IT staffing isn't just about finding the right candidate. It's about overcoming internal blind spots and prejudice.
In a past job of mine, we had an open position for a part-time user support assistant and we wanted to fill it with a student intern from one of the local colleges. Our goal with these positions was to give budding information technology professionals an opportunity to become exposed to the business world and to find their passion within the field.
One candidate stood out for the sincerity in her responses. It was clear she was not exaggerating her qualifications beyond what they were, nor was she saying anything just to please us -- her responses were thoughtful and honest throughout.
Nearing the end of the interview I asked her, "So where else have you applied for internships?"
She mentioned two other organizations. So I asked, "In what area of IT are those internships?"
"One is in the networking area, and the other is in the database area," she replied.
"Among the three internships, what is your order of preference?" I pursued.
Without flinching at all, she stated, "My first choice is [Company A], my second choice is [Company B]..." Her response put us in last place.
Without flinching myself, I asked her to explain the reasoning behind her ranking. Methodically, she explained, "[Company A] has the networking internship. I have heard network engineers make a lot of money. I have also heard that database people have strong career prospects."
After her departure, the committee sat down to make a decision. We each had our favorite candidate. Mine was this candidate -- though I was a little surprised to be the only one championing her.
"But she is not even interested in this position -- we are her third choice!" someone protested.
"I am not sure she will enjoy working in user support if she truly wants to be a network engineer or a database analyst," another person added.
"Yes, I agree with these concerns," I said. "But look -- her integrity is beyond question. She was the most honest of all the candidates we saw. Integrity of this level is rare. Yet, it is the most important asset in the IT field. We deal with too much sensitive information. We will be able to trust exactly what she tells us. She will not cover up her mistakes -- she will own up to them and we will be able to correct them.
"Look at how fearlessly she told us the truth about her choices. She was not willing to lie to make us feel good. She also gave us honest answers for her reasons. Thus, if she ends up working here, to be fair to her, we know that we have to expose her to network engineering as well as databases.
"Remember -- she is a young student and she still has to find herself. As part of her internship, we have to teach her that loving her work is more important than pursuing money. She can only be good in something she truly loves. Money will automatically follow quality as she progresses in her career. If we offer her the position, we will tell her we will expose her to our network engineers and database analysts so she can learn about those areas as well. We can give her all three internships right here and we can become her first choice. Once she has exposure to all the areas, she will be in a better position to judge what she truly loves.
"Personally, I would love the opportunity to work with a person of such high integrity at this stage in her career so I can mentor her the right way from the very beginning. She will be a star IT person someday."
Luckily, everyone agreed to give this candidate a chance and she readily accepted. We duly exposed her to network engineering as well as databases and she was able to find herself. She found out that she did not like network engineering. She ended up becoming an excellent business analyst with a strong database background. Her user support role taught her to deal with a wide variety of people and understand what they did. It also allowed her to polish her leadership skills, which became very important in her career. She is a gem wherever she works.
— Mansur Hasib has served in CIO/CISO and other leadership roles in the public, private, and education sectors.