Monday, June 02, 2014

Selecting the right candidate

The flood of resumes was overwhelming; I was surprised by the numbers wondering if there was a crisis out there with people wanting to leave. Maybe it was the company and its reputation that created a pull of sorts that the applications found exciting. Or it could be that the economic situation has resulted in uncertainty in their current positions and thus they sought a comparably stable environment. Anyway the problem of plenty was a good problem to solve which gave us the option to choose from the best and the brightest.

Sifting through the lot it was difficult to shortlist probable candidates; everyone appeared to have been there done that, a menu card of technologies that they professed to know and work experience that would make you want to hire them right away bypassing the process. Discounting spelling errors in favor of experience, the final list of interviewees was drawn up. The list was not as short as expected, but then we did not want to miss out on deserving candidates just because they had turned off spell-check or had bad grammatical mistakes.

Not having conducted so many interviews at a go, they had to be spread over 3 days with almost 20 candidates. In tow a HR colleague and the functional lead who wanted to evaluate technical skills, armed with a formal assessment sheet to capture impressions, we started the process; questions were divided to suit our respective functions. HR would break the proverbial ice, settle down the person, my teammate tossed difficult technical questions and I looked at attitude and confidence. The days passed by in a whirl and we had a winner !

We have been taught to keep our demeanor friendly and suppress emotions while conducting job interviews; it was difficult to hold on to sanity and control laughter in few occasions. The journey to the end was excruciatingly painful and frustrating; the candidate with the perfect resume turned out to be a disaster. She had put in all the right keywords, technologies and projects; she had been in projects with the technologies in a role that barely gave her basic understanding. Scratching below the surface revealed no substance.

Another one believed that he scored 10/10 on every skill mentioned in his resume and that he had reached the pinnacle of learning. He was stumped on most of the questions which led to his quick exit. One candidate kept repeating that the information about the projects he had worked on was classified and that he was under NDA and thus could not talk. One person narrated the long story of her life for about 30 minutes immune to any attempts at interruption. We thanked her for the enlightening moments and heaved a sigh !

The quality of most discussions made us wonder about current state of knowledge and expertise; or is it that the unwanted and incapable having realized their shaky existence decided to seek newer pastures. Are these the types who find themselves on the left side of the traditional HR performance bell curve ? My HR colleague mentioned something about finding the right talent through references and not an open process. Junior and mid-level hiring filtering done by executive search companies and headhunters is typically based on keywords.

The selected candidate did not have all the skills required for the position; he was short on qualifications though the experience was relevant. Knowledge on technology was above average with understanding of his own limitations. He demonstrated how he stayed abreast of current trends and could articulate how he worked in teams. His enthusiasm and candid responses had all of us liking him; his can do attitude clinched it in his favor. We exchanged notes and everyone was in agreement; so we made him an offer.

We were pleased with our find and wanted him to join us expeditiously. He accepted our offer and promised to revert on when he could be part of our company. Weeks passed and HR kept following up on his joining date. One day I receive an email: “I thank you for your offer and opportunity to work for your company; I have carefully considered it and after much deliberation and discussion, I have decided to stay back with my current employer. I wish you all the best and hope our paths will cross again in the future”.

Life is tough !

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