The Secret IT Manager: New starters

The Secret IT Manager

Thursday 29 January 2015

Interviewing for new positions in an IT office can be a time-consuming and stressful process. Do you go for a permanent position or a contractor? Get it wrong and your decision could affect not just morale, but business as well. Here The Secret Manager reveals what life is like in an IT department when the CVs come rolling in.

January – new beginnings

January is a time for renewal in the IT department. There’s a new lease of life and a freshness in the office. The Christmas decorations have come down, new projects are springing into life, and the office is beginning to welcome some new faces.

Yes, it’s interview time. Even with austerity in full force, IT and tech companies have always seen movement in the jobs market. And it’s the larger institutions that seem to have difficulty in holding on to their staff, with stagnating wages and no bonuses leading to workers seeking new opportunities. Worryingly, this has led to a situation in some companies where the best and brightest leave for pastures new and leaving the old, weak and institutionalised to sit tight and pray for their redundancy payoffs.

This all sounds rather gloomy, but the flip side is there are an increasing number of good, highly-motivated workers looking for new roles and it’s good news for contractors too as, more often than not, they’re required to fill the holes.


Interview time

One permanent member of staff in our office has just left, but what with some new projects coming on stream we need two new contractors. Now I’ll not pretend that interviewing for contractors is easy, but there’s a lot less pressure than with permanent staff. Do you get a useless one? Just terminate them! Not a good fit? Doesn’t matter so long as they deliver! Good at their job? Do anything you can to keep them!

I don’t particularly enjoy interviewing people. You know that everyone there will have put a fair bit of effort into making the appointment, and all but one of them is going to be dealt a crushing blow to their self-esteem. However, interviewing for a contractor is relatively easy. Just ask a few technical questions and ascertain they’re not a complete freak. Of course, interviewing for permanent roles is much more difficult as quite often you’re interviewing for potential as much as anything else. This reminds me of “the one that nearly got away” – the most professional, intelligent and conscientious individual I’ve ever worked with who very nearly didn’t get offered the job after a nervous performance at interview.


The ones that did get away

For every one that nearly got away, there’s a thousand who did! Take the guy who due to an administrative error was sent to the wrong building for interview. Our company had moved 6 months previously. After much apology he was invited again to the correct location. There was no fairy-tale ending though. He found himself in a skills assessment and with no idea what to do he literally ran away!

Another person I once knew failed a job interview, but not to be deterred he waited a few weeks and applied for another job in the same company but under a different name. Incredibly, he got the job! Unfortunately for him his new desk was dangerously close to his original interviewer and within a couple of weeks his ruse had been uncovered. Needless to say he doesn’t work there anymore. Sifting through job applications also means spotting the ’embellishments’.

As the jobs market becomes increasingly competitive it’s becoming harder to make your CV stand out from the crowd so there’s the temptation to tweak various details, and the difference between a minor exaggeration and an outright lie can be small. Sometimes the job ads encourage this – a required skill may turn out to be something you can learn in an hour from a book, and who’s going to have that exact skill set anyway?

Personally I have never knowingly lied on my CV, although I will confess to listing my work history to the nearest month to make a few employment breaks look a little smaller. The same cannot be said for one of my old colleagues. A couple of years after leaving us he was applying for jobs and hawking his CV around the internet. An agency passed it on to us as we happened to have a role suitable for a candidate of that calibre. But imagine our Head of Department’s surprise when it turned out he used to work for the candidate instead of, as the applicant claimed, the other way round! Needless to say he didn’t get an interview.

Building the next-gen data centre

Where traditional and web-scale apps co-exist