Managers Who Don’t Hire

Managers Who Don’t Hire

I was chatting a little while ago with an old friend who had a good story about corporate hiring craziness. I’m always amazed that this kind of thing occurs. The following is based on that story (queue Dragnet theme). The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

One day Tom, a software engineer with many years of experience, received an email from Mark, who worked for a big company in another city. Mark was looking for senior engineers for a new team he was forming within the company, who could “really make a difference” on a “special project, like a startup within the company” where “time is of the essence”, and who were willing to “work remotely”.

Tom, who had a steady career doing contract work from home, found himself interested. His current gig was ending soon, and he had tentatively lined up his next contract. But he had heard good things about Mark, and was surprised to see a corporate job that preferred remote work. So he shot back an email with his resume, asking for details about the new team.

A week later, with no reply, he wrote it off — Mark, after all, was a dot, not a line. However after another week, he received an email from one of the company’s recruiters, Jane, who wanted to do a phone interview. He wrote back that he’d like to have more info on the team and that he had never heard from Mark. Jane replied that they’d discuss it all in the phone interview.

On the phone, Tom couldn’t seem to get a straight answer from Jane about Mark’s team. She asked about what kind of work Tom preferred since she had several openings. She said there was a great relocation package. She was impressed by his experience and thought he’d be an asset to practically any team.

Tom replied that he didn’t want to relocate, that Mark’s email had specifically asked for remote help, and that he needed to find out more about Mark’s team and its purpose. Jane said she would do some homework and get back to him.

Over a month passed when Jane called. Several teams within the company had seen his resume and were interested in him. She’d like to set up a live coding test as soon as she could schedule the first programmer she could find to administer it.

Tom politely replied that he had already begun work for a new client, and though he’d be happy to have a technical discussion — with another senior engineer — he’d first need to speak to someone who could give him the skinny on Mark’s new team. Jane then appeared to hang up on him.

Tom never heard from Jane again. Another month passed when he received the exact same email Mark had sent before, almost three months earlier, still looking for senior engineers.

So what actually happened? Here’s a guess at the breakdown:

1. Mark receives the go-ahead for a new team.
2. Mark taps his network for leads, receives a bunch of resumes, forwards them to Jane.
3. In the meantime, other programmers in the company ping Mark about the new team.
4. Mark tells Jane that he may have internal candidates.
5. Jane, busy with other positions that need to be filled, smiles and dials.
6. Mark has to put the kilbosh on the new team, end of quarter stuff, tells Jane he’s holding off.
7. Jane smiles and dials.
8. Quarter ends, the new team is a go-ahead again, but the internal candidate pool is empty.
9. Mark once more taps his network for leads.

While I can’t know what really occurred, it’s not a stretch to say that a fundamental problem was that Mark wasn’t engaging with potential hires directly. This is not unusual in many large organizations, where managers have so much on their plates that they need HR to take over hiring. Sadly, there are many managers who simply don’t hire.