Today's editorial was originally released on July 22, 2008. It is being re-published as Steve is at SQL Intersection.
How often have you met someone in the Information Technology field that seems to naturally understand how computers work? Someone that seems to be able to solve problems with almost any system or technology, even those outside of their area of expertise? They just seem to have an "IT instinct" for how systems and computers work together.
The value of an IT employee is probably impossible to predict. We have all sorts of certifications, tests, and more that we use along with an interview to make a decision about who to hire. In many cases is comes down to the "instinct" of the interviewer. Even then I'm sure that we find that the skills of those we interview often don't match up later with our expectations. They might greatly exceed or fall short of the performance we expect.
So how do we find good employees? I caught this article from eWeek that talks about the skills that CIOs want in their technical staff. It's an interesting read and the comments from CIOs are what I've really expected for most of my career. They want passionate people, strong technical skills, almost innate skills to work with computers, and the ability to translate that technical knowledge into business value.
Their views are certifications are what I've thought as well, and the article seems to capture it better than I've done in the past: "While education, training and certifications definitely add credibility to a candidate's claims, there are a lot of other aspects that should be considered while hiring." Others feel differently with one director saying certifications, degrees, all count for nothing when he looks at a prospective employee. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I am glad that a set of letters after your name do not count for everything.
Finding someone with good instincts is hard, and it's something I think occurs almost with luck. It's why every IT department should have one or two openings permanently available in case someone that's really valuable comes along. Identifying that person can be hard, and to a large extent a hiring manager needs to trust the recommendations of his staff or friends at other companies, but when that great talent becomes available, you want to be able to secure it.
There's never a guarantee that someone will perform at the level you hired them at, but I think that finding good people and listening to those good employees instincts is good way to start.
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