It’s funny how even when you like and trust your boss certain things trigger suspicion.
In the past couple of weeks I have spent a good chunk of time at work reviewing resumes and sitting in on interviews for a contractor position in my specialty area. Even though this position isn’t for my direct team, my boss asked me to prioritize this for a couple of reasons.
One is that he sees me as the “head of practice,” which is flattering and a good example of how being first and just declaring yourself something can make it so.
The other is he judges that because the managers hiring for this position to be inexperienced enough in my specialty area to be unable to decide based on a candidates skills. He told me he wanted me to make sure that we got someone good in that position, someone who had the right skills and could contribute not just to the team and the assigned project, but also to the practice area as a whole. And I’m glad he did.
We did four first-round interviews. Two of the candidates looked perfect on paper.
Both of them had about as much experience as me. The jobs and projects they highlighted on their resumes showed a progression of responsibility.
HospitalityCandidate even ended up managing the team in charge of the content and voice & tone for the first mobile application for a major international hotel chain.
FinanceCandidate had a huge amount of finance space knowledge, working for multiple large banks over a 20+ year career, in addition to working in other large, corporate environments.
The other two candidates looked less perfect on paper. One had the domain experience to have less catch-up time at Large Financial Institution. Like me, she has done most of her work in non-profit spaces. I was predisposed to like her.
The other candidate had no financial domain experience. Mostly in healthcare, some in publishing, she looked young even on paper. And it turned out that paper sometimes lies.
FinanceCandidate came into the interview, virtual of course, as if she already had the job. My Co-WordNerd and I asked her for:
- specifics about her process
- about a time when she had to convince a reluctant product owner or stakeholder that what we do has value
- a story about a time when she took the wrong approach, how she corrected, and what the outcome ultimately was
We got vague responses that usually started with, “Well…” which is a bad sign in an interview. As we were closing out the interview we asked if she had any final questions. In not so many words she asked when she could expect the offer letter.
HospitalityCandidate presented slightly less arrogantly and no more specifically. Sure, she named dropped a bunch of my professional heroes in the first 10 minutes. Just because you know and have associated with a who’s-who doesn’t mean you know how to do the job.
We asked her all the same questions. Her responses were just as vague and filled with buzzwords. I have a set of tick marks in my notes for the number of times she said agile.
When we asked her the question about getting buy-in from reluctant product owners or stakeholders her response was to tell us a story about the time she presented to the CEO the hotel chain that carries his family’s name to move her idea forward.
As much as I would love to throw time on our CEO’s calendar and tell him why we need more people doing what I do in my department, I know that shit isn’t going to happen. Large Financial Institution has a problem with silos, hierarchy, and hallway conversations.
Non-profitCandidate faired only a little better. She answered the questions more specifically and still had the same “I’d go to the chief” issue with how to solve problems. She also seemed to lack insight and understanding of the critical, unsexy aspects of what we do.
HealthCareCandidate had it all, though.
- She answered questions with specific examples.
- She was able to show how her skills would translate even though she had no financial experience.
- She was that right combination of confident and humble that being in a design job requires.
She asked us great questions about what we valued about where we worked and why we chose to work there during her Q&A period, and she asked us great wrap-up questions. Co-WordNerd and I were well sold, as was the UX designer doing the interviews with us. We recommended to the hiring managers they schedule her for a second interview.
Yesterday we found out that all hiring is frozen until further notice.
I’m okay with us having to go to a candidate in the interview process and let them down easy. Funding changes. Product owners change their minds. Shit happens.
What I’m not okay with is us fucking someone we’ve hired who has already given notice at his current job, which is what happened on my immediate team.
We extended an offer for a contractor position to a designer and he, being a responsible person, said that he would have to give two weeks’ notice at his current job. Not being complete assholes, we agreed to that.
Today is the middle of week one of his two weeks.
I believe NerdBoss when he says he fought to keep this person in the hiring process. He seemed genuinely angry when he told us our new hire wouldn’t be joining us. He also seemed angry that the new guy was being punished by timing; if he’d just walked away from his old job, which he has a right to do by law in the state where he lives, we’d have him on staff by now and everything would be fine.
Fortunately, the new guy lives in a city where the pool for folks who do what we do is small. Also fortunately, he was working for someone he’d previously worked for who had recruited him to the job he was leaving. I like to think he is going to be okay. And cutting him off because he got caught by timing because he did the right thing sends a really shitty message.
NerdBoss also told us yesterday we will not be backfilling the full-time employee position opening up on his team until probably next spring at the earliest. That means we are all going to have to work a little harder, which I’m not sure how I’m going to do given that I’m rolling almost a full week of uncompensated overtime into the last month of the year.
One more hole on the metaphorical belt.
We spent about 20 minutes of a scheduled-45/actual 1 hr 5min meeting yesterday listening to NerdBoss tell us this hiring freeze plus the retirements of several Senior Vice Presidents and Vice Presidents over the past two months weren’t any kind of indicator. The more he talked the more I started to wonder what he knew that we don’t.