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Developing Your Hiring Strategy

by Johanna Rothman

Adapted from the Preface of Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. See below for copyright notice.

I've had the opportunity to hire or participate in the hiring of hundreds of technical people over the years, including developers, testers, technical writers, technical support staff, pre- and post-sales applications engineers, consultants, leads, and their managers.  I've been part of interview teams charged with hiring product managers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, in-house teaching staff, and information systems staff.

Hiring technical people has never been easy.  Many organizations persist in a near-constant state of having too few qualified technical workers.  When the economy is strong, we attribute the shortage to too few qualified candidates to fill the many openings.  When the economy is weak, we attribute the shortage to too many poorly trained applicants with unsuitable backgrounds.

Too often, we apply the same hiring techniques to knowledge workers that we use to hire skill-based staff.  Skill-based staff members possess a set of tools and techniques that can be applied in the same way in almost all situations. 

Technical people -- in particular, knowledge workers -- must adapt their knowledge to the specific situation. Such workers are not just the sum of their technical knowledge; they are the sum of both what they know and how they apply that knowledge to the product. In particular, how they use their technical skills to benefit the product, how they manage their work, and how they manage their relationships with other people all must be assessed when hiring and evaluating a knowledge worker.

While there are some similarities in the hiring process, hiring technical people -- knowledge workers -- is vastly different from hiring purely skill-based staff.  Knowledge workers have unique qualities, preferences, and skills -- such workers are not fungible assets.  The ability to adapt knowledge and to innovate makes one developer, tester, project manager, or technical manager different from another.  That difference among people is key to making good hiring decisions.

You want your organization to succeed, and so you need to know how to define and assess a technical candidate's qualities, preferences, and skills, but you also need to be able to predict a technical person's chance at succeeding in your organization. The techniques and recommendations set forth in this book are designed to make hiring a streamlined, efficient, and satisfying experience.

Why Read Hiring the Best?

"The whole interviewing thing takes forever."
"How do I know this candidate will work out?"
"I can't seem to find candidates who meet the job's specifications."

I hear comments like the preceding every day.  If you're like most of the technical managers I've worked with, you may not be sure how to define the job's requirements, how to find suitable candidates, what skills you need to interview well, or how to make an offer that the candidate will accept.  Or, possibly, you know how to do all of that, but the hiring process consumes more of your time than you comfortably can allocate.

Here's what I hope my book can teach to every hiring manager who uses it as I've intended it:

Save time and money.  The more you streamline your hiring approach, the faster you will be able to evaluate suitable candidates, and the better the hiring decisions you'll make.  An effective hiring process is especially important when you consider the toll a bad hire can take on your organization.   Add up the direct monetary costs of recruiting, the cost of the time you and your staff spend on hiring the person, and the actual cost of the person's salary and benefits while he or she works for you, and you'll quickly see that the cost of a bad hire can be enormous.  

Hire people who can perform the work.  Few things are worse than feeling that a new employee somehow misled you on his or her résumé or in the interview.  You thought you hired Dr. Jekyll, but Mr. Hyde showed up to work. 

Screen, evaluate, and hire the right staff for your specific organization.  You can help yourself hire well by first defining a standard for what "a good employee" is for your specific organization, and then translating that standard into precise job requirements, a sound job description, and a comprehensive listing of information needed for successful interviewing.

Fire fewer people. Most managers dislike the firing process: the warnings, the get-well plan, the actual firing. Many ignore the problem altogether or shunt the non-performing employee to other projects or other managers. 

Develop and demonstrate your own management competence. Simply put, managers who can tell the Jekylls from the Hydes will be more successful than managers who cannot. Likewise, a manager with a staff whose members can work with others in the company will be able to complete his or her assignments faster and with greater success.

The bottom line: Once you've defined what a "good employee" means for your needs and your culture, you can quickly review résumés, conduct interviews, make offers, and hire the right technical person for the job. I hope the numerous tips, suggestions, and recommendations in Hiring the Best will help you expedite the hiring process as well as make it a more pleasurable experience.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This excerpt from Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds [ISBN:0-932633-59-5] appears by permission of Dorset House Publishing. Copyright © 2004 by Johanna Rothman . All rights reserved. See http://www.dorsethouse.com/books/hire.html. The material contained in this file may be shared for noncommercial purposes only, nonexclusively, provided that this Copyright Notice always appears with it. This material may not be combined with advertisements, online or in print, without explicit permission from Dorset House Publishing. For copies of the printed book or for permissions, contact Dorset House Publishing, 1-800-342-6657, 212-620-4053, http://www.dorsethouse.com, info@dorsethouse.com, New: 3143 Broadway, Suite 2B, New York, NY 10027 USA. Additional rights limitations apply, as presented in the Legal Disclaimer posted at http://www.dorsethouse.com/legal.html.



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