Sunday, November 4, 2007

How to Reduce The Schmuck Factor

Anyone who has been in the workforce long enough has had the opportunity to work for, or with, someone who really didn't fit in, didn't perform up to expectations, and basically made you wonder if your employer received some sort of tax credit for keeping this individual employed. It is these individuals that we loving refer to as "Schmucks".

We all have Schmucks. If we are honest, we can agree that we all are subject to our temporary moments of Schmuckdom.

Based on the fact that, on average, 20% of the sales people generate 80% of the sales, the "Schmuck Factor" in most sales teams is higher than in the rest of the organization. Ever heard of "20% of Developers writing 80% of the code" or "20% of Client Supporting handling 80% of the issues"? Nope. Its just sales.

So where does it start? How do schmucks invade our teams, consume our time and resources, and still manage to under perform? Naturally it begins with the hiring process.

Hiring is the process of evaluating and projecting the productivity of human capital. One of the most common flaws is not having HR directly involved throughout the evaluation and hiring process. Most see it as an extension of the responsibility of those with little to no training in this area.

The sales manager hires the sales people, the VP of Development hires the programmer, etc. While these individuals have a level of mastery in their disciplines, that bears far less indication on their ability to evaluate talent than conventional wisdom would dictate.

Sales, Programming, and Hiring are all best executed when a team of professionals can come together and Plan, Prepare, and Execute on a strategy.

Conditions for Throwing the Schmuck Flag

While my track record is far from perfect on making hires, here a few items and practices that you can use to weed out the viable candidates from the next poster child for the Schmuckular Association of America.

Resume and Interview Red Flags

  • Long Periods of Unemployment

“I have been taking care of my sick mother/father/aunt/dog” is one of the most common responses you will see when there's a gap in employment.

  • Series of Short Term Jobs

Now you have to cut the candidate some slack with this one. In technology, mergers, acquisitions, and implosions are quite common. However if you are looking at a series of short-term jobs 6 to 12 months in length, and the companies are still around, that should be a red flag.

  • Many Unrelated Jobs in Work History

In close knit industries a really bad apple will have a tough time finding a job. So if you see someone go from widgets, to gadgets, to midgets in consecutive moves be aware.

  • Typos, Poor Spelling, Grammar on Resume

I'll admit it, Ive had a typo on my resume for a few weeks before someone clued me in. I'm a lousy speller and it just didn't catch my eye. For the record I had numerous professionals review my resume and it was my professional doc writer who caught the mistake.

  • Lack of Progression in Job History

“I have been an assistant bookkeeper for 20 years” = I haven't been promoted in 20 years.

  • Vague Descriptions, Rounded Dates

Can you imagine what the Enron team's resume's look like? “Worked for one of the fastest growing and dominate companies in the 1990s, then took time off to care for my sick father, mother, and aunt.”

Interview Red Flags

  • Late or Tardy without Legitimate Explanation
  • Dressed Poorly
  • Overly Cocky
  • Stresses Personal Beliefs Too Strongly
  • Overly Defensive
  • Perceived Vendetta Against Former Employers

A Lesson Learned

This guy comes to our team through a recruiter. The recruiter says that the candidate matches our "must have" criteria, but really doesn't share any additional or ancillary information or provide his "gut-feel" for the candidate. (Red Flag #1)

Given the candidate's background with one of our major competitors, we jumped at the chance to meet/hire him. We were a smaller, start-up and were practically salivating over the insight and competitive intelligence the candidate bought to the table. (Red Flag #2)

We flew the candidate in to our corporate HQ for an 11am meeting. He arrived, sans coat and tie and looking a bit disheveled. He explained that he spilled coffee on himself and he had to rush to the mall for a new shirt and pants. Looking back, and this will be important later on in the story, he smelled an awful lot like mouthwash.

The candidate spent the day in the office, meeting anyone and everyone under the sun. Everyone was impressed by his aggressiveness and take no prisoners attitude... we hired him immediately. We really didn't evaluate any criteria other than how aggressive he could be, nor did we do any background checking via personal networks, nor did we subject him to any standardized personality tests, because other than the overpowering aroma of mouthwash, the new change of clothes, and the demeanor that bore a striking resemblance to Al Pacino in the climatic shootout in "Scar Face", nothing seemed out of the ordinary. (Red Flags out the wazoo)

The biggest flaw in this process was us. The hiring team was so inexperienced and immature that there were numerous mistakes made based on sheer lack of expertise and alpha-male egos that dispelled any thought of asking for assistance.

Less than 12 months later the candidate would, as part of his retaliation for being fired, send a company-wide email that would eventually wind up on a blog.

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