After all of the years of working with developers across the country from companies big and small, I’ve gradually made a shift in the way I see my fellow developers. I used to measure each developer by the years of experience and how well they could rattle off the answers to technical questions. Looking back now, it’s amazing how much talent I was turning away when doing interviews because they couldn’t answer the questions that I thought were so basic to all C# developers. I was convincing myself that every developer should know that the ins and outs of the .NET platform and while that may be true for some of the questions on my list, that argument did not hold up 100% of the time.
This really hit me back in 2006 when I was onsite for a client for close to two years. Over the course of that time, I turned down about 30 interviewees for a mid-level ASP .NET role and I gave the “thumbs up” for two which were both screened by the internal team before being hired. Two candidates out of 30+ that were interviewed passed my technical screen – that’s a decent ratio I thought. Within the first few months I could see trouble brewing from a mile away, but it took me a while to figure out what went wrong – I was looking at each interview and applicant the wrong way. Long story short, they were both let go within a year and a half shortly after I left to jump onto another project.
What went wrong? What should I been looking for? I had to take a step back and look at all of the past coworkers over the course of my then 8 year career. What did the ones that I admired have in common? What about the ones that I wish I didn’t have to work with? When I matched them all and compared them side-by-side the answer jumped out at me. The team members that I admired the most had tenacity. They had grit. They had determination. They could not and would not fail. What else did they have in common? They weren’t the smartest people in the room. Yep – you read that right.
The best team members aren’t necessarily the ones that know the most or have the best degrees. The best team members you can find are the ones that never give up (I know that sounds cliche). They are the ones that will do whatever it takes to make a project succeed whether that means working extra hours or picking up the slack for someone that is behind. They are also the type that doesn’t care about office politics, looking good to managers, promotions, etc. Their approach is that the work comes first and whatever happens after that is a result of their efforts. Simple, isn’t it? That lesson took me years to learn and now I’ve completely changed my scope of vision when interviewing candidates.