Hire Learning

I have at various times in my career been a manager, and more specifically a “hiring” manager. Management is a constant improvement cycle — I look back at some of my managerial experiences and cringe heartily, but I saw a good quote I try to employ whilst cringing: the ability to look back on a behavior and cringe means you’ve learned from it and won’t do it again. Or not as much.

The process of sifting through resumes, having “screening” calls, technical interviews, panel or individual interviews, as-appropriate interviews, offers and accepts, is a daunting, involved endeavor and I really, really wish it could be made easier for all – the candidates, the partners in HR, the interviewers, and the hiring manager.

I’ve just finished a round of hiring in my own team (two roles! different disciplines!) and a round of interviews for some other teams (as an interviewer but not hiring manager) and the most consistent thing I’ve observed is the sheer volume of nerves and anxiety involved. This stems from a positive place: as the candidate we’re nervous because we really, really want this role. It may be because it’s got the technology we want to play with or the skill set we want to enhance or the team we want to be in or the organization we want to be a part of or it may just be because it pays well, and money makes things work. (These are all acceptable reasons to go for a job, by the way. There is no shame in declaring you want to get paid and paid well.) We’re used to understanding this anxiety from the perspective of the person applying for the role; I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s a bit nerve-wracking for the hiring manager as well.

Inasmuch as it is tempting to believe a hiring manager sits atop their chair (or stands at their standing desk) and flicks dismissively through resume after resume, that isn’t it. For the hiring manager, this is an exercise in making the best possible choice: the role is open because someone has vacated it or because you have identified the need for it based on a backlog of work. In either case, every day that role remains open is a day that the needs are not met and the volume of stuff to be done grows (along with the pain of the absence). The absence of a human to fill the role is not the only problem, though: the human that you hire is now your responsibility — to foster their learning, their career, and their growth. This is a person you are going to advise and help — and probably help grow beyond what you can give them in this role. *Your* role in their career is transitory, and so the onus on you is to not only find someone who can do the work that needs to be done but find someone that you can help grow beyond that work.

In a perfect world, that is the sole consideration set for either side. The reality is that then another layer of stress is laid upon the effort: speed. How *quickly* can you land that job/ land that candidate/ schedule that interview/ get that feedback/ get the offer out/ get the accept/ get to that first day? Because every day that passes is a day you can lose them to another role, a better offer, a different company.

It is important to lay over this massively privileged stance a healthy heap of perspective: I am fortunate in that I am employed (and hiring within) the tech world, one in which the December unemployment rate was less than 3%. The movement we see is person moving from Job A to Job B, almost always to a better situation (money, location, tech, company size, whatever). If you’re in hospitality that unemployment rate is double. Same if you’re a woman in administrative services, or household support; if you’re a man in coal/petroleum or textile products it’s triple. The people I am interviewing and who come through our portals are folks for whom these roles are a good step up; there are literally millions of people for whom the job search is not anxiety-ridden because they may not get to work with a cool piece of tech but because they may not get to eat. Or they may get evicted. Or (from the hiring perspective) their business will go under (and then they will find themselves on the other side of that coin). The “problems” I face, and to some extent those that apply for roles like mine face, are objectively less problematic than others are facing right now.

My inclination (as an engineer of sorts) is to look at the system within which I work and try to figure out how to make it better — I am that person that sends unsolicited feedback to the teams I work with — like how can we be nimbler about counter-offers, how can we better screen candidates *in*, how can we make scheduling more efficient, and so forth. But as we look at the overall employment health here in the US, we have more work to do.

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