Revenge of the Nerds’ Bosses

Avoiding the hiring mistakes of the dot-com boom.

To get the right fit, some recruitment experts advise employers to schedule a round of interviews with a candidate. The schedule, says Francie Dalton, president of Columbia, Md.-based Dalton Alliances Inc., should include mini-interviews conducted by as many people with whom a prospective hire would work as possible. That makes it easier to separate pretenders from contenders.

The approach is doubly important these days, insists Jordan-Evans, because unemployed tech workers are liable to jump at any offer. “Some people are taking jobs for which they are overqualified, or jobs that are not exactly what they want,” she says. “When the economy improves six months from now, they’re out of there.”

One way to lessen the flight risk is to hire candidates on a temporary basis. This provides a fairly painless way of gauging a new hire’s commitment. Conversely, a short-term contract also gives an employer an exit in case a new employee turns out to be a bust, says Scott Testa, COO of Mindbridge Software, a Philadelphia-based intranet software company.

Managers at Mindbridge have revamped their hiring strategy in recent years. During the late 1990s, executives would interview prime candidates twice, then hire them practically on the spot. Nowadays, they talk to candidates four or five times, then hire them as contractors. The practice reflects the new geography of tech hiring — a geography where employers clearly hold the high ground. Says Testa: “You’re basically trying before you’re buying.”

Six Tips for Better Hires

  1. Easy does it. Use as much time as practical to map out a search. Rushing is the number-one cause of lousy hires.
  2. Map it out. Put as much effort into planning the search as conducting the search.
  3. Zoom in. Before placing a help-wanted ad, formulate a precise profile of the ideal hire.
  4. Zoom out. Constantly check to see if you’re sticking to that profile.
  5. Layer it on. Schedule several interviews with prime candidates; have potential co-workers talk to them as well.
  6. Avoid commitment. Hire candidates on a temporary basis; at the very least, institute a probation period.

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