By:Elias Cobb, National Recruiting Manager


As as long time recruiting professional (15 years and counting), I have seen literally hundreds, if not thousands, of hiring processes at different companies with different hiring managers.  Inevitably I run across managers / companies who have positions open for months at a time, going through piles of candidates and never finding someone “strong enough” for their position.  Usually the candidates fail some sort of technical test or interview, or a personality test, or team fit interview.

If you’ve had a position open for literally months, you should be asking yourself one main question:  Is this really a critical position if I can leave it unfilled for months?  If not, stop reading now.  You can keep shooting for the perfect candidate and take your time.  If the position really is critical, or even important, it may be time to re-evaluate your screening process.  I’ve seen positions open for so long that the manager could have hired a junior person and trained them to do the job in the time it took to fill the position.  All the while, projects are lagging behind and someone else, presumably, is having to do two jobs to pick up the slack.

What should you do instead?  Well, I’m not an expert, but I can tell you what I have seen work well – hire for a general knowledge of the area, and aptitude and attitude.  Inevitably the managers with whom we work who do this end up with better longevity and stronger teams.

If you use a technical test to evaluate your candidates, there are two questions I’d ask: 1) Is the test a true representation of what the person will be doing in the job, and 2) Can everyone already on your team pass the test?  I’ve seen the flip side of both of these, many, many times.  I’ve seen candidates who were extremely senior in their field fail a technical test because it asked “book questions,” things that one didn’t really use day to day.  I’ve also seen a manager administer their test to their existing team, only to realize most of the team couldn’t pass the test.

 What should you do instead?  The managers who seem to have the best luck using a technical “test” have a discussion with candidates.  They talk about scenarios and how one would handle them, understanding that in IT, there is almost always more than one way to do something properly.  And even the managers who have a coding exercise look at the code, and have a discussion about why something was done the way it was, and look for the analytical thought process instead of trying to find someone who did the project exactly the way the manager would have.

Be very wary of personality tests.  Most of those tests that I have seen are really meant to be a management tool, not an interview weed out.  I’ve seen lots of companies who administer personality tests and only hire people who score in a certain quadrant, or with certain personality profiles.  Really?  You want no diversity in approach or personality on your staff?  Ok, but be forewarned.  You are likely missing out on some very good candidates who would bring a different view to your team.

What should you do instead?  Again, this is only my opinion, but I’d save the personality tests for AFTER you make the hire.  This will give you insight on how to best motivate and manage your new employee.

Likewise, be very wary of needing 100% consensus from your team.  Humans are not good at keeping bias out of their minds and being 100% objective.  They’re even worse at putting the good of the company above their own.   If you need to get a unanimous thumbs up from your entire team before hiring, you are again likely missing some very good candidates, and potentially the best candidates.  No matter what you think, you will have team members who give a “thumbs down” because they are threatened by the new candidate.    Or there may be even more insidious biases at play.  Isn’t that why you’re in management anyway, to make those tough decisions?  The team is yours to run.  Don’t let insecurities on the part of your team chase you away from what could be a very good hire.

What should you do instead?  I know, you want to make sure you have a cohesive team.  Some of the best hiring managers I know do a blind vote by email, sending out a survey.  No one but the manager knows how each person responded.  The manager doesn’t need 100% thumbs up, but has a threshold and makes the call based on her feeling and takes the votes into consideration.

 And lastly, try to keep things in perspective when negotiating salaries.  Right now, in IT, it’s a candidate market, meaning pretty much all experienced IT folks have multiple options.  So here’s my point:  You offer a candidate (whom you think will be a great employee) $90,000.  They come back and tell you they love your company and the position, but they have another offer on the table for $100,000.  What should you do?  Well, I understand you have budgets, but keep this in mind: That’s $833/month.  Are you willing to lose this candidate over 800 bucks a month?  And that $833/month means a lot more to the candidate than it does to the corporation, generally speaking.  If you just can’t pay it, I understand, but please try to keep the dollars in perspective.

What should you do instead?  Well, in the case above, if I had the budget, I’d pay the candidate.  But in the beginning of the process, I’d offer the candidate MORE than what they asked for.  A radical idea to be sure!  But think of it this way: If you show the candidate how much you really want them by offering $5K more than their expected salary, how great are they going to feel coming in the door?  On the flip side, if you beat up every candidate you get in salary negotiations, sure you might save a few bucks in the short term, but you’re losing out on goodwill and employee loyalty in the long term.  We do have clients who do this, and it works out marvelously for them long-term.

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