12 Key Traits Technology Leaders Need To Look For When Hiring

By Forbes Technology Council

Jul 21, 2017

This article first appeared on Forbes.com

There are a lot more candidates than positions, and not every person is a good fit for every company culture. Some people prefer a deeply collaborative workplace, while others thrive when they can work mostly independently toward team goals.

What technology executives look for also varies, depending on what skills they need to add to the team and what kind of environment they want to foster. But while the details of experience or degrees are important, there are some larger scope issues to weigh. Is the candidate laser focused on a particular skill set, or have they had several careers? How do they approach problem-solving, and how engaged or passionate do they seem when talking about previous work they’ve done?

Below, members from Forbes Technology Council, talk about the key traits they look for when interviewing potential hires. Here’s what they say:

1. Look For Multiple Strengths

I generally hire people with mathematical and technical backgrounds. Candidates must have strength in their area of educational expertise. That is table stakes. Beyond that, the critical thing I look for is a hunger to solve real-world problems and work directly with customers. That separates those who are smart from those who will be successful in our organization. — Pete Eppele, Zilliant

2. ‘Soft Skills’ Will Improve The Team

Today’s successful employee needs to be well rounded beyond their particular area of expertise. So while a software engineer obviously needs to excel in their domain, having “soft” skills — such as being strong with interpersonal relationships — will ensure that our team is stronger as a whole. This shows they have the flexibility necessary to thrive in today’s rapidly changing technology environment.– AJ Abdallat,  Beyond Limits

3. Find Someone With Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the first and foremost trait I always look for in a prospective candidate to join my team. This is the fundamental feature, allowing a person to really enjoy their work and be motivated beyond just financial or ego-related motives. Intrinsic motivation is a ground for the right kind of attitude to work. — Andrii Buvailo, Enamine Ltd

4. Ensure They Fit Into The Work Culture

If I were to look at one key trait, it would be how well a new hire fits into the current work culture of the team. A disruptive team member, one who doesn’t understand the mission, can bring down the morale of the whole team. This is especially pertinent when you are managing a team at a start up, as every individual has to stand out and perform at their very best, but also work as part of a team. — Jay Gopalakrishnan, Pefin Inc

5. Hire Eager Learners

Eager learners are at the top of my list for key hires (or any hire). This might be someone who has had a career change, has extracurriculars they are passionate about or loves to volunteer. Eager learners who seek out changes in course are open, creative and they substantially change the work your team can do. — Kieran Snyder, Textio

6. Staying Up-To-Date Is Crucial, Especially In Cybersecurity

I look for people who are passionate about learning new things. In cybersecurity, we are always evolving and adapting: As knowledge workers, our knowledge becomes outdated very rapidly and we need people who want to continue to learn throughout their careers. — George Finney, Southern Methodist University

7. Nothing Matters More Than Passion

Nothing matters more when hiring than passion. You can teach somebody process and even help them grow in their technical skills, but you can’t manufacture interest. All of my best hires have demonstrated excitement, not only for my company but also for the projects they’ve done in their career. — Nick Seegmiller, Vivint Smart Home

8. Desire For Growth Is Crucial

The desire to learn and do more: Members of our tech teams are stretched far beyond their skill sets they came to us on Day 1. We live in a fast-moving landscape, where only the companies that can adapt and grow will survive. In our company’s 20-year history, we have already had to reinvent ourselves four times. Without tech team members that are interested in learning and growing, we couldn’t survive. — Alex Lesser, PSSC Labs

9. Seek People With Action Bias

We look for player-coaches — people who can think strategically and then actually move the ball forward. We want an action bias in our people. — Cory Capoccia, Womply

10. Make Sure They’re Collaborative Problem-Solvers

One of the most important traits we look for in key hires on our tech team is around collaborative problem-solving. Someone who can take hold of a complex challenge or problem and engage a broader audience within the organization to drive to, and arrive at, the best possible solution, has typically proven to deliver the best possible outcome. — Gabby Nizri, Ayehu, Inc

11. Discover If They Can Progress With Less-Than-Perfect Information

On my team, it is essential to have the ability to move forward and make decisions with partial information. That makes many people uncomfortable, but the reality is waiting for the perfect solution puts you last in line in the market. The embedded computing market we serve has a lot of facets to it. I look for a candidate who has the ability to make progress with less-than-perfect information. — Jeffrey Fortin, Vector Software

12. Are They Willing To Admit They Don’t Know Something?

We’re working on technology that nobody has put together before, and if you aren’t a life-long-learner, you won’t be able to succeed. This applies to both experienced and less-experienced workers. The willingness to learn can be hard to see during an interview, but if you can figure out a question during an interview where they say “I don’t know,” then that’s a very positive sign. — Jeff Catlin, Lexalytics, Inc

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