IT staffing hiring decisions too often come down to what people know: IT skills, credentials and the like. But a shocking incident that recently went viral demonstrates that the vetting of IT support staff should go several layers deeper.
The story was laid out last week on a Verizon Wireless security blog and involved an unnamed Verizon client company and a supposedly exemplary IT employee, “Bob.” The company detected some strange VPN connections from Shenyang, China, and turned to Verizon to help understand. It turned out that “Bob” had been spending his days surfing the web and watching YouTube after having outsourced his own job to someone in China!
“Bob,” a mid-40s developer with experience in C, C++, perl, Java, Ruby and other programs, had received excellent reviews from his company. He was fired after the revelations.
There are many lessons to be learned from this episode, not the least of which is to thoroughly vet prospective hires. As important as it is for an IT staffing candidate to have technology bona fides, it’s equally important to make sure you don’t hire a future “Bob.” A few years ago, a widely cited Leadership IQ study found that 46 percent of new hires fail within 18 months, but only a small portion because of technical deficiency. Rather the main reasons were poor interpersonal skills, not being able to accept feedback, not being able to understand and manage emotions, lacking the necessary motivation to excel and having the wrong temperament.
Only 11 percent are fired because they lack the necessary technical skills.
Need another reason to be careful? Consider this: industry estimates put the cost of a bad hire at two to three times the salary of the employee, when factoring in recruitment and training costs.
One approach is to let an expert IT staffing firm worry about all that for you. But if you decide to go it on your own, give the vetting process several layers. Once the tech credentials and references of a candidate check out, take the hiring process one step further with these admittedly unorthodox tactics.
Don’t let human resources do all the screening: The HR department will be involved in selecting candidates and thoroughly checking references, but do not hand over the entire screening process to them. Get other line managers and team members on board to see if the employee is someone they can work with. Also, meeting the prospective candidates beforehand and having some input in the final selection will help build team camaraderie faster.
Don’t focus so much on past accomplishments. Think of test scenarios for the prospective hire to see how well he or she would solve your particular issues—don’t assume, in other words, that because she solved a certain problem in the past, she will solve yours.
Be honest about your corporate culture. Some approaches to problem-solving work beautifully in one company but are frowned upon or outright banned at another.
Meet the spouse. Even if it is just an informal get-together for drinks, a person’s partner can be very telling. As one CEO recently told The New York Times,
how a person treats his or her spouse is important. “Let’s say I’m interviewing a man. I’ll watch how he interacts with his wife,” Dinesh C. Paliwal, CEO of Harman International Industries, told The Times. “I’ll ask some of the same questions in front of his wife that I asked him before. Is he afraid to say again what he said to me? It’s amazing what you learn.”