Hire people for who they will become

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The Enterprisers Project (TEP): We’ve all heard so much about the challenges of hiring developers. How has that been for you?

Keith: We've had great success building the product team here at PeopleLinx. Developers and designers are always excited about building a new product in a new market segment and at PeopleLinx we've created an environment where our product team is empowered to build the best product out there.

(TEP): Philly isn’t normally considered a tech startup center. Has that helped or hurt?

Keith: Philadelphia has a deep pool of talented developers and designers. In each one of them, you'll find a certain sense of pride in our city and technology community. I don't believe many of us are looking to trade our nicely sized homes and bike commutes for postage stamp walk-up apartments or shuttle bus rides to the suburbs via heavily congested roads. We have a full ecosystem of young companies and venture funds now.

(TEP):This is your second time building a team to create a new software product—you did it previously at TicketLeap. Any lessons learned that you’re using at PeopleLinx?

Keith: Hire the employee an individual will become. If you focus too much on pedigree or buzzwords, you'll miss out on a lot of hard working and extremely talented folks.

(TEP): Any advice you’d pass on to other CIOs or CTOs?

Keith: I hate to use terrible sports analogies but, at first, the CIO/CTO is captain of the team. He or she needs to be out on the ice and skating with the team. Over time, the CIO/CTO will segue into a bit more of a coach's role. You're right there with your team at every step but you're not on the ice anymore. Your job is to make the team successful every game. Don't ever become part of the front office or you'll lose your sense of "pulse" with the team. Once you've gotten too far removed, there's no going back.

For more on hiring, download this Harvard Business Review article, "Make your company into a talent factory."

Keith Fitzgerald is CTO of PeopleLinx, which helps companies help their employees to build better LinkedIn profiles and networks.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.