It’s a conundrum faced by many corporate recruiters and HR staffers who are trying to manage the process of identifying and hiring technical candidates: They know the importance of finding the right skills and experience, but their own technical knowledge is limited, making it difficult to evaluate how well each candidate might perform in the role. Difficult, perhaps, but not impossible. The key to evaluating candidates whose expertise goes beyond yours lies in three things: forging a true partnership with the hiring manager, asking questions, and respecting what you don't know. Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the value you bring to the hiring process. In essence, recruiters say, your job is to funnel the right candidates to the hiring manager so they can evaluate technical prowess and how they’ll mesh with their team. While you may not understand the intricacies of coding or network architecture, you can still qualify tech professionals for their overall cultural fit and experience. “You don’t need to understand how to build an app in Java to understand whether someone’s a strong engineer broadly,” said Greg Ambrose, a managing consultant in the Information Technology Practice of Korn/Ferry Futurestep. “You can talk to the candidate about fundamentals, and understand their roles in previous projects and gauge their passion for tech. What you can’t do is assess their code. Those questions need to be left to on-site, whiteboard interviews with hiring managers.” Start by working with the hiring manager upfront to understand the job’s dynamics, how the role fits within the overall team, and the key technical components the manager wants out of candidates. Brian Murray, Director of Talent and Culture at New York-based social marketing agency Likeable Media, sets out to understand what is involved in the job day-to-day, and asks hiring managers to show him the kind of work they expect to see from serious candidates. The process, he stresses, is ongoing: He doesn’t wait for a position to open up to ask colleagues about their jobs and how they do them. When a specialized role needs to be filled, understanding the different facets of Likeable’s work pays off. “I'm a big shoulder-tapper,” he explained. “When I see something, I ask about it.” Murray sees his job as being “not to make the hire, but to figure out if this person is a close fit and someone the hiring manager will want to meet.” To do that, he, like Ambrose, talks at length with the manager about how the role will function and add value to the overall business.