  If you are working on a support desk, you will likely only work with individuals that have a pressing issue preventing workflow. 

Rarely do you get a call from someone just to let you know that everything is working well and there are no issues.  In addition, if the  job requires you to be on call on weekends and holidays, it is stressful when technology starts to fail on a Saturday night or during a holiday picnic.  This can be very grinding and can cause burnout very easily for even some of the best candidates.  I find it best to be very upfront with some of the less glamorous sides of the position. This way you see how the candidate reacts and if they have a clear understanding of both the good and the bad.

Even the best hiring managers can make mistakes and hire individuals that do not work for their companies.  It’s stressful to hire for a position that you are not completely familiar with, as you may not understand all of the requirements and skill-sets needed.  Hiring the wrong individual can cost your company thousands of dollars. If you do your due-diligence and ask the right questions, you can eliminate some of the chances of a bad hire.  You need to seek out assistance from individuals who are familiar with the job and can provide insight into what the proper candidate looks like. 

Being an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP), our Human Resources team is well equipped in hiring the right team members.  Contact The TNS Group today to make sure that you are asking the right questions and making strategic decisions for your company.

By: Jennifer Totilo, Administration, The TNS Group

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