Ten Traits IT Managers Look for in a Job Candidate

  1. Self-starter skills
    Give me 10 thoroughbreds over 15 slow runners every time. Managers want employees that take initiative and want to do a good job. Being proactive is an excellent trait, especially when it is consistent with the company’s mission. I’ll pay more for each individual in the team of 10 than for the team of 15, but I’ll accomplish more.
  2. Adaptability
    IT is constantly changing and those that can adapt and be nimble tend to achieve much more. Managers need employees that can adapt to change and maintain high levels of productivity even in uncertain times.
  3. Knowledge of client service
    People who understand the importance of client service know that clients are the reason we have an IT career. They also know how to take precautions when working on issues that can cause system downtime and loss of productivity for their users and/or customers.
  4. A team player
    Managers need staff members that can work well in teams and that the team can rely on. Too many excellent technicians lose their value to an organization when they can’t work for the team instead of themselves.
  5. Commitment to succeed
    I want people that know when they need to stay after hours to take care of a situation and do what it takes to succeed individually and for the team. A lot of people say they have what it takes but true performers come through when it counts. I have experienced many situations in which people separated themselves from the pack by showing what they were made of in this area.
  6. High sense of urgency
    It’s hard to teach someone to have a high sense of urgency. Someone who has this sense places an emphasis on getting important issues resolved. IT managers need people who know when it’s “all hands on deck.”
  7. Technical competence
    Obviously, IT managers want and need competent people. But competence doesn’t necessarily mean the employee has to have all the answers. Those that are capable of finding the right answers to solve new problems are jewels and very valuable resources to the team. I’ll take solid people that are committed to success over the most technically competent person and accomplish more with fewer headaches.
  8. Solid communication skills
    Having the ability to communicate effectively with others is no longer just a desirable trait–it’s necessary in most IT positions. A “super programmer” is limited if he can’t communicate well with a business user or analyst to develop a new enhancement or fix a problem. Strong verbal and written communication skills can set you apart from many of your peers.
  9. Strong follow-up skills
    Nothing is more frustrating for a manager than to have an employee drop the ball by not following up on a commitment or issue. It can probably do more harm to the credibility of the IT organization than anything else–even incompetent work–as hard as that might be to believe. Good follow-up skills are traits that I look closely for when interviewing a new candidate.
  10. Low maintenance
    Managers want people that require low management maintenance. Employees that have to be constantly directed or supervised need to be in a different organization than the one I want to build. I want an organization to be effective and able to run well even when I’m not around. That doesn’t mean I should shirk my duty or obligation to the employee in coaching, career development, performance planning, and reviews. Just give me people that have the first nine skill traits and I’ll have a staff that requires very low maintenance.

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