Technical Intimidation: How To Learn the Language

Congratulations on your new position! As part of your responsibilities, you will be asked to sit across from candidates, interpret a foreign language, and evaluate them based on this language that you don’t speak. By the way, did we tell you that your success in this role will be judged by your ability to display competency in the new language in a short period of time? And did we mention that the training budget has been cut? Many recruiters new to IT recruiting experience this anxiety. They are placed in a technical recruiting position with little or no training, and very little guidance on where to gain this knowledge. One of the most common questions I hear is, “I’m new to technical recruiting. How can I learn how to speak technical to technologists?” This question is usually followed up by, “How did you learn about technology?” The answer is very simple: I asked. Chances are, if you are an IT Recruiter, you have access to technical people within your specialty. These can be individuals you are attempting to place, or people within your own company. Rarely have I asked for help understanding the concepts and been turned down. An added bonus is that you begin to see the candidate’s perspective on what a recruiter really needs to know. In an interview you can use this to your advantage. For example, tell the candidate you’re not familiar with a term and see how the candidate answers. If the answer is clear and easy for you to understand, the candidate most likely has solid communication skills and would be able to speak easily with end users, perhaps in the role of desktop support, help desk or analyst. I often use this in interviews even with terms I understand. It never hurts, and there’s always more to learn about candidates and technology. Don’t forget the Internet. You can find easy to understand definitions of technical terms at whatis.com, Webopedia, and TechEncyclopedia. These can help you prepare for an interview or get a better understanding of the job description. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Of course, there’s always a training course–if you’re one of the lucky ones with a training budget. There are a plethora of training programs available geared to teaching technology to recruiters. Many of these are very good and very thorough. Many are also very broad, covering many focus areas in a short period of time. They can be a great foundation, and in most cases, the materials provided make a great desktop reference after the class. However, buyer beware. If you are new to IT, choose a class that concentrates on your greatest area of focus, or be prepared for information overload! Some training programs to check out are SemCo Enterprises, The Breckenridge Group, and Dallas Training Consultants. SemCo provides training materials that stand alone as a great desktop reference. The Breckenridge Group has a series of programs focused on such areas as Telecommunications and Internet Technologies. Dallas Training Consultants offers a course called “A Guided Tour Through Technology” which gives a great introduction to basic technology and removes some of the mystique. Most importantly, don’t let the technology intimidate you. You don’t have to know how to write code in order to interview a programmer. You just have to understand the concepts and buzz words. For example, consider yourself ahead of the game if you know that CORBA is not a deadly snake, but is used in architecting a distributed system. As you talk with a Java Developer, for example, you don’t have to be able to read and understand the programs he/she has written. Leave that to the technical evaluation. It doesn’t hurt, however, to know what Java is used for and what common skills are associated with it. As technical recruiters, our effectiveness is impacted by our overall understanding of the skills for which we are recruiting and our ability to communicate effectively with the technical community. This understanding will lead to knowledge of where to seek the required skills, stronger ability to rank candidates against job descriptions, better technical evaluations, and greater credibility among the technical community. These are all things to strive for, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient, ask questions and listen. Most importantly, don’t be intimidated. It isn’t necessary to understand the bits and bytes, but merely to gain a conceptual understanding and feel confident in interviews.

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Kimberly Bedore (kimberlybedore@earthlink.net) is a consultant and public speaker who develops and implements staffing solutions for clients, resulting in increased efficiencies and significant cost savings. She uses her wide range of recruiting experience to provide companies with a wealth of information related to sourcing and sourcing strategies, recruitment training, and the implementation of solutions and metrics that enable a higher degree of staffing effectiveness.

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