Tips for hiring right people & building your team

Hiring right people is the most important work you ever do. It is so important that I need to stress:

“Recruiting right OVER Training right” – Tung Dao

In recruiting, what I value most from people is not their skills, their past experience or projects they did. What I look for in people are – no matter what positions I am hiring, be it developer, tester, business analyst:

1. Growth mindset

In a best-selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck makes a clear distinction between people with growth mindset and people with fixed mindset:

People with fixed mindset think of talents & skills such as ability to understand complex mathematics problems, ability to draw a gorgeous painting, etc.. as fixed, predetermined values inherited and coded in DNA.

People with growth mindset, on the other hand, think of them as flexible values – skills which they can be better at and master at, through continuous practicing and training.

When building your team, you certainly don’t want to hire people who don’t grow –  or worse, who don’t want to grow. As your company grows, you want your people to grow together with it. Doing business means fixing problems which exist or which you foresee will happen. People with growth mindset are the ones you can count on to these fix problems for you, even when the problems are strange from their experience. Unlike people with fixed mindset, people with growth mindset don’t avoid uncertainty and unfamiliarity. They understand that they too can gain a lot of value for themselves overcoming the shortcomings.

2. Proactive thinking

One of favorite types of people I want to work with – people with proactive thinking. I was lucky enough to work with one. He was a young backend developer, yet he always worked in active mode. He rarely waited for tasks to be assigned to him. He actively considered status of projects and business needs of client and defined a list of tasks for himself. Managers only had to review his plan and helped him to modify his plan – only in case of lacking information from his side leading to inappropriate plan. When he could not think of any tasks, he actively asked managers. As his manager, I also see that he strategically and actively defined a plan of personal development for  himself. Each task he did for company was also a brick he built for his career and personal branding.

Disclaimer: And as manager I am happy with that. I am happy for him even when he left our company to come to another company where he is working in significantly higher position.

3. Problem-solver

Hire a problem solver

Hire a problem solver

People with growth mindset and proactive thinking are very often problem solver. One who possesses growth mindset and proactive thinking but still not a problem solver lacks a critical element: big-picture thinking.

Big-picture thinking starts with assessing whole situation, understanding situation & goal of himself before jumping into detailed task. People of this kind always question meaning of their work. They understand that their company do NOT just expect him to do tasks assigned, but actually SOLVE problems.

Back to my favorite young backend developer: Everytime client logged a bug and assigned it to him, he understood that client wanted to achieve an ultimate goal: To make this service back to work normally so it can make money for him. As a result, he did NOT just do a task of fixing bug in backend, but he actively collaborate with Android and iOS team to do full integration test. Even when the bug was fixed (in the surface), if he saw problem (under the surface) that might afflict client’s goal, he would let manager know so as to create a plan to handle it.

4. Team spirit

Great software are always made in team, not by single super-human. As a result (again in Agile-manifesto-like style)

Hiring a team-player OVER hiring a solo superhuman – Tung Dao

A team player respects the team, understands people in the team and willing to support them. People with great team spirit supports other members even if it means he sacrifices somethings – his time & late night work.

5. Flexibility

Modern software is flexibility. So as developers need to be.

One character of Agile Software Development is that it embraces changes. Changes are inevitable. Agile team needs to adapt to changes coming from continual feedback of users and clients.

Agile team people who have the same mindset, and who can actually adapt to different situations arising in development life cycle.

6. Ability to retrospect

This is the last trait of the right people I want to hire. The last does not mean it is less important. In fact this trait is super powerful. I put it last simply because very few people have it or practice it.

People want to retrospect because they want to grow. They understand that by retrospecting, they will understand themselves – their strengths, weaknesses, mistakes taken and lessons learnt. People who practice retrospecting well will learn and grow everyday. Growth mindset and ability to retrospect is a great combination which can make a person with no skills gradually grow and become mastered in them.


You may understand why I said at the beginning of the post:

“Recruiting right Over Training right” – Tung Dao

6 qualities I mentioned almost cannot be taught. As a company we cannot tell people to want to learn or tell them to retrospect. In rare cases as good leaders we can tell them to, guide them, support them and develop them. In such cases, people often already possess at least 1-2 qualities of these 6 qualities.

If you can hire people with 3-4 of these qualities, hire them. They are the right people to hire.

Hire them fast even if they lack of experience or technical skills – what we might call “hard skills”. Such kind of people will try their best to prove themselves and grow fast. After just few months you will notice huge development in them.

This rule not only applies to hire developers, testers and business analysts. It applies to bigger range of positions in other industries as well. Same as above: “hard skills” are in fact not that important. What of most importance, are their true personality.

For hiring right people and building your team, consider personality more.


In next post I will give you a list of questions used in interview to identify employees with these 6 qualities.

Building your team

Building your team




Tung Dao

Tung is a Msc. in IT Management from University College Dublin. Tung is currently working in Astro Bhd as Scrum Master.