How to Hire Customer-Friendly Tech Talent

By Adam Robinson,
January 10, 2013

This article was originally featured in the ITA Spotlight. To view the original article, please click here

You’re an entrepreneur. You have a growing company and have just landed a deal that is so large, you can’t manage it with the small team you currently have. It’s time to hire someone.

And that someone can’t be just anyone. This person must be technically
proficient in specific languages, and have experience in building and deploying relevant applications. But technology skills are just the table stakes required for consideration – you need someone who can…interface with customers!  [queue organ music]

That’s right, it’s the the dreaded “must talk to other humans” skill that is so hard to find in today’s technology talent pool. Joking aside, this is the one area where many high-growth hiring managers fail to screen properly. 

 Given the get-it-done-now nature of project-driven hiring, managers may opt for hiring technical proficiency and hoping for the best when it comes to customer-orientation.

Here’s how failing to screen for customer-orientation and communication skill can really hurt your business:

These employees talk to your customers

 You know, the people that give you money that keeps the lights on.  The people who have decided to choose your company over that other company, because they believed in you.  When you move past the founding team and into the world of outside hires, you need to be 100% sure that the person you’re putting in front of your customer is going to reinforce your credibility, not weaken in.

You’re creating self-inflicted injury

Five out of five entrepreneurs agree that making customers happy is better than making customer unhappy.  If you can knowingly avoid assigning a resource who will make your customers unhappy, wouldn’t you want to do that?  The answer is obvious, but I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I meet who tell me the story of how the wrong hire ticked off their largest account and it caused massive pain.  If you can avoid this pain, avoid it. 

Bad employees wreck the morale of good employees 

Every team has it’s weakest member.  The trick is to make sure your weakest team member is still pretty darn good, and to surround them with top-performers who can mentor, coach, and support them as they grow in skill and ability.  When your weakest team member has poor people skills, it severely limits the ability for your company’s support system to have a positive impact on their development because your best employees spend time daydreaming about leaving this person in the middle of the desert.  If you leave this person in the role, eventually your top-performers will lose faith in your ability to lead and manage.  In short, it’s not worth sacrificing a high-performing team to add great tech skills at the expense of bad people skills.

Fortunately, asking the right questions during your interview process can help you avoid these costly hiring mistakes.  Click here for Hireology’s “Great Interview Questions for Customer-Facing Tech Talent,” and get askin’!


About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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