Opinion

Why first impressions really add up

We all select our friends, partners or business partners based on a combination of our knowledge, experience and instinct of whether we will get on.

Some people call this a gut feeling. Generally, that feeling in the stomach, positive or negative, will prove to be the most reliable tool in picking the right people to have around us. The same goes for recruiting the best IT staff.

If your gut feeling has helped you make good decisions in your life, it is likely to help you when selecting staff for your IT team. Recruitment usually involves making difficult decisions: when you are faced with IT candidates who on paper are equally capable of doing the job, how do you make the right choice?

Employers are aware that people are the lifeblood of their organisation and selecting the best employees is key. IT directors face the additional problem of a shortage of skilled candidates in certain areas owing to the upturn in the IT jobs market.

There is no longer the luxury of lots of time available to determine the suitability of applicants. A manager or director confident in using their gut feeling will be better able to react quickly and secure the best talent available.

However, staff selection should not be based on a whim. Every IT staffing strategy should be underpinned by a good, solid process starting with a concise job description to highlight the IT skills and experience required. A detailed application form, a CV and supporting letter can all help with the initial selection. I recommend using aptitude and psychometric testing too. But that is the easy part.

I believe that our greatest ally when recruiting is our gut feeling. Gut feeling is the result of applying, albeit subconsciously, three very important factors: knowledge, experience and instinct. Gut feeling may sound like a flight of fancy but it is simply the sum of life experience, our careers and our time with the company.

Once selection based on skills has produced a shortlist of IT candidates, directors must use their knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of their particular department set-up, work environment and business processes to check against the skills of the candidate. They should then judge the personality and cultural-fit. This is where experience comes in to play.

Directors are well placed to know of employees with a similar personality profile that perform well in the company’s IT team and will remember what happened when they “took a punt” on someone.

First impressions are vital and should not be overlooked. The most important part of any interview is the first five minutes. You should gel with the applicant on at least one subject during this time. Focus straightaway on a hobby or interest that you know a little about and put the candidate at their ease as quickly as possible.

Information should then flow freely and a relationship can begin. You can then use your instinct to decide whether you want to take the relationship further.

Chris Bartlett is director of recruitment specialist GCS

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This was first published in June 2006

 

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