The last quarter of 2021 was manic. I’d already “lost” one of my team, who was working his notice period before joining a competitor, when another team member told me he’d decided to follow opportunities outside the company. All of a sudden, my delayed decision to recruit (over concerns about keeping the team busy) became an urgent need to recruit two experienced Solution/Enterprise Architects, just as our workload hit a spike.
With a lack of internal candidates coming forward (often the good technical Consultants want to stay close to tech), I discussed the issue with my senior management team and we advertised externally for two Enterprise Architects.
Finding the right candidates
I’ve recruited before, but this was the first time I’d been a Hiring Manager at risual. In my experience, every company has a different approach to recruitment and practices change over time too. I was fortunate to be working with a fantastic HR Advisor, who helped me specify the role (having an up to date Job Description helped too). Over the next few weeks, adverts went out on Indeed, on LinkedIn, and through various recruitment partners. Slowly, but surely, the CVs came rolling in.
Whilst we all put a lot of effort into creating CVs, they really are just the “foot in the door”. The first sift happened before they even got to me. Of those I saw, I rejected some because they didn’t seem to relate to the role as advertised. Maybe those candidates had the experience, but it wasn’t clear from their CV. I was recruiting for two senior roles and some people seemed to take an opportunistic approach. Other CVs were too long, listing everything the candidate had ever done over an extended period. There’s a fine balance between not enough detail and too much. Just remember that, although you put hours into writing that CV, it may only get a 30 second skim – or perhaps a bit longer if you manage to grab the reviewer’s attention.
I also saw CVs with typos. And I wanted to meet a candidate who looked fantastic but had neglected to include contact details. And, sadly, I saw well-formatted CVs that had been butchered by the recruitment agency’s topping and tailing.
In the end, I decided to meet with around half the candidates whose CVs I’d reviewed. Actually, it was slightly more than that but we had problems contacting at least one candidate (as mentioned above) and others had already accepted roles elsewhere (including one who only told us when we contacted him a couple of hours before his planned interview). This is a fast-moving market and, right now, it’s definitely favouring those looking for a new job over those looking to hire.
With CVs sifted, the remaining process would be an interview with myself and my manager (as the hiring team), some personality and numeric/verbal reasoning tests, and finally an interview with the Chairman and the CEO. The aim was to move quickly – from first interview to offer in around a week.
I remember the first time I ever took part in an interview (from the hiring side). My then-Manager, a wise Managing Consultant by the name of Mark Locke, told me that it’s quite simple:
- Does this person know what they are talking about?
- Can I work with them?
This advice still holds true today. It’s pretty obvious, pretty soon, when an interview is going badly. The good ones are pleasurable.
Looking back, I can call out some really enjoyable discussions at interviews that went on to be great hires. One in particular (back in my days at Fujitsu – and before Microsoft Teams) was unavailable when I called his mobile phone (he’d been driving for work and struggling to get a signal at the appointed time) but, after we rescheduled and finally got to speak, my initial impressions were overturned by someone who turned out to be an extremely talented Project Manager with a passion for technology. We went on to work together before his career went from strength to strength. These days he’s a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft and he’ll know who I’m writing about if he still reads this blog.
As a candidate, I’ve written previously about some shocking experiences but my risual interview was different. I was a bit put off when Alun Rogers told me he reads my blog (back in the days when I used to post more!) but it felt like it had gone well as I drove home later. It really did feel like “just a chat” and I enjoyed meeting Al and Rich (Proud). Similarly, when David Smith had interviewed me a few years earlier to join his Office of the CITO at Fujitsu, I just had a feeling that things had gone well.
For my recent hires, I had formal criteria to assess against but my Manager and I had also worked out a set of standard questions to structure our conversations with the candidates. Each hour-long interview had at least that long spent writing up and reviewing the notes, as well as prep time. And all of that had to fit around my management and delivery roles – so November and December 2021 were intense!
What did I learn?
The whole experience taught me a lot. That’s why I’m sitting here, in the gap between Christmas and New Year, writing about it (whilst it’s still reasonably fresh in my mind).
First of all, I realised that the same question can elicit very different responses to the one that was first expected. And, just because someone has a different view to me, doesn’t make them wrong. A gut feel about being able to work with someone is good but, if you only look for people who think like you, it won’t do much for the diversity of the team.
Having said that, for the candidates who looked me up on LinkedIn (and there were some – good interview preparation, I’d say), you don’t have to go far back on my blog to see a post about what I expect to see in an IT Architect…
I also (re-)learned that interviewing is hard. Not only is it demanding from a cognitive perspective but there is a lot of work to do both before and after the interview. And not doing that is not giving the candidate the respect that they deserve – I will always put in the effort.
Interviewing is enjoyable too. No-one wants to see anyone struggle and, as I wrote earlier, I genuinely enjoyed some of the discussions I’ve had in the past and the same can be said for the ones in recent weeks (though I’m not going into specifics here for reasons of confidentiality).
I learned some other things too – things that I can’t write about here because they relate to specific details of individual hires but which were nevertheless valuable in me learning to trust my own judgement (e.g. after having to interview alone, instead of as part of a team).
And I learned that not all the advice given by recruitment partners is correct. Again, I won’t go into details but the right candidates are out there.
I was also intrigued by the personality tests. So much so that I asked if I could do them myself. I completed them before I left for the Christmas break and I’m looking forward to seeing how I compare to the candidates we’ve recruited when I get the reports. Again – I’m not looking for people who think like me… but I am looking how the tests assess me and how that relates to the way I think. It might also be useful to see how middle-aged me compares to younger me.
Looking forward and rebuilding the team
Now, as we go into 2022, I’m really excited to have two new starters joining my existing team, to help shape our future and support the company’s growth plans. As for the guys who moved (or are moving) on – I genuinely do wish them well. I know one is having a great time in his new role and the other has an exciting opportunity lined up. I’d rather we were all working together (new hires and “the old team” together), but I’m also a realist and sometimes the best thing to do is to support people in taking their next steps.
As one former Managing Director used to say when signing off his communications… Onwards!