I recently read an article that stated something like 80% of all hiring decisions are misguided. The same stat holds true for hiring contractors. In fact, this fact has been consistent for many years in study after study. Such studies are usually conducted by psychology types and they make some very good points. Most companies have to adjust the position’s responsibilities to fit the new hire’s skills and even then the retention factor of new hires is alarmingly low.
So why does it happen with such scary frequency? I suppose it is human nature, given how frequently I see or hear of ill-advised decisions by most human beings. Is it a human quirk to make poor decisions? Is there a common factor that ties all these poor decisions together? Perhaps. Humans have a knack for viewing everything through their own prejudiced filters, whether they admit them or not. Very few can avoid making a gut decision upon first laying eyes on a person (that’s when 50% of your judgement is made). A good book I recently read (Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) states that we should rely on our first gut instinct and where people go wrong is they insist on looking deeper, investigating further and that is where they go wrong. Unfortunately, most hiring is done on gut feel rather then a true evaluation of skills, character and accomplishments. I’m not saying that is wrong, but then we try to justify that impression. Granted, it is very hard to judge how a person will fit into your team, but I wonder if you really should rely more on that first few minutes of meeting the prospect to make your decision.
For example, as a consultant, I am judged by big past accomplishments, by my resume and how much experience I have rather then the reputation for my smaller, often highly praised successes. The fact that I’ve been developing SharePoint sites for 5 years , albeit shallow and no code, is far more relevant then my highly touted successes as a Project Manager, Architect and trainer because I’ve only done a half dozen of those adding up to mere months in some cases. The fact that past clients absolutely rave about “McGyver like” solutions, amazing “Reagan like” people management skills, and other soft skills, they’d rather look at how big the past sites were, how long did they last (is a long, slow project “better” then a fast, well managed job?).
Also the fact that I’ve been sidelined by a few surgeries in past years makes me appear unreliable. Yet my greatest successes came while recuperating, in pain/discomfort and pressing hard to get it done even though I was obviously not feeling well. I suppose, in some eyes, that can be seen as working well under great pressure. I know I do well in emergencies. I don’t like them, but I do well. I am also gruffer, more direct, less tactful, more pragmatic. Basically I get things done when under pressure. It is when things are going along at a well-planned pace that I cannot seem to think clearly or operate at the top of my game. Hmmm, perhaps I should be an ambulance attendant or a similar role in IT. Not sure I want that because it is hard on my ulcers.
It sure gives me something to think about though. I know that I have far better days being productive when I am busy dealing with challenges then when I have little or, worse yet, nothing to do. I have trained several people in SharePoint and all of them out earn me now. Yet they come to me when the wheels come off and I, being the nice guy that I am, help them fix it, usually as an unpaid, behind the scenes adviser. They look good and get the promotion/raise. I get a nice pat on the back.
I really do have to stand up more for myself. Unlike most companies my hires usually go on to success. I guess, unlike most companies, I judge correctly somehow. I know I promote, encourage and foster good work. Too bad it’s almost always under the radar. Maybe one of my hires will reach CIO/CEO before I hit retirement age and I will see a payoff. I hope so. I need to fund that retirement somehow.