It happens that we, technical specialists, need to make a decision in favor of a particular candidate to hire for the team. Usually we focus on technical knowledge and skills and do not overburden ourselves with thinking about whether a candidate suitable for us in terms of technical competencies fits the already established model of relationships within the team and whether he can/wants to cope with the role that he will have to play in this team . In this article, which I titled after the famous Pink Floyd album, I want to tell you how I learned from my own experience that burdening yourself with these thoughts when hiring specialists is not only useful, but also necessary. You can consider this working on mistakes.
Disclaimer. This article was created by a technical specialist to help technical specialists develop their own approach to hiring staff, and not by HR for HR. If something here seems obvious to HR pros or is not written scientifically enough, then oh well.
Two simple stories of failed hiring of excellent specialists
Story 1. One day I was lucky enough to hire an excellent young specialist in the testing department. There were no questions about his work at all, but he did not work for us as long as I would have liked (or rather, not very long). After three months, he quit, citing that he didn’t have “enough drive and energy.” If I had found out about his interest during the interview, I would have given preference to another candidate with less “drive” requests.
Story 2. I was looking for a leader for a small new team and found an excellent person, a wonderful technical specialist. A month has passed, I see, and the guys from this team are not doing much, and the new employee, who was supposed to be the leader, is plowing without raising his head. It turned out that he did not want to engage in leadership activities, but was more sympathetic to the role of an expert. Well, I began the search for a new leader.
What went wrong? Now some HR specialists will say: “It’s obvious that when hiring you should take into account the prevailing model of relationships and the atmosphere within the team, as well as the correspondence of the interests and personal qualities of the candidate to the role that he should play.” Thanks, Cap. Well, in order to help people like me not to step on this rake and not then shovel through a mountain of literature on hiring, I’ll tell you briefly how I was able to develop an approach to personnel selection, taking into account the prevailing model of relationships within the team and the expected role of the new employee in it.
1. Determine the model of relationships within the team – current and desired, if they differ
What are the models of relationships within a team will become clear when you get acquainted with the main ones. Inspired by the works of the famous psychologist Kurt Lewin and a number of other experts developing his research in the field of leadership and effective management, the following models can be distinguished:
1. Support model. In a team where this model predominates, the relationship between employees can be described as friendly. All team members trust each other and are ready to help in difficult times.
2. Competitive model. This is when rivalry is maintained within a team, which can both motivate employees and provoke conflicts and tension between them.
3. Authoritarian model. In such a team, one person or group of people has all the power and controls all aspects of the team’s life.
4. Democratic model. In this model, the team leader ensures that all employees participate in decision making and encourages the free exchange of ideas.
5. Innovation model. All team members are encouraged to search for new ideas and innovations.
6. Individualism model. In this model, employees are more inclined to work individually rather than working in teams.
Most often, several models of relationships are presented simultaneously in a team. I think the dominant patterns in my department right now are the supportive model and the authoritarian model. This often happens in software testing teams. By the way, If there are fellow testers here, please share your experience – what kind of relationship model do you have in your team and how do you evaluate it.
Ignoring the model of relationships within the team when hiring can cause unsuccessful adaptation of a new employee, which will create a negative experience for both him and the entire team. It’s one thing when a new employee doesn’t immediately understand the inside jokes and nuances of interaction with colleagues, but in general he’s able to get the hang of it, quickly get involved in the work and feel comfortable. Another is when the team’s atmosphere and values conflict with his values, which can cause systematic misunderstandings and conflicts. For example, someone doesn’t like to compete too much and ends up in a team with a predominant competitive model. Or an authoritarian leader suddenly joins a team that was brought up on the principles of a democratic model.
Of course, taking into account the relationship model does not mean that you need to look for a copy of an existing employee. But when selecting a new specialist, it is worth considering not only his technical skills, but also his social and life values. Now in the team where I work, we really value mutual assistance, learning ability and diligence. That is, competition lovers are unlikely to get along with us. I think that thanks, among other things, to the selection practice that I describe here, my team now works harmoniously and with pleasure.
So, before hiring an employee, give yourself an honest answer about which model of relationships within your team prevails. Better yet, determine not only the current state, but also how it will change over time. This change may be related to a specific period in the life of the company, such as financial difficulties or business growth. It may be that a new employee doesn’t fit the current model well, but he can support or even create the desired one that your company or individual team is moving towards.
2. Decide in what role we would like to see the new employee
After you have figured out the relationship model, you need to decide on the desired role of the new employee in the team. For example, the following roles may be required:
● Leader – an employee who has a high level of emotional intelligence, knows how to effectively communicate and manage, solve problems and orient the team towards common goals.
● Expert – an employee with a high level of competence in his field, ready to share experience and knowledge with colleagues. An expert is able to improve the skills of other employees and support them in difficult situations.
● Mediator – an employee who is able to resolve conflicts in a team, find compromises and create an atmosphere of mutual understanding. A mediator can reduce tension in a team during times of difficulty or change in the business.
● Executor is a specialist who performs his duties and tasks within clearly defined frameworks. He does not claim leadership in the team and acts in accordance with the requirements of management.
3. Make a list of expected personal characteristics
Having decided what model of relationships within the team you work in and what role the new employee should play, you need to create a set of expected personal characteristics of the employee.
For example, if a democratic model has developed in the team, it is important to choose an employee who will be ready to actively participate in the discussion of issues, express their ideas and work in a team. In the case of an authoritarian model, the ability to work effectively within a rigid hierarchy and follow clear instructions may be more important. And in a team with an innovative model, priority should be given to a specialist with analytical thinking, high expertise and a willingness to experiment.
For myself (based on HR literature and my own experience) I compiled the following table valuable qualities of an employee depending on the relationship model and the expected role. You can use this as a base and add what you consider important in your circumstances (or remove what you consider not very important).
For convenience you can DOWNLOAD table.
4. We look for personal characteristics of interest in candidates
All that remains is to recognize a person with suitable qualities in the crowd of candidates. This is why questions are asked during interviews. Below in the table, again summarizing HR articles on the Internet and my own experience, I tried to describe which questions are suitable for assessing the severity of certain character traits in candidates.
For convenience you can DOWNLOAD table.
If you are intimidated by the volume of this table with questions, then do not be alarmed 🙂 There is no need to burden the candidates and yourself with everyone – select two or three according to the qualities that interest you.
By the way, it is important to ask the same questions to all candidates, this is how they can be compared. My personal top interview questions:
● What would you like to change at your previous (current) place of work? What did you do with it?
● What are you proud of that you have done?
● How did you get into the profession? Why do you stay in it?
How to ask such questions
First, let’s define the questions. If candidates have no experience or little work experience, then it is better to ask direct questions that imply direct, uncomplicated answers. If the candidate has work experience, then he is asked questions that require reasoning or analysis. The approach to such questions usually begins with the following words: assess the situation, what is your attitude towards, how would you describe it, give examples from your practice, etc.
From my experience, I can advise asking questions to determine personal characteristics after the applicant talks about his work experience, and before the technical interview. At this moment, the candidate is not yet tired and does not doubt his professional competence.
Actively listen to your interlocutor, let him say everything he thinks. You can easily find information about active listening techniques online. The simplest techniques:
● “uh-huh” – assent;
● pauses to help the interlocutor speak out to the end;
● asking open questions.
And then during the interview you can find out not only whether the candidate can do the job, but also whether he will do the job on your team.