Hiring the Right Workers

The job market is an inefficient market. There are many reasons for this including relying on specification (this job requires a BS in Computer Science – no Bill Gates you don’t meet the spec) instead of understanding the system. Insisting on managing by the numbers even when the most important figures are unknown and maybe unknowable. Using HR to find the right person to work in a process they don’t understand (which reinforces the desire to focus on specifications instead of a more nuanced approach). The inflexibility of companies: so if a great person wants to work 32 hours a week – too bad we can’t hire them. And on and on.

At first I titled this post the Hiring Process but that creates a analytic view of the hiring process separated from the important part which is workers actually working. The hiring process just provides resources that are needed. But in many places it is the reverse, the hiring process provides resources and then the rest of the process deals with that output as best it can.

Seth Godin had a very good post recently, The end of the job interview:

Instead, spend those seven hours actually doing the work. Put the person on a team and have a brainstorming session, or design a widget or make some espressos together. If you want to hire a copywriter, do some copywriting. Send back some edits and see how they’re received.

If the person is really great, hire them. For a weekend. Pay them to spend another 20 hours pushing their way through something. Get them involved with the people they’ll actually be working with and find out how it goes. Not just the outcomes, but the process. Does their behavior and insight change the game for the better? If they want to be in sales, go on a sales call with them. Not a trial run, but a real one. If they want to be a rabbi, have them give a sermon or visit a hospital.

If that works, great. If not, I have not thought up any magic formula. I think the process needs to be seen as part of the overall system of the company. Creating silos between HR and others might be the easiest way to do things but I don’t think it is the best.

Hiring is one of the area I think we could use some real innovation. I think much more flexibility would help. For individual companies often the best thing you can do is to greatly increase your focus on making employees feel valued and worthwhile (thus decreasing turnover and keeping you from entering the inefficient market).

A more thorough hiring process I also think is wise (for many jobs). But that is difficult when people look at the hiring process as waste (which it can be looked at with good reason too). Reducing the resources spent on hiring is a good idea, as long as the results are not impacted. However, it seems to me that the visible waste (time and money spent on the hire process) is seen as the only waste and the much more difficult to see waste of hiring the wrong people is ignored.

Your IT Company’s Biggest Enemy by Christopher Diggins

So why did I have such trouble finding work? Well three reasons.

1. Recruiters don’t know anything about programming and are ignorant of virtually everything related to software development. Many hadn’t even heard of Boost, O’Reilly, or the C++ Users Journal. They didn’t understand the significance of my credentials.
2. Recruiters view my freelance experience as a negative point, even though they say they want “self-motivated independent problem solvers”. Apparently I am too independent!
3. I only computed two years of a university degree in computer science.

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