Readers Respond: How to Impress a Hiring Manager

Readers respond to Brian Jaffe's article on what impresses a hiring manager.

Your last statement revealed much more than the rest of the article on why you made the decision to hire that particular individual: He was the closest candidate to being just like you. I would be willing to bet (and Im not a gambler) that nothing else had as much weight in making your decision. Rather than looking at the persons track record, you were looking for a "clone" of yourself. Usually that is an indication of building your own team: one that thinks and performs the way you do. To a certain extent, "Yes" people! Maybe you should take a closer look at yourself on how you go through the interviewing/hiring process. Having someone on your team that challenges some of your proposals/decisions can be a good thing. No one is infallible.

Hope you dont mind a little critique from an ex-manager - left IT to start my own business.

Bernd Reimers

Good article. Some of the traits of the bad interviewee comes from the lack of common business sense and common courtesy. Thats why the comic "Dilbert" is such a hit.

Wai M Chong
Sutter Health, Integration Services

I read your article with the utmost interest, as I may be applying for the job [for which] you interviewed in the somewhat-near future.

I have a manager right now, a desktop manager, and I dont think this person is a fit at all, but ... got hired as a manager, after all.

It is a little bit eccentric to affirm that what you decided is the recipe to hire someone or to impress a hiring manager.

I do agree that skills, more technical than not, professionalism, attitude and all the other attributes you enlisted are the ingredients. I strongly believe that a degree is something that is very disregarded today and it is a BIG mistake. People who went through SERIOUS formal training, like a university [as opposed to] some MCE or MCSE courses, are very likely to think in a "projectized" way, [and] use logic and analysis in their fact finding. Experience enhances these, but without the foundation--and a solid one--you cant build a strong individual ready to manage others.

I too had to interview about 12 candidates for a team of six. I had to look not only at their skills but what they would bring to the team and how that team could evolve into a "performing" team in a short period of time. You did not touch on that at all. All you said was that this persons views or priority setting-technique matched yours. Well, we work in a team environment, and your view is not the only one.

Sorry--but I find your "recipe" very narrow-sighted. Quite superficial I might add.

I did, however enjoy the article.

Amalia Steiu

I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed your article. Its always helpful hearing real-life situations as opposed to only theory.

It was encouraging to read your views on education. I have an Associates degree and a few certificates in my field. I also have 20 years of experience, 10 of which were with my last company. However, even with continuous advancement, learning, etc., I have been told by many recruiters that my résumé doesnt get past the envelope because I dont have a BA, much less an MBA [or] CPA.

Thanks for sharing the experience.


Do you mean to tell me that you needed to interview 42 people (for how many months?) for a rinky-dink desktop manager position?

Do you mean that you dont know how to read a resume in less than 40 seconds to determine who has the skills and experience youre looking for?

Do you know what you put 42 people through?

It shows how out of touch you are in this brutal IT job market.

Perhaps you dont pay attention, but Ziff Davis (and all other IT publishers) ad pages are looking pretty thin these days. ... You may be the next one on the street.

Sean McDonald

[Brian Jaffe responds]

If it helps, the answers to your questions are:

1) Yes (I thought that was clear in my article). Three months (I thought that was also clear).

2) Its a skill Im still honing.

3) Yes, I put them through a 30- to 60-minute discussion, which allowed them the opportunity to learn about my environment and for me to learn about them. Those who wouldnt be invited back for a follow-up interview were told within hours, and their agent was given a brief explanation as to why they wouldnt be invited back.

4) Im sure that Im entirely out of touch with the IT job market in Wisconsin. But given my recent experience, I think Im well qualified to discuss the job-market in New York City.

I indeed may be the next one on the street. Thats the reality of employment at will, especially during a difficult economic climate. But, if I find myself unemployed, it wont have anything to do with Ziff-Davis; I dont work for them.

Brian Jaffe

[Your response] tells me you are either very cynical or you totally missed the gist of my message.

Let me try to clarify … :

You spent 42 hours screening your candidates. ... Whats your time worth to you? You should have phone-screened no more than five.

It took you three months to fill a rinky-dink desktop manager position, when it could have been done in two weeks. ... max. On top of that, you probably hired someone overqualified for the role and paid the person "circus chimp" wages and felt real proud of yourself for doing such a diligent job. ... Right?

My brother lives on 81st and 3rd Avenue in Manhattan (he worked for the Goliath Xerox...put a fork in em), and I frequently communicate with others in Manhattan. My point: The IT job market is the same in Manhattan ... maybe worse ... than Wisconsin.

Since its apparent you missed my point ... let me help you gain a clearer perspective. Perhaps you should read the publication you write for: There is a lot of desperation in the IT industry right now, and to have someone finally contact you for a potential job creates an unbridled hope that just maybe you might be able to find a job to save your home [and] your marriage and feed your family.

... And Im not talking about rinky dink desktop manager positions that should be filled in an afternoon. ... Im talking about CIOs of multibillion dollar companies ... people I know that have been [out] of work since March with 20+ years in the industry, [who] cant even find an advertisement or posting in order to send a résumé.

Try to grasp this: Youre an Oracle DBA Master ... youve invested 10 years of your life to immerse yourself in all aspects of Oracle. Youre earning low six figures because you earned your stripes working on Fortune 100 projects ... real brain-busters. Then, the consulting company youve worked for for 10 years goes bankrupt, and on top of that you read that Larry Ellison is going to restructure the company as an ASP so all customization and maintenance is done by Oracle.

Reality then hits you in the face when you realize youre a dinosaur, and youve wasted your life pursuing a path that leads off a 300-foot cliff. It then strikes you that there is limited time for the current situation to improve, or youre going to lose your home, and you have three kids to feed, house and clothe. Suicide doesnt look like such a bad option: Your life insurance would cover your mortgage and provide for the family for at least five years.

That is a very common scenario these days, regardless [of] the technical focus. Think Im smokin dope? Look at the résumés you received for that rinky-dink job, [and] note the number of overqualified résumés you received.

… Many in IT and especially in Manhattan ... note the missing pair of 110-story buildings at the Southern end of the island … are at the breaking point after sending too many résumés to remember, to too many Web site postings that they were overqualified for. Youre … out of touch with the effects of the IT collapse.

Guess what...youre next, regardless the industry or whether youre a freelancer. Publications ad revenues are sharply down...and many wont be around after the next 24 months ... when ad revenues MIGHT improve. Ziff-Davis wont need you.

The one good thing about living in New Jack City, theres always a fresh rat around the corner you can eat when youre real hungry .

Sean McDonald

[Brian Jaffe responds]

Sorry, Im still missing your point.

Somehow you think that the current economic climate should have altered how I filled the job. Whether I filled the job in three days or three months, I only had one spot to fill. No matter how I approached it, in the end, there would still be others trying to put food on the table and pay the rent.

Those three months will have been worth every minute, if the investment yielded the right individual.

How would things be different if I hired the fifth candidate, within two weeks, as you suggested? Would that change the world for you? Or others? It may be circus-chump wages. But it was the maximum approved for the job.

Why should the level of the job alter the recruiting effort? Whether hiring a CIO or a data-entry clerk, the goal should always be to find the best possible candidate.

Whats wrong with creating hope? If I hired the fifth candidate, the other 37 would not have had a chance. Isnt some chance better than none?

Im not a freelancer (although I do freelance writing). Ive been dropped by Ziff-Davis before (after four years of writing columns). Happily, they brought me back just a few months later to begin this assignment.

Brian Jaffe

Thank you very much for your work on the IT Manager handbook as well as your words of advice regarding what a hiring manager is looking for. I have been practicing my interviewing skills with managers in hiring positions (unrelated fields, but people with good feedback) and your advice will serve well those who read it.

Your words were candid and concise and a worthwhile read for all.

Thank you for sharing your expertise and experience.

Donna DeAngelis