Hiring is hard

15Feb12

When we had an opening on my staff for a system administrator I thought it was going to be a pretty easy hire.  If you watch the news there are lots of people out of work, that should help right?  It is a great company, that should help right?  It isn’t a super senior level position so should have a fairly wide audience, that should help right?  Pay is good and benefits are better, that should help right?  They would have an amazing boss, ok maybe not but 4 out of 5 isn’t bad right?  😉

Boy was I wrong!  I have been working with recruiting firms, placing ads, hitting up my professional and friend network which has resulted in me looking at 98 candidates.  I haven’t met with all 98 candidates but I have read all the resumes and interviewed about 20.  One guy almost got an offer but with two outs in the bottom of the ninth he got pulled.

I will admit that our interview process isn’t a walk in the park, but it isn’t so bad that people cry when finished (well most people anyway…more on that later).  We have had all kinds of candidates.  Some were smart but couldn’t make a complete sentence.  Some couldn’t make eye contact.  Some couldn’t spell, at all.  Some had NO background in tech!  The list goes on, you get the point but here are some of my favorites:

Candidate 1:  The breakdown

This guy had about 5 years experience in mostly support roles but was in a Junior SysAdmin role.  Resume was good, personality was good, what he wanted to do in the future was good.  I have some basic tech questions I ask all candidates in an interview just to make sure they know their ass from their elbow.  So I ask him to describe to me how DHCP works….couldn’t do it.  I ask him how DNS works…..couldn’t do it.  I asked him a simple logic/troubleshooting question….couldn’t do it.  He looked like he was ready to cry, at which point he asked if he should leave the interview.  Awkward!

Candidate 2:  The people person

This guy was doing some sys admin work at a fairly large company but was also the top-level support guy for the C-Level team.  We get near the end of the interview, which was going ok until he said he didn’t like to do anything that has to do with a computer once he leaves the office. So I ask him a question:  “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?”  His response was: “Probably something in manual labor because I don’t have any other skills.”  So I changed it up a little, “Assuming you had all the skills, what job would you choose?”  After about 30 seconds of deep thought he then says, “Well I would probably still do manual labor, because if I took any other office type job I would likely need to work with people more than I already do in IT, and I don’t like dealing with people.”  WHAT!?  I thought I was being punked!

It has been an interesting road and I have learned a lot in the process.  My interviewing skills have improved dramatically which has probably been the best result from this whole thing.  I have also learned that there are a lot of people who are in IT that really should not be in IT.  It amazes me how many people have made a career out of this without really knowing anything.  I want to find someone who is hungry.  Hungry to learn, hungry to grow, hungry to be better.  They should want to know the unknown while being honest with themselves on what that means.  I’ve got the buffet, but can’t find anyone who wants to eat.

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One Response to “Hiring is hard”

  1. For the record, I like your questions. They’re simple enough to answer in vague terms (not like describing each packet in DNS/DHCP), but they’re also basic enough that anyone with good learning/experience in tech has encountered them. Well, so goes my opinion anyway.

    Also, +1 to going after what I call the “geek factor.” In other words, geeks probably screw around on their computers on their own time, and they have a load of information, knowledge, and just experience from doing that. If you don’t geek out on your own time, you might just be a cog-filler in IT.


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