How To Get Hired In Today's IT Channel

Soft Skills Trump Technical Skills

When we asked a few next-generation VARs about their next potential hire, the role they are looking to fill and the skill sets the ideal candidate must have, they all had very different answers. However, the one thing they had in common was the fact that they all stressed the importance of personality, phone skills and people skills.

Surprisingly, these "soft" characteristics, which can't exactly be taught, were just as critical to the hiring processes for these VARs as the candidates' technical skills, which can be taught. Here are the perspectives of several leading next-generation VARs about the skill sets they're looking for the positions they want to fill.

Steve Meek, President, The Fulcrum Group, Inc.

"As we continue to evolve, we are looking to add more senior engineers to our team. I am always looking for someone who has higher-level skills regarding both infrastructure and servers and has a very methodical way of thinking. We look for someone with a breadth of skills, a strong foundational knowledge and the ability to look deeper into some of the individual areas of IT. Partnered with that, we value soft skills and think they are just as important. When we go through our hiring process, we look for their ability to interact with people in addition to knowing the technology. We want team members who will go above and beyond to communicate with our clients in order to be the best engineers, and I want to make sure they all have good people skills, generally like people and don't mind working with people."

Doug Oppenheimer, President & CTO, Prototype IT

"Right now, we are looking to hire a couple of people, and are concentrating on the sales side. We are looking for people that actually understand systems integration and how operations run -- a lot of systems are moving to the cloud, so we are looking to hire sales people who can collaborate with CIO clients and are able to effectively communicate on integration processes. Furthermore, they need to understand what's out there in the marketplace and are able to adapt based on the applications that the customers are using.

We are also looking for people with strong networking and soft skills. I've noticed there are two types of IT individuals: The first are those who like to talk with customers, and the second are those who just want to maintain the systems with little interaction. When talking to a candidate, if I can't see myself putting them in front of a client, I will probably pass on them, regardless of their technical skills, since customers are looking to engage with the solution providers and collaborate on the proposed solutions."

Victor Calabrese, Vice President and CTO, All-In-One Network Solutions, Inc.

"We typically hire from the bottom up and rarely hire higher-level people from the outside -- we like to train them up the ranks. We look to hire one to two lower-level people a month. I look for good customer service -- if I find someone who has really good customer service and phone characteristics, I can teach them the technical stuff. I have a really good IT staff, and we can always take them to classes to get them certifications, but I can't teach someone customer service. One of my former hires was a pizza delivery guy who had a knack for computers. He had to pass a test to make sure that he can do IT, but I was more focused on the fact that he had a good personality, speaks on the phone very well and had the ability to calm down and excite out clients."

Henry Park, Board, 3GC Group

"Right now, we are interviewing for a sales management position. Our focus is on getting the right people with the right connections and management skills to grow our sales force skill sets. What's different for us is that we are looking for sales people who are pretty technical -- we need them to not only have the ability to deal with people but also to be technical and understand systems concepts at the same time. Ideally, we are looking for someone who is able to play a sales/engineer-type role. There aren't too many people like that out here, but that's a unique skill set that we are looking for."

Michael Kean, Owner, Altico Advisors, LLC

"Our next hire will be a project manager -- someone who understands the solutions we deliver and can manage complex projects. We need someone who is personable and can successfully help clients bring it in on time, on budget and set expectations across the board."

Thomas Douglas, President, JMARK Business Solutions, Inc.

"The next hire would be in the area of operations -- we are looking for someone with experience dealing with a high sense of business urgency, a history in dealing with escalations, process flow and communications. Also, we are looking for somebody who is mature in the business industry and can help some of our younger people with their experience in mentoring through the operational challenges of a rapidly growing company."

James Matheson, President, Network Medics, Inc.

"We just hired a new field technician, and our next hire is likely to be a more senior-level network engineer. We are having a really difficult time finding good candidates here in the Minneapolis market -- it's extremely competitive and that's made it really tough for us. I need somebody who not only has his or her requisite certifications (such as Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Cisco certifications), but also has decent experience using VMware. Paired with those technical skills, I need somebody who has a really good personality and has strong soft skills. You don't always find all of these characteristics bundled into one person, so that makes our hiring process very challenging."

Pete Zarras, Founder and President, Cloud Strategies, LLC

"Our next hire will be an additional pre-sales technical architect -- someone who is capable of understanding business needs and able to translate that into the potentials of cloud-based technologies and solutions."

Skip Gould, President and CEO, BrightPlanIT, Inc.

"It really depends on what projects come up to determine which candidates we need next. We are always looking for smart people, and I am always looking for people with good people skills and troubleshooting skills. Beyond that, I think we can teach them everything they need to know."