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Hiring on Core Values

April 14, 2020
Steve Danner
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Hiring top tier talent is hard. It can be even harder in a highly competitive job market where low unemployment means a smaller pool to pull from. In this type of environment, it can be tempting to hire based on skill sets alone.

Before the 2020 Coronavirus hit, the United States had historically low unemployment rates, meaning that less highly qualified candidates were "on the market" at any given time. IT recruiting agencies help take that first line of interviewing out of the way and certainly save a lot of time and resources in the recruiting process. However, agencies like this can not and will not ever have a pulse on what your most important hiring criterion should be: ensuring the candidate aligns with your company's core values! Much has been written on the subject of creating and maintaining a rigid set of Core Values for companies, as well as promoting and practicing those values in everyday business. And if those values are so ingrained in a company (which they should be), why wouldn't you ensure any incoming employee aligns with them before bringing them into an environment where THEY will also be expected to practice and promote those values each and every day?

The best way to accomplish this is to hire current employee referrals. It stands to reason that anyone associated with a person that already exhibits your core values, will also exhibit those same values, right? Salesforce notoriously encourages this practice, and touts > 50% of their workforce coming on board via referrals! That's incredible for a company that large. Software Design Partners is of course, much smaller than Salesforce, but as of January, 2020, we are composed of 73% referrals!

We take our core values seriously. We learned in the past that hiring people based on skill alone just wasn't enough. If you hire someone based only on software talent, that candidate can create a deficit in your organization in one way or another. Whether it be internally with other employees, or externally with clients, if a candidate isn't screened for aligning with your core values, how can you expect them to represent your company in the way those same employees or clients have come to expect?

To paint a picture of just how important core values are for incoming candidates, let's go into a few short examples. In years past, there was a time or two when SDP was in dire need of solid software developer talent. Searching the landscape via websites like Indeed and recruiters was cumbersome as always, no one in the organization had any solid references at that point, and our interviewers were almost as consumed with interviewing and searching as they were on their projects! We hired candidates with solid technical skill, but the alignment of core values was not the focus. This meant the fit was not beneficial for the employee, company or client.

Fast forward a year or two, lessons had been learned. We pivoted our interview strategy to instead focus on core values FIRST, and technical capability second. What a difference it made! Having that kind of focus gave us the insight to screen out candidates that didn't align with us much earlier in the process, and thus, have more meaningful face to face interviews that had a great cadence and an immediate "click" with the candidates. At the end of the day, we wound up with people who not only were technically sound, but were a clear cut fit for SDP, and SDP was a fit for them! And in this case, everyone wins!

The biggest indicator of just how effective this interview strategy can be, is with your clients! A while back, one of our clients needed another person to join the on-site team that already consisted of a mix of client and SDP personnel. In this case, we were interviewing based on core values first. The interviews were going well, but it was still slow going. The client wanted an update on our progress, and we told him that the interviews were going well, but we needed a solid fit with our core values, and that we absolutely would not compromise those values just to place a person on their team. Instead of being disappointed that it was taking too long, the client was beyond appreciative of that statement. It strengthened a trust factor that SDP had already created with them, and strives to create with each of its clients! Again, it was a win-win for SDP and for the client! That was the moment that focus on core values was completely reinforced! Skill is important in the software development world, but aligning candidate and company values is the absolute key to driving success, happiness and even client satisfaction in the long run!

At Software Design Partners, our Core Values are displayed in our office, posted on our intranet site, reiterated at every staff meeting, and of course, practiced every day by everyone!

  • Trustworthy & Accountable
  • People 1st
  • Passionate
  • Positive & Respectful
  • Innovative

Remember, when you  contact us for your software development needs, this is what you're getting. We are passionate (core value #3) about bringing these values to work with us every day and blowing away our clients' expectations of them!

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About the author

Steve Danner is the Director of Technology at Software Design Partners. He specializes in software development implementations, but also manages the company network infrastructure, provides technology and application architecture direction for the development team, engages clients to provide technology solutions for their business challenges.