It's not easy assessing job applicants' technology know-how.
by Keith Kirkpatrick
Robert needed his next hire to be solid in technology. When he interviewed Angela, he asked, “How good are you with computers?” She responded, “Great,” and explained that she had shot a few videos and posted them on YouTube. Besides, she had the usual array of capabilities listed on her resume for working with Microsoft Officae.
Raymond arrived for his interview, confident of his ability. During the conversation with Joan, she asked him to talk about his technology skills. He went on and on about Twitter, Facebook, Excel, a school graphic project, a hard-drive install and more. Joan thought she had acquired a technology superstar.
Cynthia was not sure what she was getting when she hired Desmond. He had a business degree, but was not forthcoming with his knowledge and skills in the areas of technology. He said he “could hold his own” when working with computers, software and the Internet. He met the job requirements and seemed quite capable. Cynthia guessed she would find out what “hold his own” meant when he started.
Three Weeks Later…
Angela had downloaded two viruses while “researching” on the Internet and had no idea how it happened. Her struggle with the database software was painful. The telephone system baffled her, while her skills with Excel and PowerPoint were very limited. Her posted videos featured her friends at a party.
Raymond was right. He knew all about social media and that was nearly the totality of his prowess with technology. He said his computer was really slow, but was clueless on how to fine-tune it. He wasted large quantities of ink and paper trying to print in color. He did understand Facebook quite well because he was on it constantly “for business purposes.”
Desmond was the surprise. He could hook up anything, helped everyone with computer questions, and understood how to use a cell phone in ways no one had ever seen. If he did not know the answer to a problem, he could always find the solution and apply it. He was a whiz.
Sound familiar? These scenarios are common for many employers. It is so difficult to ascertain the technology abilities of applicants. We assume that anyone under 30 is computer-savvy, that technology is in their genes. Wrong!
They have been around it more, but the technical side of work has become so vast that it is not possible to be great, even really good, at all of it.
When we interview candidates, we do not know what to ask and are lost in evaluating someone's knowledge of hardware, websites, software, networks, cell phones and printers. We are not sure how to assess skills in document production, Web research, social media, Web posting or customizing software.
So here are some hiring tips. Before the interview, ask candidates to create a document with a little pizzazz using graphics or information you have supplied. Ask them to construct a spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation from data you provide. And ask them to send you the link to a favorite website and describe what features are attractive or useful.
During the interview, have candidates look for an answer on the Web to a current technology problem that you are facing and then implement the solution. Have the candidate retrieve a document in your system and print it without much instruction. Have candidates navigate the Web as they search for something you need and have each candidate analyze your website with suggestions of what could be improved. Finally, have the candidate demonstrate some interesting apps which are on his or her cell phone.
It takes a little more work, but what do you want, a tech WOW or a tech NO?
Keith Kirkpatrick is president of the KPM Group in Valparaiso and serves as the executive director for Leadership Northwest Indiana.