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The requirements for candidates for product teams are generally much more stringent than those for component teams or traditional project teams. This is because the level of responsibility and involvement is usually significantly higher. In addition to a high skill, suitable specialists need other skills that will impact both the quality and speed of a product’s release, as well as the sustainability of the business and its ability to react quickly to changes in the market.
Some common pitfalls that can lead to hiring unsuitable candidates:
1. Lack of experience in a cross-functional environment
A particularity of a cross-functional product team is that its members are involved in the decision-making process, which means that they are used to communicating with each other and usually have many meetings. A developer accustomed to acting independently will find such communications unfamiliar. He or she may even feel distracted from the most important task: writing code. A developer of this type is likely to become a serious problem. Their decisions will slow down the work and could demotivate others involved.
These teams also use an iterative and incremental (IID) development approach, which means work is done in short iterations by regularly implementing the highest priority business features in new product releases. Most often, an iteration lasts about two weeks, and during this time you have to design, develop, test and release the completely finished part of the product, with the goal of getting user feedback data from the market as soon as possible. Developers unaccustomed to working at such a dynamic pace may be slow to adapt, prefer to receive detailed requirements up front, and spend too much time on system design.
Related: The Executive’s Guide to Hiring Product Developers
2. Bad work approach
Besides the ability to write code, it is important to identify the habits and approach of the developer when writing, as these directly affect the quality and time to release of the product. It is essential to ensure that the specialist understands the difference between full and production-ready versions. Also ensure that the candidate understands how the finished product is released and how to organize the overall ownership of the codebase. Finally, make sure this person considers code review and automated testing to be part of the normal workflow.
3. Hire a “superstar” software developer
Hiring a “superstar” developer can be like winning the multi-million dollar lottery. Companies expect a lot from these specialists and use a lot of resources to attract them because they are able to make complex technical decisions and lead large projects. If you are convinced that such an employee is really the right candidate for your company and your team, you must be prepared to face the following problems: They like more attention and often make technical decisions on their own without any contribution.
In the long term, such an approach can lead to a weakening of the team and consequently to a reduction in the product. (After all, it cannot be designed and developed alone.) And if this “superstar” is fired, the company ends up with a useless team that is unable to make independent decisions and cannot see the picture as a whole.
4. Low level of involvement
If the developer has no experience of product involvement and user issues, and doesn’t want to be involved – preferring instead to write code according to strict requirements – then such a person is not the best person. Coders only focus on performing a specific task, but the value of an employee lies not only in the code they write, but also in the quality of the decisions they make. If a specialist has no desire to find out why specific problems have occurred, you should not expect breakthrough ideas from him.
Related: Why Everything You Know About Employee Engagement Is Wrong
5. Different Perspectives on Professional Development Planning
There are always bottlenecks in the development process – often found in the backend, data analysis and test parts. In such cases, developer growth in one of these bottleneck areas will strengthen the team and accelerate product release, but not all employees are willing to learn new skills. Many want to focus on their core business (especially if it’s rare) in order to become the highest paid employee in a less competitive environment. It is worth identifying a candidate’s willingness to learn new skills needed for development and what he or she has learned from previous jobs. Choose professionals ready to evolve with your product.
6. Inability to Manage or Give Feedback
Make sure the developer knows how to handle feedback properly – who won’t take it as personal criticism and will also be able to pass it on tactfully to their colleagues. Many professionals are prone to using sarcasm, jokes, and other microaggressions to get their point across because they don’t understand how to constructively discuss team issues. A safe and open environment where people feel comfortable talking is essential for a well-functioning team, so ask a candidate how often and in what form they have received feedback from former colleagues, and ask for specific examples.
Related: 3 employee traits that help scale a tech company
7. Lack of communication with users and stakeholders
Direct communication between members of the development team, as well as with users and stakeholders, is essential to the success of a product. It allows the team to forge a holistic vision and creates additional sources of motivation. Some developers prefer the manager to communicate with the customer, see no value in such direct contact, and just focus on writing code, but focusing only on technical solutions can make certain product features unnecessary or even counterproductive. productive for customers.
So make sure that potential employees are interested in providing the best products on the market and that they understand that direct communication with users is essential. (This can be organized in the form of special meetings and/or a series of user interviews/e-mail questionnaires soliciting customer feedback.)
8. Inaccurate Assessment of a Developer’s Skills
This may sound basic, but it’s essential: Hire a developer with the right skills and expertise. If you entrust a specialist with a project that is too difficult for him, the quality of the product will decrease, and the employee will lose time and effort. It causes stress. Conversely, if you entrust experienced employees with tasks that are too easy and/or mundane, they will be prevented from developing their skills and may complicate the architecture out of boredom. In the worst case, there is a risk that such a developer will leave. This is why it is necessary to correctly identify the basic skills and define tasks that process and improve professional skills (although the amount of new knowledge required for each of them is limited).
Related: How to Assess the Compatibility of Your Company and a Hired IT Employee
9. Focus only on technical skills
Studies and project results clearly show that to predict an employee’s adaptation and effectiveness in a new location, it is necessary to analyze their interpersonal skills and motivations. The higher the level of an employee’s position, the more important these will be for their career development.
What types of soft skills and types of motivation should be taken into account? To answer this question, we conducted our own research, which covered over 100 companies from various markets in the United States, Russia, Europe and China. She indicated that the soft skills that determine the speed and quality of an employee’s adaptation to a new company can be grouped into four main areas: “interaction with innovations”; “problem solving approach”; “communication with people” and “behaviour under stress”. In each, we have identified key skills.
For example, the group “communication with people” includes communicativeness, extroversion/introversion, interpersonal sensitivity, intercultural adaptability and the ability to work in a team. Assessing these skills allows us to accurately determine a person’s individual preferences and select their most comfortable working environment. This is the key to a successful business.
Our research also identified 11 types of motivations specific to the computer industry. This is also useful, because the long-term relationship between employer and employee depends on the match of the company culture with its motivations and values. For example, professional development is important to many software engineers. However, it is important to understand exactly how each wants to evolve, whether it is improving skills in a narrow specialization or developing knowledge, practices and tools more broadly.
Additionally, it is necessary to realize the social drivers of an employee. For example, this may include the social importance of a project, public appreciation, the possibility of working at a large company or with famous products, partners, customers and/or “superstar” developers – and it is common to find situations where an applicant may agree to receive less payment if the organization satisfies these grounds.