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(OT) Finding the Ideal Employees

by Anonymous Monk
on Oct 02, 2003 at 02:58 UTC ( #295797=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

How do you hire the best people?

Seems like a simple enough question, does it not? You have an open position, you publicize it, sit back and watch the resumes poor in, then pick the person who's best qualified. Simple. Or is it?

What exactly is meant by "qualified?" Education? What type? University? They may have the some fundamentals down, but can they apply them along with the best practices to truly contribute to the team? Experience? In what role? Programmer for a management job? Perhaps. C guru for a Perl job? Why not, such a person should be able to adapt, right? Career Perl programmer? How useful is someone with knowledge of only 1 tool? Can they adapt when the job requires something else? Then again, we could always just train one of those math majors again, that almost worked last time...

How about the type of person? Do they work well in a team environment? How can we tell? An hour-long interview? Lucky if we can weed one person out without any false positives. References? Useless in 99% of cases. Open source project involvement? A decent check, not everyone has it though and the environment is rather different. How about professionalism? Is this genius going to end up posting all source code he or she has access to online (don't laugh, it's happened). What about our licensing? Are the best people going to jump at the chance to work on source code very few will see? Is the creation of the product itself satisfying enough?

Enough about them, how about our company? How can we attract the best? Traditional ways of higher salaries and company prestige only seem to do so much. Cool technology? That changes all the time and only so much of the work is development from scratch. Career progression? Only so far before it's not advantageous to our company. How do we keep the best people? Keep them current on the best practices?

Perhaps a more proactive approach would help. How do we find the very best? The obvious big names usually seem more content working on open source projects of theirs, publishing, teaching, or other such activities. In addition, there are relatively few such people around. Checking newsgroups? Hard to find much intelligence displayed there to begin with. Maybe this isn't as simple as it first appeared.

Now that I've finished babbling on, what do you view as the ideal coworker/employee and how would you attract such people to your company (in reality, or hypothetically) and keep them there? Thanks in advance for your replies :)

Comment on (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by tachyon (Chancellor) on Oct 02, 2003 at 03:40 UTC

    This is an interesting recent discussion Number 1 mistake to not avoid during an interview Entire books have and will continue to be written on the subject. Personally I like the OA5 concept presented by Scott Adams.

    Ultimately you need to promote an atmosphere that makes people feel valued and works to maintain employee 'happiness'. But you need to recognise that every single employees version of 'happiness' is going to be a little (or a lot) different. Google is one of the companies that seem to have found a good mix. If you want top notch programmers don't expect them to be happy doing code maintenence and UI tweaks. Most good programmers need continual challenges and will rapidly lose interest when not challenged. In fact as you observe they will actively go out and find challenges, even if they don't get paid to tackle them. Rewrite Perl in C++ by yourself, ask chip why not?

    A mix of skill levels IS appropriate. Too many gurus are like too many chiefs and not enough indians. Not only that the more knowledge you have the easier it is to bog down in the minutiae. A balanced heirarchy potentially lets you take in lesser experienced individuals, train them up, let them see a progression.....

    What you want to develop is a culture of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for what it is that you are doing. What is hard is not so much finding it in the first place but actively working to maintain it. Enthusiasm combined with the skills to execute the task is a trully potent combination. It can also be infectious, just as one bad apple can quickly drain moral.

    cheers

    tachyon

    s&&rsenoyhcatreve&&&s&n.+t&"$'$`$\"$\&"&ee&&y&srve&&d&&print

Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by Trimbach (Curate) on Oct 02, 2003 at 04:20 UTC
    Finding the ideal employee, attracting them to your company, and retaining them after they're there, are all topics that can (and do) fill libraries full of books. There are as many opinions as to exactly how to do that as there are people (and companies). The truth is there isn't a perfect answer to any of these questions for anyone. Each job, each company, each person is different, and has to be addressed individually.

    However, you might benefit from shifting your perspective away from finding the "ideal employee" to finding the "best fit." Just because someone's good doesn't mean they're good for you or your company... those two factors are mutually exclusive. It often helps to imagine the kind of employee you want, the perfect one, with all the skills (the capability to do work) and competencies (the way someone works) that your company desires. Maybe you've had a high-performing employee like that before. What made he/she so good? What abilities did they have? Didn't have? How did they work? Write all of this down and pretty soon you have a good blueprint of who you're really looking for. Don't just focus on raw skills: believe it or not things like education and degrees and years of experience are not very good predictors for success in a job. If your mental description of the perfect candidate is comprehensive enough you should have a good idea on how to separate the wheat from the chaff in your recruitment exercise.

    As far as attracting and retaining them remember that people value more things than just money. You can pay someone top dollar to entice them to your company, but what if everyone works in cubicles and this person needs an office? What if this person loves to surf and your office is in Omaha? Money certainly plays a big part, but really you're trying to sell your business to the applicant just as much as the applicant is trying to sell themselves to you. Again, you're looking for a good fit, not just a good employee. If your tightly-regimented, wear-a-tie-to-work coprorate culture isn't someone's cup of tea, then they really shouldn't work for you (and you really don't want them), even if they're the very best in their field.

    After they're onboard if you want to know how to retain them the easiest, best way to do that is to simply ask them. It's amazing what people will tell you if they're asked. If they're unhappy they'll tell you why. If they're happy they'll tell you so. You can use this information to do the sorts of things that they value, and thereby make it worth their while to stay. Does this mean you do different things for different employees? You bet... one employee might need a parking space closer to the building. Another could care less about parking spots (they walk to work) but could really use a nice ergonomic chair. The possibilities are endless. Remember, one size never fits all.

    Of course the devil is in the details on all this, and although it seems relatively straight-forward that doesn't mean it's easy. Talk to your HR department about this stuff and they'll be glad to help (or, if they can't, you should get a better HR staff. :-D) It's hard work, but well worth the effort... studies have shown that in IT "high performing employees" are 100% more productive than average employees, so you really should shoot for the best fit you can in order to maximize your productivity and stretch your salary dollar.

    Gary Blackburn
    Trained Killer and HR Dude

Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by dws (Chancellor) on Oct 02, 2003 at 04:35 UTC
    How do you hire the best people? ...

    I count 33 questions. Allowing that a few are rhetorical, and a few are run-ons, that still leaves over a dozen. And of those, I'm hard-pressed to find one whose answer isn't "it depends". And you're asking for several hours, if not days, worth of answers, and you're doing it anonymously.

    Here's a suggestion: Register (it's free), and ask a few related questions at a time. I think you'll get more (and better) answers if you asking a few targetted questions at a time, instead of a "teach me everything you know, thanks, bye" flood.

      Greetings and salutations :)

      I think you'll get more (and better) answers if you asking a few targetted questions at a time, instead of a "teach me everything you know, thanks, bye" flood.

      There's really only one question, it's the first line of the post - "How do you hire the best people?" Now, that's a very broad question so I tried to elaborate by throwing out a large number of sub-questions. These were not meant to be answered individually, rather they were placed there to further display my train of thought and a very little bit of the complexity of the question.

      of those, I'm hard-pressed to find one whose answer isn't "it depends

      Virtually every question can only be answered with "it depends." The level of detail required to give a definitive answer to a question almost makes such a question not worth asking. By the time you've formulated the question, you will have had the answer! My question was left open-ended to encourage discussion. How do you attract potential employees? What have you found to be the most effective method of measuring their abilities? The more specific the questions, the more they get blinded by the details. Soon the question turns into one of those "what's a good interview questions" of which the answer is "none of the ones posted here anymore."

      instead of a "teach me everything you know, thanks, bye" flood.

      This isn't a private, protected forum. Currently anyone can view the discussion and learn from it. Contributions are not required but will provide you with others analysis of your advice which you may learn from.

        Question. If someone who:

        1. knows what they are talking about, and
        2. is well respected (around here and elsewhere)
        3. offers you some good free advice

        How do you respond?

        Question. Are you:

        1. Open and receptive to that advice?
        2. Do you take it on board?
        3. Act on it even?

        Or do you totally ignore it and try to justify your current position?

        Just perhaps there could there be a moral in there for you?

        cheers

        tachyon

        s&&rsenoyhcatreve&&&s&n.+t&"$'$`$\"$\&"&ee&&y&srve&&d&&print

Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by gmpassos (Priest) on Oct 02, 2003 at 08:49 UTC
    I use 3 options:

    1 - Hire peoples with a good history, in good projects. Soo, you have code and peoples to say things about he/shee.

    2 - I get someone intelligent, with good skills, and teach what it need to know.

    3 - Peoples with a history of teaching other peoples.

    But we alway make a test drive of some weeks with this persons. Where we can test how it works, if it's really capable to do what is needed, and if it's capable to understand the group.

    The best thing that you need to know, is that to have a creative team you need diversity. Soo, you can't chose a single style, and only hire peoples with this style, or everybody will make the same thing, where everybody know how to do this and that, where everybody can put the finger in the job of the other. Since one person can't be good in all at the same time, you really need diversity. The best thing of diversity, is that everybody can bring new things to the others, what make the job more interesting, what break the routine to seat in front the computer.

    Graciliano M. P.
    "Creativity is the expression of the liberty".

Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by jacques (Priest) on Oct 02, 2003 at 14:28 UTC
    I would hire people who can communicate well. To me, good communication skills are a sign of intelligence, sorta like using Perl.

    I wouldn't care about recommendations. The job market is too fluid and recommendations prove nothing, yet they make employers feel good, so they keep asking for them.

Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by boo_radley (Parson) on Oct 02, 2003 at 19:02 UTC

    You wanna find a good employee? Hire me.
    -- boo, less than gruntled.

Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by neilwatson (Curate) on Oct 02, 2003 at 19:23 UTC
    What a candidate knows is not as important as how fast they can find out what they need to know. This gives you an indication of their learning habits. Someone with good learning habits will be able to grow and adapt to your changing needs.

    Neil Watson
    watson-wilson.ca

      I was reading a blog the other day (can't remember whose for the life of me) and it said something similar. Something along the lines of: you no longer have to remember facts, you only need to remember where to go to get the facts.

      -- vek --
        ...you no longer have to remember facts, you only need to remember where to go to get the facts.

        I have seen this view stated many times over the years. And it is obvious that research skills are critical and getting more important as time goes on.

        However I have yet to meet anyone who was good at aquiring the facts that they needed on demand who did not know a large number of facts already. Here are a few guesses as to why this might be:

        1. You get to be good at getting facts by actually doing it a lot. Eventually something will stick.
        2. In researching things it is critical to be able to make critical judgements on what turns up. An existing body of relevant knowledge helps immensely in that.
        3. Existing facts give you the context needed to absorb the information you are looking for when you find it.
        4. Needed facts often come up again. Being able to cache them for a period in your memory is faster than looking again.
        5. An imperfect memory of where and when you might have seen something vaguely like the thing you want to find is invaluable in coming up with search terms to find it again.
        6. With a good body of knowledge, you have additional options for how to figure out unknown information (eg reading source code becomes an option).
        Therefore while I agree that learning how to find facts on demand is more important than possessing large numbers of them, this does not make it useless to learn a large number of facts.
        I don't buy that. Sure, you can't expect people to remember everything, but not knowing anything, just knowing where to get it from is the other extreme.

        It reminds me of a small anecdote. During my previous employment, the office manager once said "Why would I have to know math, I have a calculator". To which I responded, "Why would I have to know Dutch, I have a dictionary".

        To be productive, one must have a proper balance between having knowledge, and knowing how to get knowledge.

        Abigail

Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by TVSET (Chaplain) on Oct 05, 2003 at 23:41 UTC
    Seems like a simple enough question, does it not? You have an open position, you publicize it, sit back and watch the resumes poor in, then pick the person who's best qualified. Simple. Or is it?

    Side note: there are countries (like Cyprus) with very small unemployment rate. In places like this you have to actually go out and look for people. Sometimes you even have to import them from other countries, like my current employer does. Interviewing and selecting potential employees become tricky. :)

Re: (OT) Finding the Ideal Employees
by petesmiley (Friar) on Oct 07, 2003 at 16:32 UTC
    Well, I hate to say it and it seems kind of callous but, there is a reason for having a trial period with an employee.

    Perhaps the trick is to have an extended set of tasks for that employee that will tell you what you need to know to keep that employee or not.

    Sometimes there is just no place for being kind or generous. I have met people with CS degrees who could not keep a programming job for more than 3 months because they just didn't have it in them. It's expensive, but if you want quality, it's what needs to be done.

    smiles

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