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New(er) Manager stress question -bad economy
Old 03-02-2009, 11:46 PM   #1
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New(er) Manager stress question -bad economy

So unemployment is over 10% in the Golden State. I had to fight to get it, but finally got permission to open a req. for a badly needed jr. position in my department. I don't even meet with HR until tomorrow to get it posted and I already have multiple resumes sent to me through word of mouth. These people are often overqualified, as this is a crappy 45k a year job (this is San Diego, where a non-scary apartment is 1500 bucks) but they've been out of work for some time and are just trying to keep their family from going under financially. I wonder, how legit is the "overqualified" rap? I'm not worried about them moving on once the economy gets better, I wish them all the luck. I'm more concerned that after the initial relief of getting something that the reality of doing computer audits and other mundane stuff for 60-70% of their previous pay they'll begin to be very unmotivated and chafe at reporting to me etc. Also, this is kind of stressing me out, I feel like Caesar choosing who gets the thumbs up. I guess I need to get over it, but shoot, these are all great people, most of them who have served in some form or another. I've made it clear I'm playing it straight and opening up the req. to all the external sources. I figure if I do anything but play it 100% objective I violate some law or code of conduct anyway, and with everybody having a brother/uncle/best friend out of work I'm screwed no matter who I choose. Anybody got a mental trick or something to keep in mind on this? I already feel like a large type A-hole and I haven't even turned anyone down yet. I've hired before, but not when so much has been on the line for the candidates. I've only been a manager for 18 months, does this get easier with time?
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Old 03-02-2009, 11:56 PM   #2
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You will eventually accumulate more experience that will help with knowing what's expected and what's unexpected and worth paying more attention to. If you are going to be a good manager, it shouldn't get much easier. You are making important decisions that affect people's lives (including yours).

The overqualified issue is a tricky one. Many overqualified candidates will become bored or unmotivated to be doing a job "beneath" them, or they will try to launch themselves elsewhere - where they believe they really belong - instead of in the job you have for them. OTOH, the right person with the right motivation taking an overqualified job (think FIRE returning to work at a slower pace) can be magnificent. You have a make your best educated guess what you are getting. Most people are happy in a job they are slightly challenged by and that has room to grow their skills. But not everybody.
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Old 03-03-2009, 04:03 AM   #3
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laurence - this is about leadership as much as being a manager. With many qualified and over-qualified candidates, it does become a bit more difficult. Here's what I did to help me come to a decision.

1) Have a questionnaire which details the technical aspects of the job - i.e. what knowledge to they need to be effective, what are some basic processes used to do their job - have them walk you through how they would do the tasks. It will allow you to see if they are still up to speed with those skills and also help you see how they interact with people. Ask questions that are open ended. Try to make the candidate feel comfortable so they can be who they are.

2) The subjective part comes next - ask them questions about scenarios that are management-type ones. You will be their boss. You need to ascertain if their personality will work with the group they will be joining and will work with you as their boss. This is where you might ask them a question which brings some discomfort - see how they react and see how they interact with your communication style. Frankly, I find if they pass the first part above, this part of the interview helps both of you make a decision - remember, if they are smart they are interviewing you, too, to see if it is a good fit. The question I asked was if they disagreed with a decision I made, what would they do? I then added pressure by saying they *really* disagreed with the decision and moved closer to them - basically I was looking for what their communication style was (direct, indirect, in-between) and what were their coping mechanisms in uncomfortable situations (confrontation, passivity, social support), etc. You also might also ask how they would handle an unhappy customer and role-play a bit with that with you being the unhappy boss because you have an unhappy customer.

Remember, you are trying to find the best fit all-around. Traditionally, placing someone in a position below that which they have had before does not lead to a long-term 'happy' situation, unless that person can convince you they are a firm believer in the "Peter Principle" and have realized the level below was their 'sweet spot' of competence.

Good luck - let us know how it goes and what techniques you used to arrive at your decision.

To answer your question - no, it does not get easier, you just become more comfortable with your ability to make the decisions you need to make. Yes, you possibly have a lot of control over these people's lives, however, if you remind yourself of that but also realize that you don't have as much control as you think you do (think the serenity prayer), then I believe you will do a good job.
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Old 03-03-2009, 06:06 AM   #4
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You are trying to make a perfect decision based on appearance and application. Basically your gut will tell you most of what you need to know.

Sit back, look over the apps, weed out the crazies, narrow it down to people that feel good and give you a good reaction, cross your fingers and make the choice and remember anything can happen.

You're not interviewing for brain surgeon, just an ordinary job the average person does with warts and all. If it screws up, interview again.

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Old 03-03-2009, 02:24 PM   #5
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deserat, thanks for the interview tips, I like the uncomfortable question one.
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Old 03-03-2009, 06:24 PM   #6
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Deserat, you said it right. That' s what I do, more or less. Know the KPAs (knowledge, skills, abilities) that you need for the job, design a task for interviewees to complete around them. Situational responses are very important to help decide fit. Often the least experienced candidate is the right one, if they have the right attitude and want to learn.
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Old 03-11-2009, 11:47 AM   #7
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Laurence, it can be hard to be a leader. It is your job to pick the best person for the job. You work to serve the department and it is your duty to forget about who those people are (equal opportunity employment) and to objectively choose the person who will benefit the department the most. It means that you should pick someone who has the right qualifications and experience, someone who will love the job, and will work above and beyond expectations. And you should steer clear of people for whom this is just a rebound job and who will likely quit as soon as the job market improves. The fact that some of those candidates are acquaintances should have no weight at all in your decision. No matter what you do, you will anger some people. So be it, you can't afford to please everyone when you are in a position of power.
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Old 03-11-2009, 11:56 AM   #8
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Laurence,

Think in terms of future development of your group. To which role can this over-qualified person grow into in your group when the economy improves? If you were to start a new team, does this person have the people and leadership skills to be a leader? I consider myself overqualified for my current job, and my boss knows it, so what he and I worked out is if you can't pay me the money, pay me with the experience. He gets the benefit of someone with finance, programming, and management experience. What I get is a launching pad for my next job either with the group or somewhere else.

Yes, from time to time, I do chump at the bit for my next promotion, but you get that with ambitious people no matter how high you promote them or how much you throw at them.
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Old 03-11-2009, 05:30 PM   #9
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WADR, maybe the old guy who can do a good job and doesn't want your's.
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Old 03-11-2009, 07:25 PM   #10
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We have an internal candidate who is young and eager and the company directive is to hire internal unless absolutely impossible due to this little economic downturn thingy, so the decision may be made for me. I'm going to interview him next week, and he comes highly recommended, FWIW.
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Old 03-11-2009, 07:48 PM   #11
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Old 03-11-2009, 09:09 PM   #12
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We have an internal candidate who is young and eager and the company directive is to hire internal unless absolutely impossible due to this little economic downturn thingy, so the decision may be made for me. I'm going to interview him next week, and he comes highly recommended, FWIW.
I guess your basic obligation is to show that the company's hiring procedures were followed and that you're not winging it-- or even worse, hiring someone who looks like you.

You've already heard plenty of campaign rhetoric for the alleged front-runner, but what about your own rank & file? How will his prospective co-workers get along with him?

I've never had a "real" job, but I saw a job-interviewing video at a military transition-benefits class. The candidate kept emphasizing his strengths in every situation & sea story-- how he went to bat for the customer by cutting red tape or even breaking the rules, how he worked extra hours, how much he got done beyond the job requirements. The interviewer shifted gears by asking for different examples of when he had to enforce the rules (for or against the customer's desires), when he decided that his team had worked hard enough, and when he had recommended that some job requirements were unecessary.

A favorite selection-board question was "We have 23 people competing for this position. What makes you think you can possibly do better than the other 22?"

I guess at least you're in a better place than you could be. Figuring out who to hire beats the heck out of figuring out who to fire.
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Old 03-11-2009, 11:48 PM   #13
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I guess your basic obligation is to show that the company's hiring procedures were followed and that you're not winging it-- or even worse, hiring someone who looks like you.

You've already heard plenty of campaign rhetoric for the alleged front-runner, but what about your own rank & file? How will his prospective co-workers get along with him?

I've never had a "real" job, but I saw a job-interviewing video at a military transition-benefits class. The candidate kept emphasizing his strengths in every situation & sea story-- how he went to bat for the customer by cutting red tape or even breaking the rules, how he worked extra hours, how much he got done beyond the job requirements. The interviewer shifted gears by asking for different examples of when he had to enforce the rules (for or against the customer's desires), when he decided that his team had worked hard enough, and when he had recommended that some job requirements were unecessary.

A favorite selection-board question was "We have 23 people competing for this position. What makes you think you can possibly do better than the other 22?"

I guess at least you're in a better place than you could be. Figuring out who to hire beats the heck out of figuring out who to fire.
100% correct. It's a big relief.
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Old 03-20-2009, 09:15 AM   #14
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In hiring I always found personality almost as important as qualifications. The person you hire needs to get along with you and others. That is why networking is so important in the hiring process. As far as over-qualified goes, if you expect the person to move on when the economy gets better, that should be as short as a year or as long as five. How long do you think it will take the person to become disenchanted with the job? No matter what the answer, it is the job of the supervisor to try and keep employees motivated. Too often, the boss, is more interested in figuring a way to advance his career than advancing the careers of those that work for him. Few realize that the latter will advance the former.

For me, on the internal hire you need to figure out if he really is a 'great find' or is he someone another department is trying to unload. If he is a great hire, I would go that way. Probability is he will fit in with your group.
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Old 03-20-2009, 10:36 AM   #15
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You've already gotten good advice - a few things I have found the most useful are:

1) talk with them more then one time - do one screen over the phone (no more than 30 minutes each, cut it off early if it's clearly not working) of the "top" candidates (7-10 is usually a good #, this is your chance to "test" out of the box candidates), bring the ones who survive that in person - people behave differently over the phone vs in person - for some reason people often forget they are interviewing and say really crazy things! At least in my experience. You also get a good sense of their communication ability (or lack) etc

2) definitely do a task related to the job - you'll be amazed how many people can't do what they profess - make it simple yet detailed enough to align with their typical job duties. For example, when we hire assistant's we have them find someone's contact info on the internet (which we know is available), and write a letter - you will get 10 different letters with 10 different formats, grammar etc and you can get a sense of their writing, formatting and attention to detail. Also, some will do it in 5 minutes, others will take a whole hour and ream of paper! Also, some people react differently to the task - some will be arrogant, some will be "sorry" cuz they couldn't do it in time or to their liking or embarrassed, we've also had some people upset they were asked to do anything at all. So just another chance to test their personality and really telling. Some won't ask questions, others will etc...

3) bring them back in to interview with a colleague or two who's opinion you trust and may also have a different personality than you.

After all of that you should have a better sense of who is the right fit.

Get all the sympathy feelings out of your system now - make a bad hire and the only person you will feel sorry for is yourself!

At my little non profit we can't afford to make hire mistakes, the trouble of getting rid of a bad employee is sooo costly.

It sounds like you had to fight to get this position - so make it worth everyone's time and money! It will reflect on you how well you do in hiring, training and managing this person.

In terms of the qualification - think hard about the "career track" of this person and be clear about it. For example, when we've hired assistants and jr. level people we've tried various "career track" profiles - we've had the "just out of college, willing to learn but no work experience, going to grad school in 2 years" type and the "admin career track" and overwhelmingly love the latter vs the former.

I've been overqualified for a job but I was very clear in my interview why I wanted their position - it was in a new area of work where I had less experience and I wanted to learn more. Also, given my experience, I was better at taking care of my work without much monitoring etc. Eventually we downsized my dept by more than half because I did most of the work.

So it's not always bad, but usually not that good.

Last bubble burst we had some lower level positions and I got hundreds of resumes - people who were engineers just desperate for a job - "i'll do anything!" types. I didn't bring any of them in. They have to fit the values, mission and profile of your organization and more importantly you and your team.

I really enjoy this process, it doesn't have to be painful. It's a fascinating study of how people behave in these situations, you'll meet interesting people and learn more about your own strengths and skills in this area.
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Old 03-20-2009, 01:04 PM   #16
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For me, on the internal hire you need to figure out if he really is a 'great find' or is he someone another department is trying to unload.
Because it is difficult to fire someone, managers would put pressure on him to move on with an internal transfer. And would such manager not give a good recommendation to the new hiring manager? I saw one of my managers making such a hiring mistake that he was stuck with until he retired. The next manager suffered this hire until the hire himself finally retired, with a juicy 7-figure 401k (he bragged about it) and greater than $3K/month pension to boot.

It is amazing how someone can survive in a megacorp if he knows how the system works. It may not be much different than how free-loaders can prosper in a liberal society. Oops, I am ranting again.
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Old 03-24-2009, 10:01 AM   #17
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Because it is difficult to fire someone, managers would put pressure on him to move on with an internal transfer. And would such manager not give a good recommendation to the new hiring manager?
Wow, I'm glad I don't work at a company with that culture. Firing someone sucks, but "never pass on your trash" - deal with your own bad hires and don't schlep the problem off on another person to finish.
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Old 03-25-2009, 05:42 PM   #18
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Wow, I'm glad I don't work at a company with that culture. Firing someone sucks, but "never pass on your trash" - deal with your own bad hires and don't schlep the problem off on another person to finish.
When I was at MegaCorp, I once hired an internal candidate who came with really great recommendations from past mgrs. Shortly after I hired him, I realized that I made a real mistake...this guy knew how to look busy, without doing any work! I tried everything to get him on the right track -- even resorting to working with HR on a 30-60-90 day improvement plan -- all with no improvement. Finally, after months and months, I terminated him..and had to put up with lots of backlash from his friends who were convinced he was a great employee.

I went back to four of his previous mgrs (all of whom gave a strong positive recommendation)...and since the guy was now history, they all admitted that the guy was a disaster and each had "passed the rock" rather than deal with issue. What a shame!
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Old 03-25-2009, 06:27 PM   #19
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When I was at MegaCorp, I once hired an internal candidate who came with really great recommendations from past mgrs. Shortly after I hired him, I realized that I made a real mistake...this guy knew how to look busy, without doing any work! I tried everything to get him on the right track -- even resorting to working with HR on a 30-60-90 day improvement plan -- all with no improvement. Finally, after months and months, I terminated him..and had to put up with lots of backlash from his friends who were convinced he was a great employee.

I went back to four of his previous mgrs (all of whom gave a strong positive recommendation)...and since the guy was now history, they all admitted that the guy was a disaster and each had "passed the rock" rather than deal with issue. What a shame!
I had a similar experience, although I never got as far as termination. I was working on that when he applied for and got an internal transfer (and I was honest to the new manager). I've since retired but still, occasionally, talk to the new boss. She thinks he's doing an excellent job. I guess the moral of the story is that there is a niche somewhere that even a bad employee fits (or that can do a good job at).
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Old 03-25-2009, 10:58 PM   #20
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Because it is difficult to fire someone, managers would put pressure on him to move on with an internal transfer. And would such manager not give a good recommendation to the new hiring manager? I saw one of my managers making such a hiring mistake that he was stuck with until he retired. The next manager suffered this hire until the hire himself finally retired, with a juicy 7-figure 401k (he bragged about it) and greater than $3K/month pension to boot.

It is amazing how someone can survive in a megacorp if he knows how the system works. It may not be much different than how free-loaders can prosper in a liberal society. Oops, I am ranting again.
I stayed until 8 PM tonight to help a marketing lady make her presentation. Strange how her 1 graph request turned into 4-6 graphs by the time I was done. Even though I gave her the complete data set in Excel, it appears that she couldn't do a 3x5 trend matrix on her own. I finally had to put a stop to it because she was eating into my study time.

A BD guy tried to pass me off as the lackey who helped him do some little details of a project when in fact I was the program manager for the project. I tolerated his antics because he was helping me pawn off a project that my group didn't want, and the VP he was trying to impress is not the kind of guy I want to work for.

There are way too many freeloaders in megacorp. Most of them are so bad and lazy that they can't use half the standard business tools that a business person is supposed to know like the back of his hand.
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