Select Page
Smart City: Tips to make great hires

Smart City: Tips to make great hires

Smart City: Tips to make great hires

Because a smart city must connect digital technologies and municipal infrastructure, the talent pool is small. Good hiring takes time!

Nadia has 20 years’ experience in leadership and talent management roles in technology organizations throughout Europe, China and Singapore. She also specializes in behavioral assessments for individuals and teams.

Hiring proper talent is the top concern of executive boards and the key challenge for companies as they look to expand to new verticals or markets.  It’s a point underscored in the 2021 State of Talent Optimization report by the Predictive Index: a staggering 76 percent of executives said they don’t have the right people for their strategy.

Internal promotions represent, on average, only a third of the job vacancies filled. It’s even less in new sectors, like smart cities, where most players must learn new skills and business models as they move from hardware-driven urban infrastructure to software, electronics, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.

Internal HR is struggling to deliver tailored training and hiring direct competitors can be risky due to non-competition clauses in employment contracts.  So, what can you do to make a great smart city hire? Read on to learn more.

Hire Interview office smart city


Good hires for smart city businesses require a thorough search and multiple approaches.  After all, only a small percentage of candidates who respond to online job ads have the relevant skills and expertise.

I suggest hiring managers reach out to an active talent network.  However, the work doesn’t end there: Candidates often present a low response rate.  I’ve also noticed a few other trends:  Spain, Portugal, and Italy attract more qualified candidates than the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. France is in the middle.  Unsurprisingly, sales-related professions often attract more responses than technical roles.  But, they’re not always willing to consider a career change. Candidate response rate is also slightly higher in a fast-paced, less regulated labor market, like the US, UK, or Singapore.

To forecast future success, I suggest that hiring managers look at a candidate’s past performance in a similar role and industry, as well as the behavioral traits related to the work requirements.  In sales, for example, a manager’s role can vary greatly depending upon a number of factors: the size of his prior workplace, whether he directly or indirectly managed key accounts, whether he regularly hunted for new verticals or markets, brought in new solutions or farmed existing accounts, and where he primarily sold (public or private sector).

In the smart cities business, the type and size of projects sold and deployed, as well as the role played by the candidate, define the performance. Selling, delivering, and scaling actual projects are not the same as deploying proof-of-concepts and pilots.


Evaluating prior performance involves an organized interview procedure that focuses on topics related to job responsibilities or industry expertise.

Questions that assess soft skills are a key part of a structured interview.   A structured interview poses the same questions to all candidates (ideally) in the same order.  Questions about soft skills are designed based on a candidate’s past experience.  Typically, they’re open-ended, which lets candidates talk about their individual experiences in a way that encourages follow-up questions, giving the interviewer more clarity on a candidate’s skillsets.  Ultimately, the hiring manager will gain a deeper understanding on the candidate’s cultural and behavioral fit with the company.

Meanwhile, semi-structured interviews combine a standard set of foundation questions, with others that are personal and relevant to the role.  Often, candidates participate in several unstructured, sequential interviews so that a company can establish an internal agreement on his or her fit.

I advocate for fewer but more consistent interviews. Reference checks, often ignored when applicants are handled internally, are also valuable.


Another essential factor of a good hire is the candidate’s behavioral match with the work tasks. The first step is to align the role’s internal needs and explicitly outline the candidate’s tasks.  This will allow for a company to develop a behavioral profile that best meets the required work.

Next, develop a behavioral assessment to show how each applicant will influence people or events, interact with others, be consistent and stable at work, and conform to rules and regulations. Understanding a person’s strengths and weaknesses will help you understand their motivations and needs at work.

People can fuel business growth but may also become a major hindrance. Understanding their motivations can help you hire better and effectively evaluate internal referrals.

Nadia has 20 years’ experience in leadership and talent management roles in technology organizations throughout Europe, China and Singapore. She also specializes in behavioral assessments for individuals and teams.


We deliver the information you need in a short and engaging format. Our weekly in-depth documentaries cover real Smart Cities projects in 10 minutes or less.