One of the difficulties a small organization faces is filling highly technical or specialized positions. A small municipality of around 20,000 residents was in need of a new Director of IT to replace the retiring incumbent. The City Manager and Director of Communications wanted to expand the job’s strategic role. Specifically, they wanted to fill the position with someone technically capable of updating the city’s IT infrastructure and with the personality and leadership skills to champion such an effort in a small municipal environment.
To their credit, city management immediately realized that, while they had an in-house Human Resource Department, they had limited in-house IT knowledge, and certainly no-one capable of evaluating candidates for a dual leadership and technical role.
This is a common situation in small to medium size organizations. Who can evaluate the technical abilities of a candidate when the chosen candidate will be the most capable technical expert in the organization? To further complicate matters, the city had only one remaining in-house IT staff member, who was interested in applying for the director position.
Typically, a smaller organization will turn to a recruiting agency to help solve this problem. In theory, they provide the technical evaluation of the candidates and the city’s HR department handles the other portions of the interview and screening process.
The problem with this approach is that recruiting agencies have a disincentive to provide rigorous technical screening. They are paid to place a candidate, and paid more if the candidate negotiates a higher salary. Their main goal is to find the candidate that will interview well and negotiate the highest salary. As long as the candidate is employed through the probationary period, the recruiting agency gets paid.
Get a Specialist to Hire Your Specialist
One of the most common questions I get asked when explaining what Minerva does is “so, you are a recruiting company, right?” My answer is simple. “No, we make sure the person you hire is the right person for the position.”
Minerva partners with our customers to provide a scientifically rigorous, legally defensible interview and screening process to make sure the candidate you hire has all of the skills, technical and otherwise, to perform beyond expectations inside the organization.
One facet of this service is to retain objective outside subject matter experts (SMEs). In the case of our small municipal client, that meant a high level IT expert capable of creating technical screening questions and evaluating the answers. Our SME also had to be capable of creating realistic work samples and evaluating the candidates’ answers to them.
This partnership of our SME, the city’s hiring committee and HR department in using the interview system created by Minerva allowed the city to quickly weed out many unsuitable candidates and offer the position to a well-qualified candidate. The city was more confident in their hiring decision, and the hiring decision was also more objective, documented, and legal defensible. The very nature of bringing in outside SMEs limits or eliminates personal biases, organizational politics and inadvertent discrimination during technical screenings and enhance the development of better interviewing tools and processes.
Feedback from candidates for this position indicated that the interview process designed by Minerva positively influenced their view of this city as an employer compared to a much larger city competing for the same candidates. In a highly competitive market like IT, the applicant’s first impression of an employer is often the interview process. A structured and well-organized interview process with technical questions designed by a subject matter expert informs candidates that your organization is serious and competent.
For organizations attempting to hire a specialist, it is important to recognize that if you don’t have the in-house expertise to accurately evaluate candidate’s skill sets, or even to formally define that skill set, it is time to talk to an expert. Minerva possesses the expertise to define skill sets and build compatible selection systems; and we’re able to leverage relationships with experts in many fields to provide SMEs regardless of how specialized, technical or high level the position is.
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