In this climate of trying to find the “best” candidate and constantly getting the “bad hires” maybe the time has come to consider that maybe the “best candidate” isn’t.
The problem with hiring only silver spooners is that the silver spooners have no real life experience. When the ride has been greased for their entire careers they don’t have to develop the skills and competence to handle things as they come up. And if their mistakes have no consequences they never learn from them.
If you look at recent upper bowl winners, it looks to me as if most of the top quarterbacks come from backgrounds that forced them to try harder. Frequently the teams that make it to the top are the underdogs, not the teams with biggest budgets or the most flash. They are the teams that simply come and paly competently week after week. That’s what makes the teams that get to the end as winners.
Yet the trend in hiring seems to be to do the opposite of hiring the competent. Instead, it seems like companies are hiring for social skills rather than ability to get the job done. With the consequences that the jobs aren’t GETTING done. I’ve seen this from the inside at my last job as the ability to perform simple product development tasks was seemingly absent. Quit often it seemed to me as if I was the only one who even had a small clue what needed to get done and what the potential pitfalls were and I’m by no means an experienced product development person. At least wasn’t.
In just about every company and institution the need for people who can get the job done has been replaced by requirements for people who function well in “culture.” Competence and ability are actually discouraged because those things are disruptive to the status quo. Which leaves us with products that barely work, students that are barely literate, books that are unreadable and people who can only function on the shallowest of levels.
I’m going to be the first to say that I’m not perfect. In fact that if comes to the social side with it’s butt kissing and social maneuvering, I’m probably the worst candidate. I’m too honest to phony up for the interview and I don’t like playing social games. So perhaps I am indeed the worst candidate.
When it comes to competence, on the other hand, I’m the guy you NEED.
Let’s look at my track record. In my last job, I worked on or designed, not one, not two, but three groundbreaking instruments, in two years. I brought two of them to production and the third was on it’s way when I was laid off. Of course my layoff may have delayed that just a little bit. Not my fault. I didn’t quit them, they quit me.
That’s amazing considering that a month before I started at that job I had barely heard about mass spectrometers. I was able to do what I did because I was adaptable and had had enough experience in enough of the different technologies involved that I was able to quickly work my way through problems and bring a fresh outlook to the instruments. The important things that got the job done weren’t boxes checked off on a list of requirements, but my aptitude for the technologies and my attitude toward the work. Which is seemingly the opposite to the way the system wants to hire people these days.
The strange thing is that in the engineering world, things are changing so fast as far as new technologies are concerned that an engineer can’t afford to be a specialist and still do his job. You have understand how the technology works in it’s environment and the means that the software engineer needs to know hardware and mechanics, the mechanical engineer needs to know how to code and electronics and the electrical engineer should know basic mechanics and coding.
Somehow companies can’t seem understand that it’s attitude and aptitude that matters, not irrelevant social skills and “fit” into the corporate “culture.” The goal of the company shouldn’t be to be the best social club, but the best at what they do. Unfortunately, social clubs and corporate theatre seem to be the order of the day, even if it cost the company a pile of money. See below
Now I’m not going to say that I was the only person for Agilent role. It was probably pretty close though. The pool of Mass spec people is pretty small and the number of available people even smaller. And I do know that I could walk into that job and do a lot of good things. But, for reasons I don’t really understand, companies don’t want scrappers, they want butterflies. In my experience, having butterflies usually ends up ending in a lot of pain and long talks with the liquidators in the end.