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How to Hire So You Don't Have to Fire

How to Hire So You Don't Have to Fire

Hiring the right people for your IT organization is not an easy job, nor an exact science. We'll show you how to identify the candidates with the right attitude.

After three weeks of rigorously screening candidates, Sandy Hofmann, CIO and chief people officer at Mapics, hired Chris White (not her real name) for an IT management position at the manufacturing software vendor. White was responsible for leading a team of six individuals and for overseeing one of the company's technology functions. Hofmann was convinced White was the right person for the job. After all, she had worked in environments similar to the one at Mapics and had solved technical problems similar to the ones the vendor was facing. White also had good references, who assured Hofmann that White was assertive, positive and capable. She made a good impression on each of the Mapics employees who interviewed her, and she got HR's seal of approval.

But it wasn't long after White was hired that Hofmann began to realize she had made the wrong choice. White didn't stand up for her subordinates. Instead, she blamed her own failures on her direct reports. She was condescending toward older workers. And she didn't make her direct reports feel welcome or comfortable when they came to her for direction. "We have very high expectations of our managers," says Hofmann. "If a manager can't care for the people in their charter, it puts the company's ability to be successful at risk." Three months after White came on board, Mapics showed her the door, and Hofmann had to commence the costly and time-consuming hiring process all over again.

In spite of their apparent due diligence, many CIOs still miss the mark when trying to find the right person for a job. Oh sure, they know the qualities that a new hire should possess: They want someone who's passionate about her work, eager to learn, open to new experiences and plays well in the corporate sandbox. Those are all traits that indicate a good attitude. Hiring is such a crapshoot because CIOs don't know how to determine whether the suit sitting in their office really possesses the characteristics they're seeking and is all that she claims to be. Further complicating the process is that prospective employees are always on their best behaviour, and CIOs can no longer rely on references to vet candidates, since legal departments are increasingly advising companies not to provide references for liability reasons.

Indeed, Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says that most companies are so bad at finding the right person for a job that they have no idea whether their hiring process is effective. But, he adds, "you don't have to do much to make huge improvements". That's good news for CIOs, who've been more occupied during the past three years with layoffs than with recruiting. As IT spending rebounds, they will have to start polishing their rusty interviewing skills and become masters of evaluating candidates' dispositions and suitability for a position. To help you in this endeavour, we have compiled three methods for assessing a person's attitude and making sure you get the right person for the job.

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