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I am a new entrepreneur starting a tech support company. I have noticed that companies like Zappos and Rackspace excel at hiring great knowledgable and personable people. I have helped hire at my current job, and the initial reads on new hires never turns out as expected.

What can I do to ensure that I hire people in the tech support field with these qualities? What techniques do I apply to maximize success?

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    Are you yourself experienced in tech support? Did the people you've hired in the past have tech support experience? How you hire someone with a skillset in an area you have domain knowledge of is different then how you hire people for a job you don't understand. – Justin Dearing Aug 10 '12 at 10:58
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    I do not think this question is bad but I think it needs help. As written it is probably too broad. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 10 '12 at 13:09
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    Hi Manny, I edited your question to ask for techniques instead of simply lists of resources. We're not really here to just point you to links on Google, books, etc; instead, when asking a question, treat us as the experts in the field. Ask our community to help you solve your problem. If the answer happens to include links to other sources, then that's awesome too! Hope these edits help you get some excellent solutions to your problem. Good luck! – jmort253 Aug 11 '12 at 0:57
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    @jmort253 Thanks. I frequent answers.onstartups and didn't mean any disrespect to the knowledge of the users here or know the etiquette. I appreciate the understanding. Thanks for helping and not judging. – Manny Aug 11 '12 at 4:12
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    If the shiny new hires always turn out less awesome than expected, one should also consider that it may not be the hiring process that is at fault. – Phira Aug 11 '12 at 11:15
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During an interview anyone can fake being nice and show they really care for an hour. What you want is people who have this disposition so being courteous comes naturally. When you need people to have other traits (In this case technical skill), the herd gets thin.

You may be putting too much emphasis on the technical side. Hiring people with less technical ability is going to put a bigger burden on your training program.

Look for people with experience in customer service like waiters and waitresses, but make sure they actually enjoyed the job. Ask what they liked and disliked. You'd rather they complain about their feet hurting rather than having to deal with problem customers.

  • I like this idea. Because this is a startup and I need to get first employees, I need to have them instill confidence in the clients. I can personally resolve the issues above their head and train them in such a small group. Moving forward, I can follow the other suggestions, many of which I am already aware of. – Manny Sep 23 '12 at 16:44
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In the case of RackSpace, they hire real sysadmins. This means they pay much better money compared to, for example, a cable company. When you pay a higher salary, you have a better pool of candidates to pick one.

In the case of both companies, they make a product that people are passionate about, and they in-source tech support. If you are a pure tech support company, you have a real challenge there. You have to hire people passionate about whatever you are supporting. That might be hard if you get a contract with a company that has a really bad corporate culture, or isn't willing to make your employees love their products.

For example, lets say you were supporting SIP phones from a SIP integrator. If the engineers doing the installs and onsite maintenance are caustic people, that's going to rub off on your employees. Since you're only building the tech support aspect of someone else s company, you can't build a great holistic company culture around the product or service you support.

  • In my case, the product is customer service. It is helping the client that I want them to be passionate about. The involved technologies are just a conduit for customer satisfaction. – Manny Sep 23 '12 at 16:48
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From hiring in general, I can offer these thoughts:

  • Joel Spolsky has a great book "Smart and Gets Things Done" - it is sometimes more about software developers, but it's not bad for anyone in the tech industry.

  • In any situation, I rely heavily on the good people I already have - team members have a driving need to make sure that the others on their team are as smart as they are, since they have to share work, and one guys who isn't carrying his load means more work for everyone else.

  • There are managers out there with the gift of recruitment. It's not a skill that is ever all that obvious until they start building a history and you find out that a guy in your company can always pick the winners.

  • The single best way to drive recruitment is to optimize working conditions. Tech folks talk to each other, and there are networks of great tech support people just like in any career. There is no easier way to recruit than to have the smart, awesome person on your current team bring over his smart, awesome friends because this is such a great place to work. "Good working conditions" are partly competitive money, but as important is the abilty for your people to get amazing things done - being able to craft systems and processes that make work easier is a huge driver for the really good people.

  • Nothing will improve your hiring skills faster than reviewing your decisions with someone else. It's important not to beat on it too hard, but to review a new hire's contributions 1, 3, 6 and 12 months after start date and talk it through - either as a management team or with a single other trust person (if you are the sole leader).

There's a lot of different styles of interviewing out there - stuff that looks for personal style, technical skil driven, problem solving skills, etc. And it seems as if the new, funky companies hiring amazing people always have some new gimic that seems incredibly out of the box and innovative. But IMO, the real trick is to have a process for learning from your mistakes. I don't think there's really a perfect process or magical answer. My only big key for this is that hiring great people is a mix of factors of both having a good culture to start with and having a way to select people that will fit that culture. It's like a dashboard with many levers, and you need to tweak all of them.

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    This is a good answer. I would add that for IT workers the employer needs to maximize the function F(WC,TC, PFC), where WC is working conditions, TC is total compensation, and PFC is potential future compensation. If the TC and PFC are very high then a boss who fires employees who don't exit the elevator when he enters it can still attract 'A' players. Small companies who can't match TC and have iffy PFC need to maximize WC. – Jim In Texas Aug 12 '12 at 4:38
  • +1 If you have team members who don't want you to bring in quality talent, they're the ones that need to go. – user8365 Aug 24 '12 at 15:08

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