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"Hiring Technical People" - 5 new articles

  1. An Agile Approach From Job Offer to Start to Success
  2. Job Search Trap: I Can Network Only By Computer
  3. Are You Hiring for Helpfulness?
  4. Hiring Trap: I’ll Wait for the Best Person
  5. Job Search Trap: I Can Narrow My Job Search Fast
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search Hiring Technical People
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

An Agile Approach From Job Offer to Start to Success

If you’re a hiring manager, you might think that once you’ve made the offer you’re home free. Not quite. Maybe you think that once your new hire starts, you’re home free. Nope.

You don’t get to see the results of your new hire until your new hire is integrated into the day-to-day work of the team. How long does that take? “It depends.”

Hiring curve with no buddyI know, I hate it when I have to give an answer like that. Just as much as when you hear an answer like that. The problem is that when you integrate a new person into your team, everyone’s productivity goes down. Ouch.

This graphic explains what happens. Your team is running to keep up at the beginning of the hiring. That’s why you have to hire someone. They take time to interview. By the time the new hire starts, they are ragged. Now, everyone takes time to answer questions and explain how the products work and what’s going on with this project with the new hire. Oh, boy. That’s why the answer above is “It depends.”

If no one spends time with the new hire, the new person takes foreverrrr to learn how to do anything. That’s why it takes 6-9 months. Everyone else is running to keep up with all their work. It’s understandable, but it’s difficult for everyone.

Hiring curve with a buddyContrast that curve when you use a buddy system.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll have new hires at two or three months who will be as effective as the people who have been there for years. I only know what my experience has been.

I’ve used a buddy system for years. When I have a buddy, which looks a lot like pairing for a few weeks to a month, I can reduce the on-boarding cost substantially. My new hire is productive inside of a month, and is working like someone who’s been there for a year inside of three months.

If you swarm or pair regularly, you see this too. That’s because you’re integrating the new hire into the team from the start.

The next time you have a new hire, consider using a buddy system. Or, consider pairing, trading off who the new hire pairs with, but pairing with everyone every day. Or, transition to swarming or mobbing as a team.

(I talk about how to buddy and successfully onboard in detail in Hiring Geeks That Fit.)


Job Search Trap: I Can Network Only By Computer

I gave a talk at a networking group recently about Manage Your Job Search. When the members checked in at the beginning they gave themselves points for their activity the week before. They only got one point for applying for a job. They got 15 points for going on an informational interview, and 15 points for networking at an event.

I loved it. When they went out to meet people, they got more points. Meeting people, in person, is key to a successful job search. Why? It’s all about the loose connection.

Loose connections is how you will find people to introduce you to people who will help you meet people on your target list. Loose connections will say, “Oh, I heard about that developer job (or tester job or project manager job or engineering job or whatever job) in that company last week. Here is the name I know.”

You can search job boards. It’s difficult, time-demanding, and the job descriptions are shopping lists/laundry lists of jargon, ridiculous numbers of years of technical skills, and something masquerading as cultural fit. What passes for job descriptions these days is a horror show. The descriptions are written for the ATS, not for the people.

If you’re looking for a job, go meet people. I know this might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, if you are a technical person. Even if you are extroverted, walking into a group of people where you don’t know anyone? Oh boy. Not the way you want to spend an evening, is it?

I have many tips about networking for shy people in Manage Your Job Search. Here are three:

  1. Find someone to go to a meeting with. That way you have a familiar face as a backup.
  2. Decide to meet just two or three people. You do not have to meet everyone in the room. If you have an in-depth conversation with those two or three people, that might be enough. You can always meet more people. Start small.
  3. If this is a dinner meeting, sit with people you don’t know. If you are with your friend, sit at opposite sides of the table. At a table of eight, space yourselves four apart. That way, you each get to talk to a different two or three people.

If it’s not a dinner meeting, talk to someone for 5-10 minutes—enough to get to know enough about them. If the conversation lags, you can say, “Thank you, I’ll refresh my soda now.” You can get more club soda or whatever. What, you thought you would drink an alcoholic drink while you were looking for a job? Start with a clear head. At the end of the evening, feel free to indulge. This way, you always have a way to end the conversation. Because what goes in must go out, too.

Don’t sit behind your computer and network that way. Go out and meet people. Your job search will be more productive and faster because of it.


Are You Hiring for Helpfulness?

I was reading IDEO’s Culture of Helping. Especially if you are hiring for an agile team, you want to hire for helpfulness.

Do You Have a Helpful Culture?

Notice, that it’s not about expertise or competence. The most helpful people are people who were trustworthy and accessible. When you hire for the cultural fit of helpfulness, you have to make sure you have a culture that allows for helping.

Do you allow for slack in your projects so people have a chance to help others? That give people a chance to be accessible.

The other part is trustworthiness. Do you have a culture of learning, not blame around defects and technical debt, so people say, “Oooh,” when they discover something that maybe they should not have done? Or, do they say, “Oh, crap, here comes the boom”?

How You Can Hire for Helpfulness

Okay, here’s how you can detect how a candidate might be helpful to your organization. Here are some behavior-description questions:

  • Give me an example of a time someone asked you for help on your most recent project. What happened? (This is the obvious question.)
  • Have you seen people “drowning” on your most recent project? What did you do? (This is the problem of inflicting help.)
  • Have you been in a position where people asked you for help, you wanted to provide it, but you felt uneasy about providing it? (wait for a yes) Tell me about that.

These are not the only three questions. They are a start.


Hiring Trap: I’ll Wait for the Best Person

A senior product manager had a great interview the other day.

“I know the industry. I worked on the first generation of their product. I know their customers. I could do this job. I understand their problems. I showed them how I’d solved their problems in the past. I can do this again.

“It’s a little junior for me, but I don’t want a go-get-‘em job. I’m at the point in my life where I want to take a little time for me. The kids area done with college. I want to take a little extra vacation time so I can spend more time on my hobbies and travel. That makes my salary competitive. I’m not ready to retire. I still want to challenge myself. But I don’t need to work like crazy either. This would be a great job.

“The people there said, ‘You’re like family.’ I’m the best candidate for the job. Why are they even interviewing the third candidate?”

Good question.

When the economy is down or improving, hiring managers think they have a glut of candidates. They think they can take their time and hire slowly. They think they can wait for the best person.

This is a hiring trap.

What they do is postpone their pain, and allow terrific candidates, the best people to slip through their fingers. Do they think this product manager is going to wait for them to make up their minds? No. This guy is going to have offers, and fast.

He’s capable. He’s competitive. He knows how to solve the problems this and other companies need solved. And, just because this company can’t make up it’s mind quickly doesn’t mean other companies won’t.

We don’t really have a war for talent. We never did. But, you, the hiring manager are in a competition for the best people. The best people for you, are only an offer away. Do you really need to interview a slew of people to know who is best?

If you start describing someone as “family,” maybe you can stop looking. Just a thought.

If you think you need to keep looking, what are you looking for? Why drive the cost of a hire up?

Don’t fall into the trap of waiting for the best person. Hire a great person. Now.


Job Search Trap: I Can Narrow My Job Search Fast

When I speak to job hunters, they often think they can get a job doing what they studied, or what they have done, or they way they have always searched.

“But the last three times I looked, I looked exactly this way.”

“This is what I studied in school. I should be able to find a job.”

“I’ve been doing this for years. Why can’t I find a job doing this now?”

You used to look for a job that way. You studied that, yes. You did work that way, yes. You are correct. However, the world has changed. The world is not going to adapt to you. You need to adapt your job search. What do you do?

You need data.

If you are doing retrospectives as I suggest in Manage Your Job Search, and measuring the number of phone screens and interviews, you should have some data. Are you happy with the number of phone screens and interviews? If you are, okay. Maybe you don’t have to worry.

If you are not happy with the number of phone screens and interviews, you need to change something. Consider expanding your target network in some dimension.

If you were in the financial services domain in 2008, you were in a similar position. Remember 2008? We were in the not-recession? (Ahem. We were.) Technical people could still get jobs, but not in the financial services domain. Because of the banking problems, technical people had a real problem finding jobs. It didn’t matter how good they were. That was not the issue. The problem was the domain. If you restricted yourself to financial services, you were out of luck (for the most part).

What can you do?

  1. Change your geographical location. Sometimes, if you change where you live, you have better results. That only works for some people. Some people have spouses with jobs and kids in school. Changing location is not a very good option.
  2. Change how you network. That addresses the “I always looked this way” problem.
  3. Consider modifying the jobs you’re considering. This addresses the “I’ve been doing this for years” and the “I studied this in school” problems.

If you have Manage Your Job Search, do a career timeline. That will help you determine what you valued about your job. If not, make a list of the parts of your job that you like. What about the domain that you have been in was the challenge that you enjoyed? Make a list.

Armed with that list, or your list of values, now, you can ask yourself this question:

What is close to that job, but employers value now?

You need to look for what I think of as tangential jobs. Close to what you had, but a little different.

If you used to work in banking, maybe it was the high-transaction, performance work that you liked. Well, Big Data might be for you. Maybe security is right. Maybe it was the regulatory work that appealed to you. You might want to move into pharma. Do you see how you can take something from your previous work, and transition to new work? These are examples. You will have to think, peruse the open jobs and see what employers want.

This allows you to stay in your geography (maybe), but revamp your resume, update your networking, and modify the way you consider your work. It’s difficult. It requires introspection. Then, you have to change your target network list. You might have to change all of your networking.

If you feel as if you’re back at the beginning, don’t worry. You have your personal kanban to keep you on track, and your retrospectives to help you see where you’re going.

Your data, how many phone screens you have and how many interviews you have weekly, can help you understand what you need to do.

It’s scary, looking for a job. But it’s scarier to be unemployed. Take control of your job search. Manage your job search. Don’t let yourself be boxed in by your past.


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