Friday, March 24, 2006

Can't hire the best, anymore.

Welcome. You're now reading what I've intended to write for a reeely long time. A blog about the Indian I.T. picture, about where life seems to be heading professionally, and where I think we'll be.

I live in Bangalore and manage a software company here. Guess what my biggest problem is: Getting quality people. Two reasons for this:
a) The demand for good people is high.
b) The supply of good people is low.

So obviously salaries offered are currently drifting over the rooftops. That's not as much a problem as you might think: if people would help generate higher revenue, I'd bite. The real underlying issue is now demands that seem to be emerging, and the unscruplous habits that are more common than all else. if you want good, experienced people you must not only offer phenomenally high salaries but also concentrate on the other evils:

How many people will I manage?
It isn't about just doing a job well anymore. The pseudo attraction of a job is the number of people ruled over - the concept of a "team lead" is no longer about actually leading the team, which few are capable of; it is more about the prestige. The higher the number of reportees, the higher the prestige.

Designation, Designation, Designation.
Funny thing this. I keep hearing "I'm a team leader (of a team of one) currently, so you must give me a better designation, if not the same". In my company, designation is tightly linked to roles and responsibilities so we shun from setting false expectations of team leadership and so on. This also has a tremendous prestige value, so people invent ridiculous designations to keep people at bay.

Like "Assistant Deputy Vice President". Promotions from there will be "Senior Assistant Deputy Vice President", "Assistant to Deputy of Vice President", "Another Not so wise President" and so on.

Phone interviews only. I won't write a test.
This is by far the most irritating: that candidates don't want to come down and spend a half day or so with the company they're going to be working with. We have a detailed process where we try to gauge analytical, logical and problem solving skills of candidates. Our interviews are deeply technical and we never have YES/NO answers; we always give hints and try to lead candidates towards an answer (which could be different from ours).

People nowadays seem to resent that. The rare few really appreciate the underlying reason behind the process - we want someone we can work with, not just someone who'll come in, stay aloof, and walk out after six months. The vast majority hate being told they're wrong, however subtle we do that. Many even cross their hands and say "I give up", even before I've given them a hint! And some will just block their thoughts out so much that I could give them the answer and they'll still say "I give up".

I would never hire someone who gave up without asking me for a hint, or taking one when I offer it.

I'll sign an offer letter but there's no guarantee I'll join.
You can give a candidate an offer, negotiate the terms, and she'll even sign up. But she may just not join. Because:
a) Another offer materialized and that sounded better.
b) Her current company matched the offer.

These are not problems, of course - they would occur anywhere where the demand/supply equation is skewed.

The real issue is that you, as a company, have no clue to whether this will happen. The candidate could even join, hang out for a week, and suddenly fail to turn up. Unprofessionalism is so rampant that if you called up to find out, you could find they will ignore your calls!

Some of the biggest causes for this are recruitment agents. Yep, the very folks that will get you candidates will take them away - after they get their commissions, and your employee's been there for three months, some agents will call and tell the candidate "ho gaye na teen mahine?" - i.e. you've done three months, so why don't you look elsewhere.

Resume rigging, Invalid references.
It's getting to lies too. You may come across those who say they have a degree they don't, who say they get a higher salary than they do, who rig experience details, who will fake references. It's rampant, and you have to hire an agency to ref check your guys - and as a small company, that may be above the budget.

These are our hiring challenges. Dealing with this involves giving so much bandwidth and time from management and HR that a small company that hopes to hire fast and grow ends up getting quagmired getting around these hurdles.

Of course, there are the real gems of people hidden in the middle of this mess: and your biggest challenge is finding them. It's getting to be more and more chaff and less and less wheat. What we need is a big fan to blow the chaff away - and unfortunately, in the process, some of the best wheat will also get blown away.

What we might want to do is to have an independent fact finding agency to maintain candidate data. Researching references, school and college records, past employment history etc. Some of you will think this is an invasion of privacy. So be it. But with rampant unscruplous behaviour, employers have little choice. I would pay for such a service, gladly.

Maybe there's a business opportunity here.


Nocturne said...

hi. welcome to the blogosphere, and am looking forward to hearing abt your analyses of the indian IT situation.

Deepak Shenoy said...

Thanks, Isis. Awesome - you posted less than 12 hours after I created the blog!

Just Mohit said...

Hi Deepak,

Wonder why you never posted to this blog after this one. Looking forward to more post like this one!

Prateek Dayal said...

yup that is a great buisness opportunity ,, thanks for the idea :)

a certified resume .. like verisign certified site that you can trust :)