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Why Your Company Isn't Hiring Great People...

SOURCE: Published: 2012-03-12
If you're working in music, you're working in a highly unstable, quickly-shifting industry with tremendous risk and uncertainty. Which is absolutely awesome except for people that like to punch the clock. But if we can all agree that great people are required for any great organization, why are we constantly hiring bad or simply adequate people?

At SXSWi—and in the broader tech space—the near-religion is that great ideas require great minds to execute against those ideas. Mark Zuckerberg even buys companies at huge multiples just for the talent, and it's a mantra among VCs that the team is just as important as the idea. But there seems to be all sorts of disagreement over how to hire and retain those people, and why certain 'great' people somehow aren't so great in certain organizations. “We have over 100 years of data on this," said HR expert Laurie Reuttimann, whose past gigs include Pfizer. “And I don't think we know a great employee from a hole in the wall."

And here's the sad part: if you've ever hired people, you've probably hired bad people thinking they were great people. Or, accidentally hired smashingly awesome people that have changed your organization. But Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT, argues that we're frequently hiring to solve the most immediate, pressing problems instead of investing in a longer-term resource. So, your digital delivery system is crashing under its own weight, and you need someone who can triage that right now. In nine months, that person is not necessarily the greatest resource. “It's a transaction, not an investment," Schrage said.

But there's another huge problem. Companies—especially in highly-innovative pockets like Silicon Valley—are frequently chasing down the same MBAs and programmers, and looking for the exact same things on a resume. Which is why IGN president Roy Bahat came up with a totally different system: he posted a difficult problem set online, then invited a select number of programmers that successfully solved the problems into a 6-week 'training' course. Bahat explained that out of 75,000 people that approached the problem set, 100 solved it, 28 were brought into the session, and one-third of those were hired.

But here's where it gets crazy: a lot of those people didn't have the shiny resumes that companies typically look for. In fact, some were totally pigeon-holed into other areas like QA, and desperately wanted to get into programming. Others didn't have college educations, but were remarkably talented and finally got a shot. “The resumes were all over the place," Bahat explained, while noting that those hired were completely thrilled. “They were taking pictures of the place on their first day."


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This story appears courtesy of Digital Music News.
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