A good hire is more than a checklist of technical skills
A good hire is more than a checklist of technical skills
By The Team at MAXX
A good hire is more than a checklist of technical skills, and most tech companies turn to the technical interview process to assess a candidate’s abilities. While a technical interview provides powerful information about a job recruit’s skill set, it offers another, maybe more important, data point: a look at a candidate’s character traits.
When assessing a candidate, a hiring manager seeks the ideal combination of experience and skill set. The entry-level space is often a catch-22 for everyone–hiring managers look for experience and entry-level applicants are looking for experience that just isn’t available. This is when a candidate’s underlying motivation can be the true barometer of their technical career potential.
At MAXX Potential, our interview process is designed to spot tech talent potential with an eye to longevity in the field. MAXX Apprentices often arrive to us, exhibiting an interest in technology, but with a lack of experience. Candidates are often missed because their resumes don’t pass the screening process.
“Resume assessment can create barriers for people seeking employment. At MAXX Potential, we want to remove those barriers.” Tricia Micheux, MAXX Potential Talent Acquisition Specialist, shares, “I am less interested in what level of education you have and more interested in how you’re achieving your tech goals on your own.”
These tech-savvy individuals have the potential to become great IT employees, but they never get the chance.
A Harvard Business Review article asked readers to Imagine A Hiring Process Without Resumes, and the authors shared stories of businesses that implemented open hiring, on-the-job development, standardized accountability, and overall employee care. Hires were made based on willingness, and these businesses benefited by quick hiring and less overhead hiring costs.
What if more companies applied these ideas in their own hiring practices? What if more businesses hired based on aptitude, perseverance, or passion for the industry?
Technical interviewers have a difficult challenge of determining whether or not a candidate has the necessary technical requirements for the job opening. A great technical interview takes into consideration the day-to-day responsibilities of the particular role and creates opportunities for discussion around problem solving skills, practices, and processes. They observe how candidates interact with the problems, demonstrating their character traits.
At MAXX Potential, our team looks for aptitude, perseverance, and passion. We listen to what candidates say and what they don’t say. While they explain their technical skills, we listen closer to hear the resiliency and excitement behind their work.
A key statute of the information technology field is problem solving, and a technical interview analyzes a job candidate’s ability to evaluate, determine a problem-solving process, and implement that solution. It’s inevitable that those within a tech role will face problems that they don’t know how to solve. How does the candidate interact with the problem? Are they hungry to solve the problem? Does a problem ignite interest or drain them?
At MAXX Potential, we start with a scenario-driven hypothetical question. Once the candidate answers, our team asks more questions, pressing the candidate to flex his or her analytical skills and consider edge cases. How far is the candidate willing to go to think outside of the box?
While it’s important to listen to what the candidates share about themselves, it’s just as important to observe what their body language and attitudes say about their motivation for the technical problem. The technical field attracts many individuals because of the promise of an impressive paycheck. Yet, not every individual is cut out to spend their days in the trenches of problem solving.
When a candidate says “I don’t know” or seems to have gotten to the end of their first take at a solution, the next question to ask is the following: what is your process to find a solution to a problem when you don’t know?
The character traits that MAXX Potential hopes to see the candidate demonstrate are perseverance and curiosity. Is the candidate willing to struggle with the problem? Is the candidate ready to analyze the problem from different angles?
During this part of the interview, the hiring panel observes the job recruit’s soft skills in action. When faced with a difficult problem, is the candidate comfortable asking clarifying questions? While some roles are behind the scenes, many tech roles require the ability to interact with clients and teams of people to complete the project, so it’s important to see strong communication and interpersonal skills.
This conversation allows us to see how candidates communicate and think through a challenge, meet surprise issues, and persevere to find a solution. This reveals who has the initiative to pursue a task, interact with a team, ask strategic questions, and learn the skills required to reach a solution.
Curious people can’t help but persevere to find answers, and these traits are a great foundation for technologists. While a resume outlines hard skills, a great technical interview uncovers character traits and soft skills.
As we meet and talk with each job recruit, we’re looking for their aptitude and perseverance to highlight a true passion for technical problem solving.
To bring that characteristic to the forefront, candidates are invited to present a project they’ve worked on that demonstrates their technical skills and their joy. The candidate has an opportunity to show off their skills in an area where they’re familiar, and the interviewing panel observes the candidate in their sweet spot and asks relevant questions to unearth more potential.
At MAXX Potential, we root for each candidate’s success and want to provide that moment for the candidate to stand out and present a technical project they’re proud of as well as discuss their future projects. Micheux points out, “Sometimes it is easy to forget that those involved in the interview process are humans. Being able to connect on a person-to-person level is something that feels unique to MAXX Potential and can often get lost in the technical interview process.”
“Sometimes it is easy to forget that those involved in the interview process are humans. Being able to connect on a person-to-person level is something that feels unique to MAXX Potential and can often get lost in the technical interview process.”
Tricia Micheux, MAXX Potential Talent Acquisition Specialist
A resume offers the story of education and job experience, but it doesn’t always account for a person’s passion. When we see job recruits light up, we see individuals with the motivation to pursue a technical career.
Discovering the best tech talent starts with evaluating potential, and MAXX Potential built our apprenticeship program on these talent assessment techniques. We look for the people who have been filtered out through traditional recruiting methods.
Partner with MAXX Potential and discover entry-level talent to build out your team with a strong bench on the sidelines. For our clients, we serve as a go-to partner for the entry-level tech roles, and for candidates, we provide an avenue for hungry and flexible learners to excel in an IT career.
Let us handle the technical interview so you can stay focused on your business. Get in touch with MAXX Potential today.
A good hire is more than a checklist of technical skills
Learning by doing
Which should I choose?
By The Team at MAXX
Remote work environments and hybrid options are here to stay, and that means the way companies train and mentor employees and new hires must change. Over the last few years, MAXX Potential moved to a fully remote mentorship and apprenticeship model, meaning we can share some of our best tips for remote mentoring to develop great tech talent.
Many employers now offer remote work environments as a way to attract and retain their IT talent. While this option has seen success for established employees, a challenge remains: how can companies succeed at onboarding and mentoring remote hires and entry-level employees?
The answer is both simple and not so simple. Great mentorship and talent development starts at the heart of the company’s culture, and from there, it becomes an integrated structure of clear expectations, one-on-one coaching, exploratory collaboration, and personalized discussion.
According to dictionary.com, mentorship is “the position or services of a wise and trusted counselor or senior sponsor, often in a particular field.”
While apprenticeship connotes more tactile learning, mentorship carries the added responsibility of developing character and soft skills.
Rahim Islam, MAXX Potential Solution Delivery Manager, shares it best. “In my opinion, helping someone get to the answer on their own is better than just handing them the answer. If I can share that problem-solving mindset and way of thinking with an apprentice, it will pay dividends in their career.”
Developed by technologists for technologists, MAXX Potential recognizes that companies not only need qualified individuals to fill tech roles but also candidates with perseverance and heart. Since 2010, we have optimized our in-person and remote mentoring techniques to inspire our apprentices and deliver the results we know our clients need in entry-level IT positions.
Adding a full-time mentoring program to everyday operations is no small task. Strong entry-level talent development starts with a solid structure, whether you’re remote or in-person.
While your entry-level recruit may have experienced video calls, it’s possible that some have not experienced a virtual workplace meeting. You can provide a tip sheet in advance for some virtual meeting etiquette on how to access the meeting and how to prepare (i.e. background, dress, prohibited activities).
As the host, you also have some advance work with preparing your screen-sharing materials, writing a list of questions to guide conversation, and doing a test run before you start.
Mentorship comes in all shapes and styles. Creating the cadence and structure is a two-way conversation where both the mentor and mentee decide what meeting style works best for their ongoing mentorship relationship. While some may prefer a structured meeting style, others may prefer a more conversational approach.
One conversational style of coaching uses the GROW Model, which looks at Goals, Reality, Options, and Will. This model is repeatable with or without a mentor, allowing the mentee to reuse this framework throughout their career.
Unlike a traditional meeting, which is often a relay of information, mentoring prioritizes the two-way conversation where the mentee and mentor share technical problems, career concerns, and professional communication. Conversations can focus on preparing for behavioral interview questions, drafting a professional email, or picking apart a piece of code that didn’t work. It’s easy to assume that a mentorship looks like the mentor only imparting knowledge, but we believe that great mentorship is where we learn from each other.
MAXX Apprentices discover early on that they can speak with their mentors about any scenario from their apprenticeship. With this level of support, apprentices are empowered to navigate tricky professional situations or solve challenging technical problems.
Apprenticeship is about doing, and mentorship supports that development. With the remote mentorship format, apprentices take on more responsibility for their growth and learning than in a more traditional in-person training atmosphere. We encourage apprentices to share their screens and walk their mentor through their problem-solving process.
“Much like apprentices back in the day learned by swinging a hammer or “doing the work”, MAXX Potential Apprentices learn through performing value-adding production tasks for our enterprise customers.” Islam says.
Remote mentorship allows apprentices to learn while on the job with the support of a mentor. From day one, the apprentice’s work delivers value to their team project and personal skill development.
Often entry-level technologists are reluctant to indicate to their employer that they are not grasping the full requirements of the work because they risk appearing unqualified. It is important to establish a safe space for learning and conversation.
From the start at MAXX Potential, mentors are transparent with mentees about their own experiences, even sharing their mistakes and missteps. This breaks the ice and creates a precedent for discussing successes and failures. Every situation offers the opportunity for growth. We act as a confidence buffer for entry-level IT professionals, which leads to more effective learning and improved job skills.
Smart companies understand how crucial talent development is and design a plan for mentorship at every position level. Entry-level IT recruits will carry the future, and a mentoring program that meets their weaknesses and strengths equips them to harness their potential and increase the value they can add for their future employers.
Mentorship and apprenticeship are what MAXX Potential does every day as we help companies fill entry-level openings in their team.
Ready to discover tech talent with MAXX Potential? Contact us for more information.
By The Team at MAXX
While it’s promising to see soft skills being introduced into IT education, the curriculum has not advanced as quickly as the industry requires. Today, as reported by Indeed, soft skills make up one-third of the 20 skills in demand for IT careers. Here are some of the less technical but sought-after skills IT hiring managers are hiring for:
Analytical skills refer to your ability to evaluate a situation and decide what actions to take next. Companies look for employees who are great at investigating a problem and finding the ideal solution in a timely manner. Analytical skills include brainstorming, finding patterns, interpreting data, observing, integrating new information, and making decisions based on multiple factors.
This starts with the ability to manage yourself. Even in an entry-level position, basic people management skills that build and strengthen relationships, such as understanding the needs of another person on your team, and helping others achieve their goals, are assets.
There is plenty of creativity in IT around devising new ways to perform tasks, meet challenges and solve problems. Creative employees take risks, bring new ideas, and are valuable to a company. You can develop creative thinking skills through recreation, awareness of your assumptions, and solving riddles.
Collaboration refers to working with others to produce or create something, and most positions require teamwork, regardless of how technical they are. People who are effective at building trust know how to understand a variety of viewpoints, manage priorities, and deliver results. Successful collaboration requires mutual respect and a cooperative spirit.
As technology advances, companies must embrace new processes to stay competitive. Adaptability means growing and changing to achieve success, even without explicit instructions. Fast learners who know how to adapt are well-positioned for successful careers.
Time management skills—such as prioritizing, scheduling, task management, and delegation—are in high demand. Companies in every industry look for employees who can make the most of their time on the job.
You display these skills daily, but how can they transfer to your IT career when you lack the minimum experience on most job postings? First, be sure to highlight your soft skills on your resumé and in your cover letter, which should be customized for each job application you submit.
With IT talent being in short supply, many employers are more willing to invest in less-experienced individuals if they see evidence of the soft skills above. Internships and apprenticeships are two ways to get your foot in the door so that your soft skills can shine while you gain the experience and technical depth required to be successful in the longer term.
Internships and apprenticeships provide different workplace experiences to grow your skills.
Internships are usually shorter-term or part-time commitments. You will get valuable experience to add to your resume. Most interns are focused on knowledge-building activities (e.g., school or study) and view the internship as a way to enhance their learning experience.
Apprenticeships are hands-on, full-time, skill-building roles. You are working on longer-term projects with direct one-on-one coaching by a more experienced professional. Apprentices are focused on gaining industry experience, along with part-time study to enhance their work experience.
This is why MAXX Potential offers both internship/pre-apprenticeship curricula to educational providers and full-time paid apprenticeships to connect aspiring technologists with employers looking for long-term hires. In both cases, we offer the supplemental coaching and mentoring required for successful outcomes.
We walk the talk when it comes to putting people first. Our team has decades of experience with entry-level programs that are proven to identify and quickly prepare developers and engineers.
By The Team at MAXX
Many IT executives are routinely faced with decisions on whether to build vs. buy when it comes to critical business applications (There’s a great post on that topic here), but how can you apply this framework to your talent strategy? Should you build or buy the necessary talent to grow your team? Our take: as with enterprise software, a winning approach involves applying a strategic framework and the capacity to do both.
It makes sense to buy talent, and by that, we mean paying market premiums for experienced professionals, when the role requires advanced skills such as prior leadership experience, industry knowledge, and a deep technical track record. When a candidate has amassed a resume of skills and experience, your investment decision is based on how they can integrate into your organization, and the immediate value they can add in terms of increased revenue or implementing cost-savings strategies.
For entry-level positions, however, turnover should be higher if you are finding capable and driven employees, and the selection process is less straightforward. You are looking for motivated individuals with the ability to become that senior professional one day. Integrating a build approach into your talent strategy is a long-term investment that will set your organization up for success and pay off well into the future.
Buying talent for entry-level roles can seem like a faster option initially, but it becomes more costly when you have to do it over and over again (as you should). On the surface these roles may seem less strategic, and can also consume a disproportionate amount of training time and recruiting expense to keep them staffed. Downtime for even the most junior roles is costly and presents an operational risk.
MAXX Potential was built by industry leaders who experienced these challenges first-hand and created a solution. Organizations have a need to invest in entry-level recruiting in order to grow their teams without taking away from other strategic imperatives. MAXX has cultivated a strong pipeline along with a supporting infrastructure specific to entry-level enterprise technology roles. We seek out people who have the potential and desire to break into the technology industry, and work with them to develop the skills needed to thrive in your organization. Our goal is to fill entry-level technology roles with people who are worth investing in and have the capability to contribute to your organization in a way that is meaningful starting day one.
While we aren’t a fit for ALL of your talent needs, what we do at MAXX Potential, we do really well. As a partner, we offer effective solutions for filling entry-level technology roles with the least amount of risk and disruption.
With guaranteed backfill of vacated roles, customized on-the-job training, ongoing mentor support and zero conversion fees to hire at any time, MAXX Potential would be an impactful addition to your overall talent strategy. Contact us today.
By The Team at MAXX
For many tech employers, attracting and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges they face today. It has become clear that the traditional way of recruiting — an evaluation based on verifiable resumé experience alone — isn’t producing the results to meet the demand. Attracting talented individuals from non-traditional sources has gone from being a competitive advantage to a strategic imperative.
Compounding the problem is pure supply and demand economics. Employee expectations for remote work options, and the fact that prospective candidates have more opportunities globally has taken the “war for talent” to a whole new level. With the largest multinational corporations now having the capacity and resources to be a force at every virtual career fair and therefore having the first picks from the talent pool, how is a mid-size firm to compete? To address the shortage, there are also a growing number of alternative pathways such as bootcamps and specialty programs, but with varying degrees of caliber and success rates. The “tech talent creation” landscape has become difficult to navigate and could easily consume an entire team just to evaluate the effectiveness of all these programs
Beyond the complexities in finding experienced talent, filling entry-level IT roles presents additional challenges for both IT and HR leaders. The first issue is that most high-potential learners will not want to stay in an entry-level position for long. Once they’ve picked up the skills a junior role has to offer, they will (and should) be looking for a next challenge to keep advancing their skills. This leads to a recurring problem of having to find and retrain new hires in less-strategic, but critical front-line positions. Those positions are often the best place for a high-potential future technologist to start.
The other challenge with entry level roles is that, already at capacity and understaffed, most IT leaders can’t afford to allocate their most capable staff to mentoring inexperienced hires who will have a lot of questions and require more coaching than an experienced hire.
To tackle these challenges, most leaders are looking for innovative solutions. A common quote we hear from customers is, “in order to survive and compete in the future, we have to get creative and it’s time for us to build our own pipeline.”
Struggling to find the best people? Cast a wider net! Diversity is often used to describe gender, race, and other observable characteristics. Many forward-thinkers are recognizing that this definition is no longer sufficient. At MAXX Potential, we have a much broader definition of diversity that also includes aspects that make individuals unique, such as skillsets, personality types, and individual life experiences. We attract a diverse spectrum of people from all walks of life who are creative thinkers, problem-solvers, and share a passion for technology.
MAXX Potential recognized all of these shifting dynamics long ago and has spent the last decade building a successful and sustainable solution.
We think hard about incentives and believe means matter. We meet our Apprentices where they are and provide the individualized mentorship and experience they need to be successful in a tech career. Apprentices progress at their own pace and our customers are able to hire at any time, removing progress-limiting obstacles such as income share agreements, time-bound employment contracts and expensive hiring fees.
Having successfully mentored thousands of aspiring technologists, we know that still today, checklists and personality tests are not enough to discover the audience of talented people who are well-suited to enter a tech career. Even Myers Briggs agrees that personality tests are valuable for their intended use, but not for hiring and selection processes. In their most recent Trends Report, they note that “organizations need to recognize that individuals can contribute at any age or life stage and focusing on the individual, rather than the mass, is going to make the difference.” We get to know both our apprentices and customers well, and adapt to their unique needs. This leads to long-term relationships built on trust and confidence that we will be there when they need us.
Looking to upgrade your talent strategy? Contact us to learn how MAXX Potential can work for you.
By Elizabeth Papile
High Peaks Solutions provides clients with innovative approaches to meeting their security objectives through the delivery of consulting services and a unique Software-as-a-Service product offering. Their SaaS product is a purpose-built, innovative, automated platform that redefines and simplifies the management of complex security programs.
“Hiring and retaining key talent is critical to the success of any business and this is especially true of High Peaks Solutions as we manage our growth and ensure best-in-class service to our clients. The partnership with MAXX Potential and the Apprenticeship program plays a crucial role in our ability to expand and grow the business by allowing us to find and develop talented resources in this challenging recruiting environment.” Rob Rice – Chief Technology Officer
Individuals who show a passion for problem solving and are interested in a career in information technology are hired by MAXX Potential where mentorship through an Apprenticeship model is provided. The Apprenticeship phase allows individuals to gain hands-on experience by working directly with customers, while also receiving coaching from experienced professionals.
Apprentices receive a valuable career opportunity in a high-growth field, and High Peaks Solutions can grow their team and build upon their culture of continuous learning. This more effective hiring process allows High Peaks Solutions to increase their profile as a compelling option for early career talent in the IT industry. Included in the partnership is the joint commitment to guide Apprentices while their role is customized to suit the specific needs of High Peaks Solutions and serve their customers in a more efficient and effective manner.
High Peaks Solutions is committed to inspiring clients through the development of enhanced security programs so they are better prepared to handle the cybersecurity risks faced by all companies today. They offer management and technical consulting in areas such as security policy development, third-party cybersecurity risk, vulnerability, and business continuity management. The SummIT Security SaaS Platform provides a solution to an automated security program.
MAXX Potential helps businesses transform their talent strategy and individuals kickstart their careers in technology. Their proven Apprenticeship approach delivers high-quality managed services and staff augmentation, while also helping customers build a stronger, more effective entry-level talent pipeline.
Reach out to MAXX Potential to inquire about their Businesses Solutions today.
By Kim Mahan
While most educators and workforce development professionals are very familiar with these terms, working in the entry-level talent development space, we often hear them used interchangeably by industry professionals, parents, and students. So what exactly is the difference between an internship and an apprenticeship? The more relevant follow-up question is, “If I’m trying to break into the industry, which should I choose?”
The easiest way to think about it is that internships are typically short-term work engagements designed to enhance an academic learning experience. They can be paid or unpaid, and are often structured as a full-time summer job, or part-time semester-long experience. The student’s primary focus is on their education, which is enhanced by supplemental exposure to actual work environments and industry professionals. Basically, school comes first, supplemented by work experience to apply their classroom knowledge learned in a professional environment.
Apprenticeships, on the other hand, are a very different approach toward embarking upon a new career and are often the preferred pathway for skilled trades. In an apprenticeship, the focus is on gaining work experience first, with close supervision and guidance by a more experienced professional in addition to supplemental coursework on the side.
Even though IT Professionals spend a good portion of their time at a keyboard, most skilled technologists view themselves as craftspeople and the progression of skill development more closely resembles that of a skilled trade than other traditional “knowledge workers.” Based on our experience, skills are best developed by working on actual problems where there isn’t an answer key in the back of the book, or “Time in code.” By starting off in a support role, for example, an Apprentice is exposed to multiple applications written by more experienced developers. They get to see how a more experienced developer thought about the problem, and how systems fit together.
The challenges with internships are that there just aren’t enough to go around. Every student would benefit from gaining hands-on work experience to help their resumé stand out and further their career. Unfortunately, given the talent shortage, there are not enough employers with readily available professionals to help mentor and guide beginners.
As far as apprenticeships go, they are not all created equal, and you should shop around. The apprenticeship model has existed for centuries, and in some cases has gotten a bad reputation. Even today there are apprenticeship programs that require extensive time commitments or income share agreements that affect the short-term earning potential of an Apprentice.
The short answer is, it depends. It depends on where you are at in life, your financial situation, and your learning style. These past two years have made it clear that it’s essential to take control of your journey to maximize your potential both professionally and personally. At the end of the day, success in any field requires both knowledge AND skill. It really boils down to the order in which you acquire them, and what you can afford. If you are eligible for grants, or the ability to pay, a higher education experience can add valuable credentials to your resumé. If you’re thinking about signing loan papers, however, an apprenticeship is likely to produce far greater long-term economic outcomes. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement programs should you decide to pursue a degree later. Most hiring managers in the technology field are looking for examples of your work more than anything.
If IT is your passion and you are ready to jumpstart your career, MAXX Potential is ready to give you that boost. Our growing alumni network has given us the opportunity to mentor some of the nation’s best technologists, who are working at some of the world’s best companies.
For those looking to learn more about the real-world experience that can be gained from a MAXX Potential Apprenticeship, join our next Career Lab!