What do you look for when hiring digital talent?

A friend of mine asked me some time ago, what do you look for when hiring digital talent? In my experience you should look for people with a general business understanding and a genuine interest for technology. The other way around, ie a technologist with an interest (but no understanding) for business can be poison to your team!

According to Forbes, the war for digital talent has begun and a survey from CapGemini shows that a whopping 90% of companies lack the necessary digital skills. This requires you to hire someone who in many cases has profound knowledge of an area that is almost non-existing in your own organization, and it is easy to be blinded by newspeak. Just because an applicant claims to be certified programmatic and customer acquisition ninja does not mean that he or she knows something extraordinary of digital marketing. Most likely he or she just visited Silicon Valley Job Title Generator the same evening they applied to the job.

Also your organization need to prepare for change. Digital talent are not motivated by doing the same thing you did yesterday in a digital manner. Hiring digital talent and expecting them to subvert to old routines will only create discontent and unnecessary friction in the organization. Fast Company created a list of reasons why digital talent won’t want to work at your company, basically stating that a lot of big companies aren’t structured to deliver on the expectations set when hiring digital talent. Keep in mind taht motivation for the right people comes from challenging the existing and creating positive change to the organization. Or as Apple said it back in the nineties:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Looking at how technology disrupts incumbents in existing industries, I am having difficulties seeing any companies that do not need digital skills in order to create profits in the future.

class CreateValue {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    int cashflow = 1;
    int profit;
    while (cashflow > 0) {
     profit = NewBusiness();
    System.out.println("Don't quit your day job");

I tried writing some pseudocode to appear clever, but realised that I compiled my last piece of code a decade ago. I should stick to my spreadsheets.


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