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Is Your Bench of IT Experts Deep Enough? Probably Not.

In tech, to acquire quality talent with consistency, you need an extremely diverse bench of tech talent to properly screen applicants, particularly if you plan to innovate with new and emerging technologies. The widely used staffing term “bench strength” is borrowed from baseball. Just take a look at IT teams. Having strong depth allows teams to overcome talent losses, and multiple professionals with specialized technical abilities can be invaluable. Let’s show you what we mean.

The 15 Categories of Technical Expertise
First, it’s important to recognize that there are many distinct areas of IT expertise. We’ve identified the following 15 categories:

  • Application/Software Development
  • Big Data and Data Science
  • Business Intelligence & Data Warehouse
  • Cloud Technologies
  • Cyber Security
  • Databases & Database Management
  • DevOps / Infrastructure & Data Centers
  • Enterprise Applications
  • Machine Learning / AI
  • Internet of Things
  • Mobile Technologies
  • Networking, Voice & Data Communications
  • Project, Program & Product Management
  • Quality Assurance & Validation
  • UI/UX Design

This is important because professionals in these categories aren’t interchangeable. The skills and tools a software developer needs to have, for example, are quite different than those required of a cyber security professional.

This reality has major ramifications for technical screening. In particular, to properly evaluate candidates’ technical experience for IT positions, the interviewer  must have current skills and experience in the particular category. This means to effectively screen candidates for cyber security roles, the interviewer needs to be well skilled in the latest  cyber security protocols.

Technology Stacks and Job Levels
Having an IT professional in the same expertise category conduct technical interviews often isn’t sufficient alone.  Why? Two reasons:

  1. The professional performing the technical screen should have experience with the skills and tools used in each element of the tech stack used in the position to be filled.
  2. The professional performing the technical screen should be of the same or similar job level as the position to be filled.

Let’s look at each reason a bit more closely.
A technology stack consists of the tools and technologies that are used in a role (to learn more about what a technology stack looks like, we recommend this post). Ideally, you want a 100 percent match—between interviewer and each component of the stack. So, for example, if a development role calls for expertise in – Python, REST, MySQL, Version Control, and Django – the professional performing the technical screen should have strong expertise in the same. Resist the urge to have someone without direct relevant experience evaluate candidates because it will affect the accuracy of screening results.

Meanwhile, many employers make the mistake of using professionals of the wrong job level to conduct technical screens. While few would think of using junior IT professionals to evaluate candidates for senior-level roles, it’s highly common for employers to blunder by using senior IT professionals (such as hiring managers) to evaluate the technical qualifications of candidates for junior and mid-level roles.

Why is this a mistake? While different ranks may interact with the same elements of the stack, they typically require differing levels of experience in the tools, and they often use them differently. In the case of hiring managers, they often aren’t using the tools in the same hands-on fashion as someone presently employed in a similar stage of their career.  A network engineer knows the nuances, pros and cons of approaches, and procedures intimately and thus can effectively evaluate candidates for the same role.

The Required Talent Adds Up
In summary, for ideal technical screening results (and thus ideal hiring results), you need the professionals conducting technical interviews to:

  • Have their technical expertise to be in the same category as the open position.
  • Possess skills and experience in each critical element of the stack to be used in the open position.
  • Be of the same job level as the open position.

And when you add these requirements up, companies looking to compete with tech in today’s fast-paced marketplace, need to engage technical interviewers with the above traits and more.  IT salaries, like top AI talent, in some cases rival major league sports figures. So, while it’s tempting to send candidates to an IT professional without preferred screening credentials, accurate results should count more than familiarity with an interviewer.