Building a great development team is not very complex, but it is darn difficult to do. At Nearsoft, recruiting is one of our core competencies. We are constantly looking for and interviewing talented developers. Our clients have the final word, but we do all the heavy lifting.
Below are the reasons why hiring that “brilliant” engineer is not always the best idea.
1. Software Is a Team Sport
And a fragile one at that. A team that works well with each other will do wonders. A dysfunctional team is doomed to create dysfunctional software.
A key aspect of well functioning team is mutual respect. This comes when people appreciate and respect each others’ contributions. Throw one person in the mix who violates these conventions and he will either be ostracized and be edged out of the team or the team will fall apart in short order. It doesn’t take much and it doesn’t take long.
At Nearsoft we make teamwork a priority. We practice it, value it, and celebrate it up and down the company (i.e., well, there’s no “up and down” at Nearsoft—we have roles, but no hierarchy). And the results show it in terms of high morale, low turn-over, high quality work, and a fun environment.
2. Technology Is the Easy Part
If somebody is weak in some aspect of technology, it is usually feasible to correct that with training and practice. In fact, your team is most likely perfectly capable of bringing the new person up to speed.
On the other hand, if somebody doesn’t know how to work with others or, worse, they insist that the world revolve around them, that is a different story. Mostly likely, this is probably not something that your team is prepared to handle. Quite the opposite. Teamwork is always a work in progress and it can easily fall apart.
At Nearsoft, we have a program called the Talent Incubator to help polish people who are weak in one or two technology areas. Of course, we don’t accept everybody into the program. For one thing, we have to be convinced that they otherwise exhibit a high cultural fit with our team. We also have to be convinced that the person is committed to learning new skills and has demonstrated the ability to learn quickly.
For the people who are not culturally fit with our team, we’ll pass. We don’t pretend that we would know how to help the candidate, nor do we “take our chances” or “hope he’d make friends” or any of these close-your-eyes-and-hope-for-the-best fantasies.
It may take a bit longer in the short term, but software is all about the long term.
3. But Would You Like to Work with Him?
Once you ask this question, you will often hear some of the interviewers trying to talk themselves into stomaching the candidate because of how smart he is. You’ll hear comments like “he could do a lot for us” or “well, he’s so good he won’t need to work with anybody.” Or the worst recommendation: “not in our team, but he would be great for … (another team).”
If you hear comments along these lines, then you’ll know that this candidate is not going to be embraced by your team and in the end the relationship is not going to last. Better to face it now and move on to other candidates that are, hopefully, a better fit.
At Nearsoft we always close the Thumbs meeting with this question. Most of the time if the team has decided to hire, then the answer is a clear “yes” from everybody. But sometimes it completely reopens the discussion. And that is good. Better to have that discussion the, no matter how long it takes, than to hire the wrong person.