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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

We Have No Idea how to Hire People

I participated in some recent interviews and the discussion to select the final candidate. We are a mid-sized health plan and were looking for someone with experience in a specific line of business and who preferably worked at a larger, more sophisticated health plan. During the process, it became clear that we have no idea how to hire someone and evaluate relevant skills. For those looking for work, I hope that this post will offer some comfort. If you are turned down for a job or not treated well during the process, don't worry it's not you. The potential employer is a moron. For some reason, when a company brings a bunch of folks together to try and hire someone, they act like Hansel and Zoolander trying to turn on a computer. It's like a bunch of monkey jumping around, flailing their arms, and hitting things. The only thing missing was throwing our own poop at each other.

The biggest problem was driven by completely unrealistic expectations. Our ideal candidate was someone from a larger health plan who had worked in this line of business but was humble and down to earth enough to take a pay cut and come work for a smaller health plan to build this line of business for a bunch of monkeys jumping around like ourselves. Here is what we specifically did during the hiring process:

We made things up about the candidates:

  • One candidate was labeled a job hopper by one of us because she had left her last two positions after 2 years. A closer look at her resume revealed that she had stayed at her early jobs for 5 years. Did we also want this person to stay at this job for 10 years and were scared off by anyone who showed some signs of mobility?

  • We decided one candidate who was currently managing people, would not be happy of they were not managing anyone at this new job. This is despite the fact that the candidate told us that not having to manage people and deal with performance issues was an appealing part of the job. This makes perfect sense since no one really likes managing people but you have to do it for your career progression. But we decided to make up that not managing people was an issue and make it a con.
We questioned motives and past history:

  • One of the candidates was from a smaller health plan so we assumed that anything that she did probably wasn't as sophisticated as what we would do ourselves. We had no basis other than our own egos. Given our inability to define job hopping, I question our own level of sophistication

  • We questioned why one of the candidates was interested in leaving their current job after being there for only a year. Someone pointed out it was because we recruited her and asked her to come interview. Luckily, that was satisfactory.

  • We questioned why someone truly wanted to come to the Pacific Northwest after they told us that they had family in the area and visited it often. Why do we need to question why someone would want to come to an inexpensive part of the country with great natural beauty and a strong local culture? If we were in Omaha, Nebraska, that's an issue.
We had no ability to understand trade-off's

  • One of the top candidates came from a larger plan and had the experience that we craved like a drug but came across as more egotistical. The other candidate came from a smaller plan and was scrappier but more humble and grounded. Those two profiles should make complete sense and it should be up to us to choose if we wanted the big league player who had the ego that is often required to make it into the big leagues or the role player with potential. However, folks really seemed to think that there was this humble down to earth person with the experience and skills of someone who fought their way up in a larger organization out there and we should wait for them.

  • One individual commented that we didn't have time for the person that we hired to learn the position and develop but needed someone who could start contributing immediately. However, we had spent the last 2 years getting this position approved and deciding if we needed it. We get to spend as much time a we want putzing around but the person we hire has deliverables right after they complete orientation.

  • It was also clear that we couldn't distinguish between skills and experience. A career switcher would have had no chance because we were only looking for someone who had specific experience in this line of business. Answers to interview questions that did not include examples from the specific line of business were discounted.
This rant is both cathartic for me but truly intended to provide some relief for those looking for work. The inmates are running the insane asylum. Employers have no ability to make tough decisions while hiring someone and have unrealistic expectations. It's not you, it's us.

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