Is recruiting skilled technicians a challenge for you? Do you follow traditional HR hiring practices: Write a job description, post it, interview candidates, look for a technical skill match, and then hire subpar IT candidates because you can’t afford top talent and likely are losing them to companies with deeper pockets?

Finding quality technical talent continues to be a top challenge for many managed services providers (MSPs). What if I were to tell you to erase everything you know about hiring and managing great technical talent and take a new approach? Stick with me as I share some insights from a recent conference I attended that will provide you a new way of solving this IT hiring challenge.

During a keynote at MassTLC’s Sales and Marketing Conference: The Next Generation Customer Journey in Cambridge, MA, Sydney Finkelstein, author and professor of strategy and leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, talked about his new book, Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent. After years of research and hundreds of interviews in nearly every industry, Finkelstein discovered that Superbosses focus on identifying promising newcomers, inspiring their work and launching them into highly successful careers. Rather than hiring based on meeting job qualifications, Superbosses place a bet on a candidate’s potential.

You might be asking, what the heck is a Superboss – and how is becoming one going to help me close the IT talent gap? Have you ever had a manager that helped you accomplish more than you ever thought was possible? A manager that put you in a role that you did not have any experience in? Someone who stretched you beyond your safe zone and had more confidence in you than you had in yourself? If you answered yes, then you may have encountered a Superboss in your career path. A Superboss looks for candidates outside the traditional workplace and assesses candidates based on their potential rather than their current experience. So next time rather than look for the perfect IT candidate that’s wrapped up in a bow, look for potential – someone you can mold. Here are three tips you can implement to help discover and nurture unusually great technical talent and move your business forward. 

1. Look for Talent in Unusual Places 

Rather than following traditional HR practices, always keep your radar on. Superbosses are talent spotters. They find talent beyond the office walls. You never know…the barista serving your coffee might be your next superstar. Or that college IT intern you don’t pay much attention to might be your next IT leader. Widen your lens and be open to looking beyond those who apply for your job posts. Network, reach out and never underestimate the potential of junior hires.

2. Hire Based on Intelligence, Creativity and Willingness to Learn

...rather than hard technical skills that can be taught. 

Don’t necessary look for job skills, rather recruit based on intelligence, creativity and flexibility. Hiring IT positions is competitive, and finding experienced candidates with the right skills is challenging. So, look for aptitude and potential, not just experience. When interviewing, ask open-ended questions that require the candidate to problem-solve a theoretical situation. For example, you might start with something like "Imagine you were leading the IT department and X happened. Walk me through how you would approach the situation and resolve the problem." You can teach specific technical skills through on-the-job training, but leadership and problem-solving skills are hard to teach, so look for candidates who exhibit those traits.

Creativity is one of those skills that is innate and not easily taught. Look for candidates who think outside the box and tackle problems originally and differently. You want problem-solvers who can figure things out independently.

Flexibility or willingness to learn something new is important. Rather than hiring a specialist who excels in one area, you should look for a kind of brilliance that can be applied to many sorts of problems. Superbosses often assign new hires jobs that have little to do with their previous experience. I recall early in my career, during my first “real world job” after graduating college, my Superboss asked that I present the marketing quarterly review to the CEO. I could hear my heart pound through my shirt, but somehow I managed to pull through and gained the respect and ears of the CEO. That leap of faith – my boss had more confidence in me than I did at that time – elevated my role in the department. You never want to box employees in. Give technicians room to grow, develop their IT talent, discover new passions and ultimately generate unique value for your managed services business.

3. Create a Master-Apprentice Relationship

Unleash creativity, innovation, and motivation through a new approach to management. With such an IT talent shortage, you can’t afford to let your new hire fall through the cracks. True IT management is about nurturing and inspiring your technicians to continue optimizing service delivery. Superbosses create an intense learning environment, pushing new hires to new levels of excellence. The obvious IT parallel here is encouraging technicians to get more certifications. If you're a Continuum partner, recommend they get certified in the various product modules offered by Continuum University!

It is important to motivate and inspire. Let your passion for your company and mission be contagious. Get to know what makes your new hires tick and tailor your interactions to get the most of your new talent. 

Create an environment where you encourage new ideas and empower employees to move the business and their thinking forward. Create an organization that is built to change. 

Superbosses do this by resurrecting the “master-apprenticeship” model. Push your staff to accomplish more than they ever thought possible, but remain beside them helping them grow. Although you have hired a potential superstar, you should not abandon them. You might appear like a micro-manager, but it’s important in the beginning to invest more time working hand in hand with them. Soon you can step away and let them thrive and flourish. 


I challenge you to explore a new way of thinking and doing when it comes to finding, hiring and managing great IT talent. Step outside your comfort zone and try something different. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Think like a Superboss – and create your legacy of IT talent.

Wish you could free up more of your techs' time to develop their skills? 

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