Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not Hiring Someone You Should Have

When a decision is being made to hire a new employee, I see 4 potential outcomes based on two factors. The first is obviously whether or not to hire the person, and the other is whether or not the person should be hired. A simple diagram of this situation is this:
The people in the upper left hand corner we all know about - the ones who got hired and are working out well, and the same goes for the lower left corner - the ones who got hired and are not working out well [*]. The right hand side of the chart however, is more of a mystery. When a decision made to not hire someone, there is no feedback. Very seldom do you ever find out if you made the correct decision or not.

This discussion however, was all made on the basis of a single person making the decision or equivalently, an entire team being in agreement on the decision. If that is not the case, then it is possible for some people to explore more of the right hand side of the box. I can recall one case where I recommended against hiring an individual, the manager did it anyway and it turned out to be the correct move. Through that, I was able to explore some of the upper right hand corner, although it was just me and not my manager. While it is good, that's one of those situations that can really haunt you, that you would have let someone good get away. I never have claimed to have great insight on hiring, and that case certainly proved it.

[*] It's been my experience that large corporations have a very difficult time getting rid of these people, which is why I called that box a "really bad decision". Even if the person is ultimately let go or leaves on their own, it still is wasted time and effort for all involved.


lalitterer said...

Interesting analysis of this situation. My team has been trying to fill open positions for months. We thought we had two openings filled but have lost several good applicants to visa problems. Interviews continue....

Our team does scientific technical support for a medium-sized biotech company. It is not too hard to find people with reasonable science experience, but it challenging to find scientists with good communication and troubleshooting skills.

The easy decisions are when the whole team is unanimous that the person is a good fit. When the opinions are split, we have to consider how adding the person will affect the dynamics of the team. Of course, being short-handed also affects the dynamics of the team in a negative way.

My leaning is to value attitude and people skills above technical experience. I can teach someone how to troubleshoot a PCR reaction much easier than I can teach how to politely pursuade a confused researcher to run controls.

- Lynn

John said...

Hi Lynn, Good to hear from you.

A whole nother post could be written about "goodness of fit", but it seems like the trend is to overspecify (be excessively picky), rather than recognize that a good person is adaptable, much as a good company is adaptable. (Paging Eastman Kodak! Is there an Eastman Kodak in the room?)