Who will you hire - Smart or Nice?

For the past 10+ years I have managed engineering teams of various sizes, tech stacks and capabilities. No matter which team I am working with, building it out and expanding has always been a function that has excited and scared me at the same time. From the face of it hiring for tech positions seems fairly straight forward. You filter out candidates by years of experience in relevant technologies, throw a few tech questions and them and choose the ones who answer most of them. Easy! Nope. I started my stint as an engineering manager doing exactly this only and oh how I have been burned. It is very easy to fall into the trap that is this process’s simplicity if one is not careful. The biggest mistake I, as a lot of managers also do, made was judging the candidates in isolation. Judge them only on the basis of their skills and knowledge and speed at which they solved a problem without giving much thought to how they go about doing it. This, I tell you, is a mistake and the worst thing is that it takes a lot of time before you realize where it went wrong.

Most of us in the tech industry are doing the same work. Building CRUD applications. They could vary in the scope and scale but most of the applications can be summarised as storing data somewhere and displaying data somewhere else in the required format. I am not saying that people are not doing any ground-breaking work but the number of such people is very very small. This sounds harsh but it is what it is. This means that judging a candidate purely by their tech capabilities is mostly redundant. Unless your requirement is super time sensitive, you don’t need the best of the best technologically gifted person immediately. As a matter of fact, you might not need this person ever. Who you do need is someone who works well with you. Someone who brings a overall positive vibe to your team and is a pleasant person to work with. Individual contributions are somewhat overrated in my opinion. I value people who can gel with my team and work together to not only accomplish the task in hand but elevate the overall quality of the work that the team does. I am currently leading such a team at FabAlley where every single person of my team likes each other and are friendly. And this is the biggest factor that I look for in a candidate. Someone who cannot just do the work they are expected to do but also do it well with the team.

I know I have not said anything you don’t already know. It seems logical only to hire pleasant people who are good team players but we humans are wired to completely disregard such basic logical arguments and continue going forward with our preconceived notions and ways of doing things. Which is why it is important that I put is our there explicitly - If you are looking to be hired, try to be a better colleague. If you are hiring, try to find a pleasant person. Tech, process etc can easily be learnt.

Recommended Read : Toxic Workers Are More Productive, But the Price Is High

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I have helped many startups in building their products and I would be happy to have a chat with you about your idea. Catch me on twitter at @akhilrex

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