The Virtuous CIO  

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January 11, 2011 — Hiring Competent Employees 1

One of the tasks falling to professional IT managers everywhere is the need to hire and fire. This is an area fraught with pitfalls: ethical, moral, and legal. It is an area where your responsibilities to the business have primacy. It is not something to be feared by the IT professional; however, it must be treated carefully and in a professional manner.

At some level you must recognize this is a road you will ultimately trod. This topic came to mind after the recent transfer of a senior manager in my organization. He had the opportunity to take over the management of another part of the business. It was a definite step up for him, and a magnificent opportunity. I was delighted for him, and congratulated him on his good fortune. The obvious downside to this event is my need to replace a critical and highly productive individual in my operation.

There are several keys to successful hiring, particularly to a senior position. We will look at the first one today.

Cast the net widely. The Virtuous CIO is always aware that critical people may leave his employ at any time. Therefore you are always watching potential candidates within your organization and without. Keep the idea in mind that sooner or later you're going to have to replace someone. With a formal job opening, I think it is a great idea to post the job both internally and externally.

It is not unusual to have a completely unknown candidate come to your attention. Many times they may not be suited to the position you need to fill at this time, but you can add them to your file as potential employees for other positions. It is also an opportunity to build contacts across the organization.

Posting the job allows you to play the interview game from a position of strength. There will always be someone who believes they have an inside track on the job and for various reasons are able to put pressure on you to slide them into the role. The job posting allows you to insist on a formal application and resume for the position. It also gives you time to vet the candidates and avoid being stampeded into a decision you will later regret.

Pull the bundle of business cards out of your desk and scan them for possible candidates. I recently had my admin enter all of the business cards into a contact database for me. I am still not sure this is a good idea. Sometimes the act of sorting through a mass of disorganized information allows you to stumble across something that you may not notice when it's presented coherently. If your company is willing to pay fees to professional recruiters, it's always worth talking to them. The good ones have their fingers on the pulse of the community and are often aware of people who are interested in making a change.

Take advantage of your networking with other professionals in your locale. The ones who are plugged in are also often aware of possible candidates, even sometimes themselves. Any of these things serve to widen the pool of possible job candidates. It is very much in your interest to have as wide a field to select from as possible.

Next time we will look at reviewing the applicants to find that gem you wish to hire.