Monday, August 25, 2008

towing the line

My last post and this current one definitely tread near touchy areas, but my real focus in these posts is on the difficulty of hiring the right people. For all the processes any company can put in place, it's very hard to get the true measure of a man (or woman) until they are actually trying to walk the walk (work) instead of merely talk the talk (interview).

One of my general impressions from the interview session last week was on the level of preparedness, or lack thereof, of the interview candidates. Quite simply, I was disappointed with how little research about both the company and the particular job these people were ostensibly applying for. It's been a while for myself, but I recall doing a fair bit prep work for both the standard interview questions as well as the company-specific ones.

The whole experience last week really did highlight the difficulty in trying to get a proper read on someone via a resume, phone/screen interview, a brief speech in front of everyone, and a personal interview. Throw in some activities, tours, and a hefty bit of observation time and the picture doesn't get much clearer. It's hard even after you get to look someone in the eye, which if course is a marker I've never considered especially useful. (Then again, I'm an outsider amongst insiders.) There is a definite premium on being able to observe prospective supervisors in various settings, not simply during the strictly formal interviews. During the team exercises and tours there are certain expectations. At dinner, even more expectations. People can either be passive and blend in or engage us and ask good questions and stand out.

There are two principle feeders into this particular candidate pool. On average, one feeder yields candidates that are technically stronger, but often have difficulty dealing with the lifestyle demands. The other feeder has the opposite problem with largely adaptable people, but some who are less technically capable. I'll leave it to the clever reader to figure out what the general backgrounds are of these two groups. The good news is that the difference with some of these profiles is that the various segments have different needs and expectations from their personnel.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I participated in a second interview session up in Sugar Land last week. We were looking for future field supervisors for most of the segments in the United States. The interviewees had all been through a first interview of some kind, either in person at a career fair or a phone interview. The interviewers were either members of the recruiting team or 'hiring managers' like myself. Who knew I had yet another illustrious title. I'll have to re-emboss my business cards with a Phillips head screwdriver instead of the regular flat head that I've been using. (I'm even considering an upgrade to a Torx-style screwdriver. Very classy.)

The session left me with a lot of interesting impressions and some questions about how I came to work here. Right now, we're still in a ramp-up mode and hiring very aggressively, especially field supervisors. However, I was keen on rejecting borderline candidates while many of my colleagues seemed willing to take a more, uh, gallant approach. We should all know the costs of a failed hire and it's measured in much more than simple dollars.

There were characteristics, particularly leadership qualities (these are field supervisors) and a couple other key markers that I don't want to give away, that we were all looking for. The experience has left me very badly wanting to participate in a field engineer interview session. When I look back at the person I was many moons ago, I'm not sure I would have hired myself. However, there may be certain factors that go into a FE session that were not strongly weighted during the FS session. Or, I was much more dazzling than many of the people I have so recently seen.

I question my own hirability (which I'm fairly certain isn't a word) because I did not possess many of the markers that I believe correlate with a higher retention rate such as degree-type, school, past internship with company, know people in the company, etc. Essentially, I was the ultimate outsider. Some days, I still feel like an outsider in that I'm never going to be a one of the boys, not a local or even semi-regional guy, I don't look the part, and I just feel like I have a fundamentally different approach to most things than many of my counterparts. However, most days I am an insider because of what I do, the time I put in, what I know, and how I'm able to put it all together. I'll call it a definite topic for future discussion.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ten pence

In the chance I received today while engaging in a fiduciary transaction, I received a ten pence coin bearing the regal likeness of Queen Elizabeth II. 'Where is my Montana state quarter,' I cried. 'My collection is nearly complete!'

Alas, the novelty of having the chance to not quite properly use fiduciary prompted me to keep the well-traveled coin. If only I had a New Mexico state quarter. (I already have Montana.)


More than anything I've been rather preoccupied with some more work items (yes, more than one) that I've been trying to work through. We've made some changes locally, some changes occurred elsewhere and now we might actually be in a good position to capitalize on the time we've spent grinding it out for most of the year.

This preoccupation has me off a lot of my normal routines, or what semblance of a routine I attempt to maintain. It's basically a funk, but I'm through it now and working to get my mojo back. I'm pretty sure I'll find it unless it got stuck in some ridiculous spy-spoof movie.

oh where oh where have i been?


Monday, August 04, 2008

another storm? bah

Another day, another tropical storm. Edouard? Really? You people named a storm after Manet?