Thursday, May 12, 2011

Managers, clones and hiring

Have you ever experienced an interview where managers are looking at hiring candidates that are clones/replica of themselves? And then you get back from the discussion wondering if it was for a role that you didn’t fit into. Or, you got hired for a role that held much more promise than the one you eventually got.

It’s not an uncommon scenario. The easiest way for a manager to conquer the hiring heights is to look for candidates that match the job description 100% and yet would bring in a bit more competency to the table. It’s an ideal scenario that has, less ramp-up time, good fit and most importantly easy to manage. They’re easy to manage (or at least so it seems) because they already know what needs to be done. Zero conflict situation. Perfect.

Except that they are far too many issues that will crop up in due course of time. That’s when the ‘safe’ managers will take a hit. Imagine a situation where the product needs a new roadmap to be defined and everyone at the table thinks alike! Breaking news: The product just got killed.

What should you do if you are a manager stuck in this hiring situation? First and most importantly, don’t benchmark candidates against the last person in that role. Treat each candidate’s competency differently. Assess your current team’s strength and hire to fix gaps. Be prepared to accept new perspectives. Give the candidate some room to learn things in the role. Finally, be ready to take risks (at least the calculated ones) as a manager. If you can’t, then ask yourself if you are in the right role.

What should you do if you are a candidate stuck in this situation? You were promised a meatier role, but ended up in a role that’s identical to your last job. It’s time to communicate with your manager. Understand the duration of your current responsibilities in the role. If it’s for a fixed duration, then ask for a timeline to start taking on more/newer things. I’m quite sure there’s no manager (in their right senses) that would say ‘No’ to a team member asking to take on work. If the answer is no, the responsibilities will continue for an indefinite time, it’s a call you need to take. Are you willing to continue or move on?