How to Hire Tech Talent When You're Not a Techie

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I need to hire someone with a high level of IT expertise, but I’m not a techie myself. How can I make a successful hire with my limited technical knowledge?

A: It’s good that you’re acknowledging your lack of technical expertise, but keep in mind that you are hiring more than the person’s tech abilities—you’re hiring an employee who will interact with others on your team and will need interpersonal as well as technical skills. 

It’s true that you’ll need to talk about the candidate’s technical background and experience, and this can be intimidating if your own technical knowledge is limited. But with some planning and perhaps some help from a colleague, you can do it.

Ask the applicant to describe a project or two they worked on at their last job. Listen for how they describe the work (which you may not understand in detail), but also for how they describe their interactions with their manager and how much freedom they were given.

Also listen for what they say about the results they achieved. You want to hire someone who not only knows how the technology works, but also understands that IT is a support function. Moreover, they need to know how to prioritize work and meet the needs of everyone in the organization—including your boss.

You are hiring more than the person’s tech abilities—you’re hiring an employee who will interact with others on your team and will need interpersonal as well as technical skills.

Ask about any certifications the applicant has obtained and about their personal development “wish list.” You want to hire IT people who are as up to date as possible and eager to add to their knowledge and skill set.

If the job requires the person to work evenings and weekends, ask if that will be an issue for the candidate. Always be clear about your expectations up front.

Once you’ve narrowed the field, it might be helpful to bring in a consultant or a colleague to interview your final candidates. Ask someone who has more technical expertise than you if they can verify that your preferred candidate has the skills you need. If you add this step, be sure your colleague knows the must-have skills for the position so that the interview is focused on getting you as much information as possible.

Like any new hire, the new member of your IT team will need to have the required skills and abilities to do the job. Do your best to evaluate their skills without being intimated by their technical know-how.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR,The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and the latest book—The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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