CIOs Struggle With The Problem Of Finding Good Employees

CIOs need to understand that there is something wrong with the process
CIOs need to understand that there is something wrong with the process
Image Credit: Todd Van Hoosear

One of the biggest challenges that is facing the person with the CIO job these days is finding ways to attract the best talent to join their company. CIOs everywhere are saying how difficult this is to do despite understanding the importance of information technology. While it is true that the number of job candidates who have the correct set of skills that CIOs are looking for may be few, it turns out that there may be more of them than we realize. However, because of the way that our companies go about hiring people there is a very real possibility that a number of qualified candidates, including women and minorities, may be getting overlooked.

Why You Are The Problem When It Comes To Finding Good Employees

A study that was done recently has discovered that when technology companies bemoan how difficult it is to find good employees it turns out that the companies themselves might be partly to blame. The reason that they may be the cause of their problems is because of a widespread reliance on what is known as the technical interview process. Yes, companies vet a candidate’s credentials; however, technical interviews typically additionally subject job candidates to layers of intense testing. Generally, the purpose of such tests is to evaluate critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These tests can include brainteasers and complicated technical problems unrelated to actual on-the-job roles and responsibilities.

The trouble with this type of interview testing is this: candidates often get so flustered from the pressure and the mechanics of the interview that their performance is significantly hindered. People in the CIO position who rely on these stressful tests are eliminating potentially qualified candidates – to their own detriment. This is unfortunate given the availability of other, less stressful and perhaps more appropriate testing metrics. When a CIO relies on technical interviews this can also have a disproportionate impact on minorities and other underrepresented groups, and discourage job seekers from applying. It may turn out that even senior-level employees can be afraid to transfer within their own organizations for fear of failing such tests.

During the tests that were included in the study, participants wore specialized eye-tracking glasses so researchers could take measurements associated with high cognitive load and stress and compare the data. The disparities in test results achieved by two different groups of test takers were telling. About a third of the participants who were watched while taking the test solved the problem correctly, compared with about two-thirds of those without proctors. Participants who had the proctors present reported feeling nervous, rushed, stressed and unable to concentrate. Participants without proctors reported feeling more at ease, and appreciated being given time on their own to understand the problem and reflect on their solution. Analysis after the fact of the eye-tracking data supported those feelings: What the study showed was that participants who were asked to problem-solve in a public setting had slower eye movements, a marker for high stress.

The Right Way To Evaluate Job Candidates

Here’s another interesting takeaway for the male-dominated technology industry that is increasing efforts to attract more women. What researchers observed was that that among women with a proctor present, no one successfully solved the problem, whereas all of the women working alone solved the problem. This has a clear message for CIOs.

While the study is based on limited data, the results should, at the very least, lead to further research in this area. Additionally, tech companies should consider alternative testing methods for potential new hires and for employees looking to advance to more senior-level jobs. What kind of testing should be used? A shift to testing problem-solving skills in a private setting, for example, could relieve some pressure and allow for more accurate assessment. Implementing such a shift could substantially increase the number of qualified candidates, particularly in traditionally underrepresented groups entering the workforce.

Something else that companies could do would be to also drop problem-solving tests as currently offered and instead ask candidates to spend five minutes explaining how they would perform a particular job-related task. Focusing on communication skills in this way, can reveal how a candidate thinks. In the end, that is the kind of information that a CIO really needs.

What All Of This Means For You

One of the most important jobs that a CIO has is making sure that the IT department is staffed with the best possible candidates. In order to fill open positions, we have to create an interview process that will allow us to accurately evaluate candidates. However, it is possible that the interview process that we currently have set up is actually eliminating valuable candidates.

A recent study has shown that companies that include a technical interview as part of their hiring process can introduce problems. The goal of these tests is to evaluate a candidate’s problem solving abilities. The problem with these tests is that they can cause the candidate to become flustered and not perform well. In tests that were performed as a part of the study, when candidates took a technical test under the watchful eye of a proctor, they performed poorly. This type of testing may be chasing away both women and minority candidates. A shift to problem solving testing could be the solution that CIOs are looking for.

CIOs have a problem on their hands. The current way that they are evaluating job candidates may be preventing both women and minority candidates from applying for and getting technical jobs. What needs to happen is that things have to change. Creating new ways to evaluate a candidates technical skills without chasing them away has to become one of a CIOs top priorities!

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How could a CIO determine the technical qualifications of a candidate without using a technical quiz?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Most people with the CIO job view the applications that the company uses to run its business as being their responsibility. That responsibility translates into making sure that the latest version of the software is running, there are enough servers available to support the expected user load, and that enough storage has been allocated to allow the software to operate correctly. However, what a lot of CIOs don’t spend a lot of time thinking about is the graphical user interface (GUI) that a lot of these programs have. We just use what comes out of the box and are hesitant to spend money on changing the GUI because it’s not clear that there is a real return on that investment. However, perhaps we should be looking at our GUIs a little bit more closely…