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By Susan Ruszala

Hiring technical firepower for a small team when you have technophobia

How do you hire a top-notch technical candidate when you don't know the difference between Ruby on Rails and AngularJS? If your focus is on the business but you rely on technology to execute your vision, these five simple recommendations can make all the difference in the world.

1. Know what you need. For a small or growing business, being very precise about what you need is paramount. Do your homework through internal discussions before you post the job listing: What does success look like for a new hire? Do we want a generalist, or are we hiring for a specific skill? Do we have long-term work for this person, or is this a short gig? What technical skills are absolutely required, and which can we live without?

One helpful exercise is to outline (on paper!) your next three technical hires after this one. Discussing the evolution of your team with existing resources will help you to understand the limitations of the current hire ("No, they can't also set up our servers, but more code on the front-end is going to create a need for more processing power.") This up-front work is always worth it and, in my experience, the initial job description frequently evolves as a result.

Let's say you've moved through Step 1 and the resumes are pouring in. How do you evaluate them?

2. Reward clarity and communication. Is there a well-written cover letter that expresses interest in the business? That's the first sign of a good technical communicator. You want someone who can explain why the code they're writing serves the business's needs and articulate the trade-offs of different approaches to technical tasks since you won't be able to evaluate the code on its merits.

3. Don't skimp on the technical evaluation. While strong communication skills are a plus, ultimately, the success of a candidate will rest on their technical chops. Even if you have to beg, borrow or hire someone, make sure to give potential candidates several code-based tasks, and review that code thoroughly with the candidate, in person.

4. Ferret out divas early. Technology serves the business, and there always are multiple ways to solve any technical challenge. Ask pointed questions to all serious candidates to ensure that they are open to amending their approach if needed and working with other developers with potentially different styles. Like artists, gifted technologists create, but you need to make sure they will do so in the context of the business.

5. Keep team dynamics in mind. For a small team, any new hire will change how a team functions. Involve someone from marketing or customer support in the hiring process-is there common ground? While it's likely that the day-to-day tasks of these individuals will rarely overlap, send the message early that technology and the business need to go hand in hand.

It can be daunting to hire outside of your skill set. However, with planning and thoughtful execution, your next PHP/Agile/Android/Linux XX resource will be a perfect fit!

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