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Are biases keeping you from hiring the best job candidate?

We debunk six assumptions that can get between you and your next great hire

By Mary K. Pratt, Computerworld
July 30, 2010 03:21 PM ET

Computerworld - Even in a recession, Bobbie Wilbur is always trolling for good people to fill IT positions at her tech services firm in Oakland, Calif.

So when a colleague passed on to her a résumé from a 911 dispatcher, Wilbur took the time to review it carefully, even though the applicant had no directly relevant technical experience.

Wilbur, co-director of Social Interest Solutions, a nonprofit organization that builds and hosts software for other nonprofits , thought the applicant's unique background showed he could think on his feet and focus not just on technology but on using technology to find solutions.

She gave the dispatcher a chance, and she's glad she did. The new hire, Wilbur says, turned out to be a valuable member of her 70-member staff, 65 of whom hold IT-related positions.

Ten years ago, when she was working at a big consulting firm, Wilbur wouldn't have considered a résumé like that or a candidate without conventional IT credentials. Now she acknowledges that such a bias would have cost her a great find.

"You don't want to eliminate somebody who is working their way up differently," she says.

Wilbur isn't the only IT manager who has had to push beyond preconceived notions about what makes a great hire for a tech position. Plenty of managers bring their own baggage and professional biases to the hiring process, experienced IT leaders say. And those assumptions could be causing them to overlook great tech workers.

With tech hiring on the rise again, savvy managers are schooling themselves to guard against common preconceptions that simply don't apply in today's job market. Here are six to avoid.

Assumption: Good IT workers always have tech-centric backgrounds

As a partner at that large consulting firm, which Wilbur declined to name, she learned to broaden her perspective after recruiting hundreds of people into tech positions. She learned over time that her assumption that good candidates always come up through an established IT pathway didn't always hold true.

"If your bias is that [candidates] have to have a purely technical background, then you could eliminate a pool of good talent," she says. "You have to look at your pool differently."

Wilbur points to the 911 dispatcher as a case in point. She says that even though his experience wasn't technical, he had been responsible for the successful implementation of an IT system designed to bring efficiencies to the public safety organization where he worked.

"There's no question that in the past I absolutely would have dismissed him as a candidate," she says. "But you can't continue to be so narrow in your approach if you want to find the right person for a job."

Now that hire works for Wilbur's firm in a business analyst position, translating clients' business requirements to developerspeak and making sure projects are completed to clients' specs.

Assumption: The best hires come from big-name technical schools

Christian Ponce admits that when he first got involved in hiring staff, he and his colleagues looked for candidates who graduated from the top engineering schools -- Stanford, MIT, Berkeley and so on. But he learned that those credentials didn't always land him the best workers.

Originally published on www.computerworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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