Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Help! I Need Somebody!

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I have been interviewing and researching for upcoming interviews.

Which (oddly enough!) leads me to a story when I was a manager hiring a new support engineer. I am a pretty plain speaking kind of guy and when I interview potential new team members I make it clear what the work is like.

When working in support you need the right kind of people who can handle dealing with problems and dealing with people with problems on a constant basis and still be professional and pleasant. Its not easy and not for everyone. You need the technical skills, the ability to communicate with non technical people and of course able to deal with stress. I prefer good humour to combat stress but of course tech humour can be quite dark. I think spending most of your working life dealing with problems lends itself to a certain jaundiced view of life.

So one of the things I make quite clear is the expectation of having to deal with stress and problems. How do you (as the candidate) deal with stress and the like.

Well I was interviewing one person who mentioned that while for the most part they are able to deal with stress they do have a breaking point and when that point is reached, chances are that this candidate will resort to some form of violence.

I don't think I have ever really been speechless before...Still on the plus side the direct questions seem to have uncovered this candidates violent tendencies.

Lessons learnt - when interviewing
  • Be Honest
  • Be Truthful
  • Be Direct
  • Set Expectations
I have found that following these four simple concepts I have managed to recruit some top notch support engineers during my career so far.

Be Honest - if its an intensive role and fraught with stress...tell the candidate. I'd rather have someone think about this and reject the role than join and find out 6 months down the line that the job is not for them.

Be Truthful - there is nothing actually wrong with admitting that there are problems as long as you are looking to correct them. In this case I would be truthful to the candidate and make clear what the candidate brings to the role and business as well as what challenges the candidate and team face.

Be Direct - too much time and effort is wasted with running around in circles. I much prefer to be direct and give concrete reasons or answers to candidate questions. The interview is not only for me as hiring manager to make sure a candidate is suitable but also for the candidate to acertain whether the role or the team is for them.

Set Expectations - This is really important as far as I am concerned. Of course this needs to be in line with the needs of the team and business which I think the vast majority of candidates understand. Especially in today's world of fluctuating economics. Having said that I do find that being able to tell, if not specifically then generally, what the expectations are from me (hiring manager/team manager) and the business.

I'm not a professional interviewer and I am sure that some of my techniques give professional interviewers the heebee jeebee's but I have had a reasonable success rate. I know team members I have recruited appreciate this.