IT Employment

Have you ever been bamboozled by a job applicant?

Ever had a job candidate look great in the interview but, once hired, completely fail to meet expectations?

You are interviewing for an IT position on your team. You finally find someone who is personable and whose resume reflects the background needed for the job. You hire the person and then a few weeks later discover that that person is not who he represented. Either he doesn't have the skills he claimed to have or his personality completely reversed itself.

How many of you IT managers out there have ever had this happen to you? In a few days, we're going to run a piece about a bizarre situation in which an employee misrepresented himself to the point of identity theft. But we'd like to get an idea from you about how often the bad hire situation happens.

What do you say?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

52 comments
ThePoster
ThePoster

Many companies do a lousy job of deciding what they want in an employee, do not screen applicants appropriately, and are clueless when it comes to interviewing. They advertise for every skill under the sun, plus a sunny personality at just above minimum wage salary. Perfectly good resumes go into the bozo bin when a non-technical HR rep attempts to "screen" resumes by literally just looking for certain words or phrases. Then the candidate is assessed based on how similiar they are to the interviewer. Employers need to wise up to what set of skills a candidate should reasonably have. If the employer does not have that wherewithal, then they should hire a consultant to help in that area. Resumes should be passes straight from HR onto someone with sufficient technical skills to actually screen the candidates. Valid interviews should consist of open-ended questions, during which the interviewer should be quiet and listen to the responses. The objective is to determine just how much the candidate knows and to gauge how the candidate approaches certain scenarios. Getting that sort of information cannot happen if the interviewer is busy talking about himself. It is also a really good idea to have a couple of employees whose opinions are respected give their opinions of the candidate. Avoid silly games, like staging a "challenge" for the candidate. If you want to see how the candidate deals with difficult customers, then take them into the call center and have them take a couple of calls. Right there, on the spot. Employers need to be competent hirers, just as job seekers need to be competent candidates. Both sides need to put forth effort.

jennys.lists
jennys.lists

We once interviewed a smart young guy whose vast experience seemed too good to be true. His CV said he had built HP servers, but when i asked him a simple question regarding this, it emerged that his only experience with HP servers was to put a network card in one. Needless to say, we didn't hire him.

dba88
dba88

Try testing and teching. Test them to see if they know what they say they know. Have them teched by others in your company to see if they know what they say they know. Tech interviews can be done on the phone, but recommend face to face.

peter_my
peter_my

I have gone through this many times. Out of 10 only 2 wil come through.

larryecollins
larryecollins

I've had several senior executives from New York to Paris to Singapore tell me that they have learned when I say, "Don't hire them" and they do, they are sorry. Likewise, when I say, "Yes, hire them," they are pleased with the results. I'm male, so it's definitely not 'feminine intuition.' So call it a gift or call it a 6th-sense, but I seem to be able to look right through a person and know if they are not just skilled, but the right 'fit' for the company / department. I've been doing it since 1983, and I've only ever made 1 real hiring mistake - and that was only because the job requirements changed and the individual didn't want to adapt.

been_there_survived_that
been_there_survived_that

All seemed like it would be well until I discovered that I was in fact hosting another business of his on my company's web server. That spelled the end but after his departure I found out about other, well, unseemly things.

pbealtx
pbealtx

He was a computer operator, but applied for a programming position. When we found out that he had never programmed and didn't know anything about it, his reply was, "Well, they hired me!" I told him that this was not the right goal of an interviewee - to trick someone into hiring you. He was let go rather quickly - hope he learned his lesson!

heartbreakerz_1
heartbreakerz_1

i would have to agree with HMS-Hood, a lot of companies hiring now,want someone to run the entire IT department, with years of exp. and certs from every vendor there is. This is only for an entry level position within the company, and they are expecting this, and for only 65k, i would have to pass, as i think a lot of other would too

digitaldiva
digitaldiva

We've had a new hire that looked good on paper, aced the interview, and seemed personable enough for the position. They turned out to have what seemed like a split personality, stalked everyone in the office, and had frequent emotional outbursts. While they had decent technical skills to perform the job, the personality defects were so extreme they could never finish even the simplest tasks in timely manners (a 30 minute task took 3 weeks). There isn't enough room in this comment box to completely inventory the incompetence, personally as well as professionally. This person is gone now and I sincerely hope psychiatric care has been sought.

fergalk
fergalk

And what about bosses / companys who misrepresetn themselves? as has already been said - two sides to every story

dlovep
dlovep

Most of the native speakers IT guy can brag a lot, but when you ask them to do a simple task, they failed to do and keep telling me they need some time... afterall I got to tell them I need some more time to consider any pay raise...

Sylvain_L
Sylvain_L

I can't say that I've ever been cheated by an applicant but I have often been cheated by employers. Some will stoop very low to get candidates for low entry positions, I've had companies outright lie about the job descriptions more than a dozen times, even had a company that would fake interviews with "technical tests" in order to get free solutions to existing issues they were facing. After that, managers get surprised that employees get disgruntled or that potential candidates get sarcastic.

PSW60
PSW60

Only ever hire key roles on a probation period. I've only had to use it once but it makes life a lot easier and possibly even discourages the out and out fraudsters

Barshalom
Barshalom

In my last job, my supervisor and I interviewed a couple of candidates for an IT support position. One was an older candidate, the other a younger. I chose the older (not because of age but of credibility), but she wanted to go with the younger. He threw a lot of charm toward her in the interview which I think she liked. He talked real big about what he could do, so he got hired. After a couple of weeks, this guy had more drama than the daytime soaps. Always brought to work family issues, had to take days off, came in late, etc. etc. I wish she had gone with my choice, but oh well such is life. He never could deliver like he said in the interview.

draymond
draymond

I once had an IT assistant who could not perform many of the tasks he was hired to perform. He spent most of his time doing non work related tasks. He mistakenly saved a copy of a NEW resume he was working on (while working for me) in a folder that I reviewed weekly. I was not surprised to see his application to the IT department at Bridgewater College was FULL of lies about what his duties at our company were and ficticious businees applications he had created while on staff. The entire document was ficticious! It was a wake up call that's for sure!

gfmeyers
gfmeyers

I am someone who attempts to never misrepresent myself (because it usually ends badly). I never put skills on my resume that I barely have. I never claim expertise with tools that I downloaded and used for 5 minutes. (it's amazing how many people who say they have Linux skills because they once loaded Ubuntu on an old laptop) All that said, I'm highly qualified, have a long proven track record, and everywhere I have gone, I have been promoted and recognized. And I have a really hard time getting people to interview me, and when they do, they usually lowball me on salary. How can I beat this game without lying?

BrihanB
BrihanB

I dont think you know what you have until the person has been on the job at least 6 - 9 months. Everyone want to shine during the interview process including the employer. But as we know all that glitters is not gold...

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

On the other side, I once accepted a job that seemed awesome only to find that it, well, sucked. The culture was oppressive and I was micromanaged... not a good combination. Fortunately, this was quite a while back. On the hiring side, I have made a bad hire. He interviewed GREAT and the whole committee loved the person. Once the person started, it was obvious that the fit was extremely poor and that the learning curve was going to be much more significant than we initially believed -- and we couldn't afford it. This is why there are probationary periods; I used it. Scott

loren.saunders
loren.saunders

The employee should do their due diligence and ask difficult questions of the their potential employer to un-cover the nepotism or fake company culture etc. etc. to see if it's all as good as they claim. The employer meanwhile should personally give a technical test to the candidate, especially if it's for a technical position. The test should be ad-hoc, hands on, and without a computer... completely on paper or white board with questions like... "how would you... do a,b,c?" etc. This type of interviewing is common in non-technical interviewing as well. Bottom line, don't be afraid of reality, seek it out.

mforchette
mforchette

If you have talent and are applying for a middle level position and up (manager - CIO), the employee is motivated to lie. They want you and it removes you from their competition. Most often the future employer misleads about the company culture, IT budget, etc. They don't mention in the interview that the owner's son is the network manager and the owner's daughter's fiancee is the director of operations, etc.

jacob3273
jacob3273

Ever been stiffed by a dishonest firm? We contractors should watch them, too.

avgoustinosc
avgoustinosc

It happens once to me. We hired a lady and after 3 weeks she came back and told me that "I cannot share my knowledge with the other guys here. I was studying 3 years, i spend a lot of money and i will not give my knowledge to the others". :) I can assure you that i told her to leave INSTANTLY....This is not an IT person. The way i work and the way that my team works is to share all the knowledge since without sharing, you cant go too far...especially in IT Avgoustinos Constantinides IT Manager Andreas Neocleous & Co LLC

ShonnaK
ShonnaK

Has this not ever happened to you? It seems that most employers run into a situation at some point in their career where they've hired someone who does not meet expectations - seems this situation is more of the norm rather an exceptional one.

shasan
shasan

From my experiences, this happens most often to inexperienced interviewers. Let's face it, we all started somewhere and had to go through many interviewing experiences to refine our interview process. The trick is to make sure you've learned from your experiences, read books on interviewing and these days, with Social Media so prevalent, make sure you consume what other IT leaders are putting out there on this subject. Over the course of time you can build a successful hiring strategy that should help you eliminate this problem.

ChrisEvans
ChrisEvans

anyone in a hiring position who hasnt! This is the one great failing of interviews in that they are a skill in their own right. Applicants can be anyone they want to be within reason including outright lies and an act worthy of an oscar. That is why it is vitally important to get your recruitment strategy as accurate as possible and more importantly impose a rigid, structured probation period to ensure that if you have 'hired a wrong 'un' you are able to rectify the mistake without being forced to keep them by default.

macmanjim
macmanjim

Have you been the employee hired where it didn't work out? There are at least two sides to every story. Lets hear the others.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I was hiring for a fairly entry level position, not requiring a lot of experience or expertise. The contractor I hired came through an agency who vetted his resume. He had more than enough education, but about a year of practical. Since the job wasn't demanding, I took him on. During the interview, I specifically asked if he was ok with entry level programming that might be a little repetitve. He flat out said he realized he needed experience, and was willing to build it. At first things went well, he seemed to want to fit in and he did make some suggestions for improving the process that we acted on. But after 3 or 4 months, he seemed to get bored. His productivity took a nose dive, he came in late, he misrepresented his progress on his tasks, and he spent much more than average personal time on the phone or doing personal email. Twice I spoke to him about it. His co-workers were complaining that he was not pulling his weight, and they were frustrated that he was dragging the group down. I did terminate his contract. A year later I found out through a newspaper article that he had written a book during his time with us. That explained why he wasn't focussed, and a bit sleepy sometimes. After reading the article I also realized that his graduate courses were a fiction. We never used that agency again.

W.E.
W.E.

Can we have a similar poll on what the employer said would and didn't happen? You know, a comparison of what you were told you would get, what the company was like, and what you experienced.

darkmoonman
darkmoonman

But I have been forced to hire folks because of gender and race whom I knew weren't adiguately skilled.

jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

A couple of years ago, I was on an interview panel for a position within my own team, at the request of my manager. The panel consisted of myself and two Business Unit managers. The candidates were both internal, one someone I'd worked with for 3 years and the other someone coming from another department. Both had decent reputations withing the company and similar skill sets. At the conclusion of the secondary interviews, it was apparent that the gentleman from the other department had a lot more "polish" on presenting himself. We really found ourselves comparing candidate A (the person I already worked with) who could definitely grow into the role given 6 months or so, and be great at it, with candidate B from the other department, who really seemed to be able to come in and hit the ground running. In the end, candidate B received the position, with strong backing from myself. I even disregarded the misgivings of one of the other managers on the panel who'd worked with this gentleman, chalking it up to one bad experience. Needless to say, I quickly saw that I'd made a mistake. Once in the position, candidate B has shown no aptitude for getting things done, no sense of viewing things through the eyes of the customer, and almost no technical ability whatsoever. He leaned heavily on the experience of another technical person on the team almost from day one; to the point that this person's word (even when he's blowing smoke) is treated as gospel, with no ear to any dissenting opinions. To add insult to injury, my original manager has moved on to another position within the company, and this gentleman has been promoted into her position, effectively making me one of his direct reports. While I have no interest in a managerial position (I don't think there is anything wrong with a technical person staying a technical person), it is a constant reminder of how I failed to look past the "polish" and see the lack of substance. Not only did I do our team a disservice, but I believe I did a huge disservice to candidate A, who would have been great given some time to grow into it.

russklop
russklop

It is easy to ask experience and knowledge related questions in an interview, but far more difficult to get to the core of someone's work ethic, personality and productivity levels. These types of questions require forethought and mental agility during the course of the interview to extract the type of information for which you are looking. If an applicant is going to fall apart after hiring it is usually not because they don't have the knowledge, it is due to a lack of motivation and/or chemistry with the rest of the team. Prepare your questions ahead of time to make sure that you are getting a deeper look at the way an applicant is going to integrate with the team, and how productive you can expect them to be if you want to avoid this common and tragic pitfall.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Fortunately being a tad technical, I have the required skills to assess the candidate from a technical point of view. Personality is a bit too subjective anyway, just because you like them doesn't mean I will or vice versa. Only had one head, seemed to have washed recently, didn't threaten my family in order to get the job, that'll do for me.

mdtallon
mdtallon

More often, it hasn't been an issue competance, but work ethic. Two types: the worker who starts grooming for their next position the day they start, often skipping your priorites in favor of your budding up to your boss (or their boss... why not?). The other type has made work a subset of their total employment experience (social, personal, any distraction at all). We all have our various skillsets, some advise us to work on improving our weaknesses, others advise to use our time to hone our talents and shine in the areas we find ourselves most fit. I sometimes think of the mediocre interviewees who I have passed up; my field for several years was in many ways "a small circle of friends" and one candidate I had passed up moved on, and after a few years, formed his own firm, which became a major player in our area. He sold off his interests in his early forties and retired very comfortably. There are often too many factors to continually second guess, the important thing is to recognize miscalculations quickly and move on even faster.

glen
glen

Thanks to the tight jpb market, choices are few and far between. My wife works for the original "Ebenezer Scrooge" = the grandson of the founder who has never held a real job. Need I say more??

mudgie
mudgie

We don't take enough time when hiring and we take way too long to fire...

BillDodd
BillDodd

Always include someone in the hiring team who is not a specialist in your subject. Often you can be overtaken by your own interest in your subject and technical needs that you get blind to the interviewees persona and the underlying problems such as lying and social problems. I have been saved several times by using a friend with years as a local councillor. He points out to me aspects of the candidates that I am completely blind to. Also playing safe by employing people you are 100% sure of is a sure fire way of getting a drudge with no creativity. It can take up to 3 months for someones light to shine through, and that time to train someone up, a mistake in hiring is VERY expensive.

phills
phills

I always used one aptitude test battery, out of which two of the five component tests were 100% reliable, bi-directionally. I could predict performance from the scores, and I could predict the scores of people I inherited after observing them for a while. The other three component tests were useless. As a result of using the test, I often did what davidibaldwin wished he had done. I never regretted it.

davidibaldwin
davidibaldwin

It has been proven that I am terrible at hiring people. I have found out the hard way that people that test well often don't perform well. I hired two techs years ago that aced the paper test and were almost non-functional on the bench. Non-trainable also. I should have hired the guy that knew the basics and was ready and willing to be trained.

JamesRL
JamesRL

References are supposed to be used to confirm the details in the resume and from the interview. Many companies these days have official policies against giving a reference with any more details than Name, Title, salary, start date and end date. That keeps them from being sued if there is a problem with the reference. So many references are useless.

jgoodyear
jgoodyear

Me too. I took a job with a company that bent over backwards through 2 days of interviews with me to come on as a nice happy family. After a few weeks on the job I began to see the owners screaming fits, the manipulations and games, and the tense, edgy atmosphere. And I had left a great job to go there.

diane.guest
diane.guest

For one position I was hired to improve things inside the team. Having done as asked the management changed their needs and expectations. Sometimes the company is the one at fault, but they control the rules of this game.

Englebert
Englebert

The most qualified job seeker rarely gets the job. The one who does the best job at promoting himself does. When someone does an excellent promotion at the interview, watch out ! If something is too good to be true, it usually is.

sbarsanescu
sbarsanescu

I see this happening - especially when the job is in a corporation. There are 2 factors - the professional skills and the interpersonal abilities. It is my experience that inter-relation skills become more important with the size of company.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

I'm bad about judging an applicant by how well he he holds up swapping sea stories. I found one who seemed to remember the stories he had heard from truly experienced people. Combined with some papers showing lots of related military training and experience, he seemed a shoe-in. Recommending him was the worst mistake of my career. He didn't understand all he "knew".

fhrivers
fhrivers

Hiring managers who lean on aptitude tests and certifications are either lazy or have no clue how to hire IT positions. That's why we need more technical folks who used to work in the trenches to step up to the management plate.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Short of a complete twonk who's making a career out of trying and failing with a smile, someone who wants the job and wants to do it well, even if it's only to move on, is always better than a well read jobsworth.

HMS_Hood
HMS_Hood

I can't agree more. When I was in the field, our manager was a retired Navy Captain who was very smart, but not a clue about networks. But now that I'm a long-time tech manager, no one's hiring. Most companies in the DC Metro are want you to know 8 different programming languages, be a web expert, be a database guru, MS Project expert, troubleshoot networks all with ridiculous years of experience AND manage the team while doing daily project work. And let's not forget Agile, PMP and some other buzzwords of the day. Oh and we'd like that for 75k. Jack of all trades, master of none.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There are some good ones offered by people who seem to know there arse from their elbow. They are a much better first cut, than wordsearch which all these potential bamboozlers passed with flying colours....