Hiring for IT is a bit different from hiring in other departments. Strong problem solving skills are essential, particularly if you’re hiring for your IT service desk. But because IT is on the front lines dealing with customers every day, they should not only have the technical aptitude to handle the issues they’re assigned, but also have the personal traits that can make them a leader. As IT becomes more and more integral to the success of the enterprise, you need someone who is well rounded.
In his article “26 Habits of Exceptionally Successful People,” Richard Feloni explores Napoleon Hill’s examination of what exactly makes someone successful. Through the early 1900s, Hill spoke with Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest men in the world, and other self-made businessmen to write his novel Think and Grow Rich. Carnegie saw it as a vehicle to promote his ideology, and his ideas of what makes someone successful were so powerful that it made Hill a thought leader, leading to his numerous lectures on the subject and the continuing popularity of Carnegie’s business ideals today.
While Hill and Feloni focus mainly on how to be successful in business, their beliefs are still applicable to IT (and, really, anyone who wants to be a leader in their field). Here are the five takeaways of the habits of successful people that you should also seek out in your IT employees.
1. They Have a Definitive Goal — and an Even Clearer Motive
Based on Hill’s research, Feloni lists having a “definitive purpose” and knowing their “motives” for success as the first and second traits of successful people, respectively. Why? It boils down to self-awareness. Hill wrote that one should explore what exactly constitutes success in their eyes, and to have a clear path towards how they want to achieve that goal. They should also know why they want to achieve it, and it should be a unique, personal reason that goes beyond desiring something easy or to follow a “well-tread” path — their motivation for success has to be more than just getting rich quick or because people have already paved the way before.
Does the candidate want to move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 support? Take on more projects? Eventually become the IT department manager? An employee who wants to grow with your company will see a long-term goal that fits in with the position they’re interviewing for.
2. They’re Honest About Their Shortcomings
Potential employees are quick to boast about how they’re responsible, how they’re “detail-oriented” and “hardworking” and a “team player” — in fact, these adjectives are used so often that Monster gave them a spot on their list of words that “ruin” a resume. Instead of just asking someone to rattle off a list of their best qualities, ask them about their shortcomings. Maybe they wish they were more fluent in a certain programming language, they want more experience working with Apple’s OS because they’re not comfortable with it, or maybe they sometimes struggle with working in an agile environment.
Someone who is able to take constructive critiques and turn them into opportunities to grow makes someone a potentially great leader. Asking about weaknesses is a good way to gauge how humble someone can be; someone who is honest about themselves and mature enough to know that they’re not perfect is bound to be successful because they know they can always improve. It also means that they’ll be able to take criticism well and own up to their failures, and speaking of failure…
3. They Know How to Handle Failure
Failure happens. It’s a fact of life. And letting failure roll off your back and learning from a setback is a powerful way to go through life. As Feloni states in the article, it’s “necessary to not only withstand difficulty but to use your setbacks as motivation to try even harder.” And, he says, they also don’t make excuses for those mistakes. No, this doesn’t mean that starting new businesses and having each one fail makes someone successful (isn’t doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result a sign of madness?). Someone who can put themselves out there, discover it wasn’t the right move, and then learn from it and become a better employee as a result is someone who will grow professionally with your company, and will put forth the effort to be at their best.
Even under the strict metrics and expectations of IT, there are some SLAs that can’t be met, and there are some issues that you won’t have an answer to right away. An individual who can’t handle a setback, and also doesn’t learn from it, won’t survive long in the fast-paced technology world.
4. They Embrace Being a Team Member — But Can Do it Alone
Doesn’t everyone love to be recognized for their individual achievements? While it’s tempting to go off on your own and rely only upon yourself, it’s also important to add someone to the team who is, well, a team player. This means someone who is able to ask for help when they need it, collaborate on projects when others ask them for help, and communicate successfully with other departments when the job calls for it. While someone calling themselves a “team player” is, yes, overused and cliched, it’s only because they tend to be buzzwords that don’t have action to back them up.
The thing is, no matter what level of expertise you may have, there are going to be some things that you don’t know, and that’s when you need to call in a co-worker to help you out. Ideally, their unique set of skills and knowledge will complement yours and help fill in any gaps. If you’re stumped by an issue, it’s much worse to try to wing it and give out a false solution than it is to take some extra time and research it in your knowledge base.
5. They Treat Others Well
Quite a few of the habits listed in Feloni’s article have something to do with how someone treats others, namely that they should follow the Golden Rule and treat others as they want to be treated. This should really be a no brainer, but it’s worth discussing in order to emphasize specific character traits that are keys to success. According to the article, a successful individual is open-minded, diplomatic, loyal, and charismatic. And being charismatic has little to do with cracking jokes at the coffee maker; it’s about listening more than you speak, and displaying a genuine interest in others.
In an increasingly collaborative enterprise, there’s a very slim chance that when you join an IT department, you’ll only work with other IT technicians. You’ll be helping out other departments, collaborating on projects, and communicating throughout the enterprise on a daily basis. A successful person in IT should also give credit where credit is due, meaning that they’re comfortable enough with their own achievements that they don’t feel threatened to give praise to the accomplishments of others (or other departments), whether it’s having the answer to an issue or writing a helpful knowledge base article.
Playing for Keeps
Any potential candidate should have all the necessary job skills — after all, that’s why you spent so much time carefully curating a wish list to include on the job post. But while a good GPA or a numerous certificates can help, what you should really strive for is to create a team of people who will stick with you for the long term. The best way to keep exceptional talent is to create an environment in which they can reach their potential, and take on opportunities that allow them to move up in the enterprise. In order to do that, however, you need to also find candidates who will rise to the occasion and emerge as leaders…or even transformational leaders.