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Recruiting Ethical Problem

My employer has given me the task of growing our technical consulting team from three to six engineers in the next few months. We're trying to hire another software engineer, a security architect and a test engineer. All calculated to raise our score on the "Joel Test".

Unfortunately, over the last few months I have become increasingly dissatisfied with my employer and am now discretely looking for a new position. Of course, I have tried to bring my concerns to the attention of my boss, who is one of the co-founders; but I have had to downplay the severity of the issues because the NYC job market is still soft. I can't afford to piss off a tempermental boss and lose my job.

I'm uncomfortable recruiting for my company. However, because I have a background in technical leadership and engineering management, I can't just tell my boss that I'm no longer interested in leading the team.

Fortunately, the recruiting process has been moving very slowly; and my ethical conflict has been purely hypothetical. However, we now have a couple really sharp candidates scheduled for interviews. I sense a looming decision.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Jeff
Monday, December 01, 2003

You're a pro. They pay you to do something. Do it to the best of your ability until you leave the company.

pdq
Monday, December 01, 2003

As long as you hire good people, it doesn't matter.

Jason McCullough
Monday, December 01, 2003

Naturally, as a pro, I am doing it to the best of my ability; however, I'm feeling guilty because I'm essentially luring candidates into quitting their jobs to take a job for an employer I don't respect.

Even worse if I hire good people, because then they'll get fed up and want to leave shortly.

Jeff
Monday, December 01, 2003

Quit now or hire good people who will improve your work situation (maybe even enough so you no longer want to quit).

runtime
Monday, December 01, 2003

Just make sure you're honest with the new recruits.  Then you can fulfill your ethical duty to both your employer and the recruits.  (To the employer = ensuring that only people who will want to stay will get hired.)

That is, make sure that recruits know about the issues you're concerned about, as well as the things you like about your employer.  And, if you don't expect to be there, just describe their job as though they won't interact with you.  If they do interact with you, describe it as "you'll do such-and-such with the Foobly Engineer" (or whatever your title is), and if they ask, "And you're the Foobly Engineer?", just say, "Well, unless I get promoted."  :)

Phillip J. Eby
Monday, December 01, 2003

I was in a similar situation,  though I was hiring my replacement at a company that was seriously struggling.

I figured out a few questions that implied the problems the organisation was facing,  without stating them outright.  Most of the good candidates picked up on it.

If a candidate has no problem with the kind of things that are bugging you,  and they'll be good for the role.  Then you've done a great job.

Michael Koziarski
Monday, December 01, 2003

Jeff, you will be talking to "big boys" and "big girls" who know the score already.

Whenever I've interviewed with a lacking company or department I've *always* gotten a very clear vibe that there were problems, poor morale, or substandard practices.

If someone who comes in can't "read" you and read between the lines, then they need to learn in real life.

I am not recommending that you ignore this problem. I am also not recommending that you spin the truth if asked point blank. But I also don't believe that it's your responsibility to protect the career interests of people that your company interviews.

Your job situation counts, too. Watch out for #1, because nobody else will.

Bored Bystander
Monday, December 01, 2003

Q1: How would you deal with a situation where the team lead resigned a few weeks after you started?

Q2: What if he had already known he was leaving when he hired you? How would that affect your impression of the organisation?

You
Monday, December 01, 2003

"Okay, take a look at this printf statement... WRONG!!!!"

Nobody hired, no problem.

Philo

Wisdom trumps knowledge
Monday, December 01, 2003

>I'm feeling guilty because I'm essentially luring candidates >into quitting their jobs to take a job for an employer I
>don't respect.

You can do either of two things:

1) Tell your boss you see yourself as being unfit to do the hiring for the company things being as they are.

2) Hire the best people you possibly can, and act professionally. I think not all HR people respect their employers either. Chances are, if you can get candidates to start working for your company, chances are they will consider it a step up from THEIR present position.

Consider recruitment agencies, they dont repspect the companies they are head hunting for either, but can still hire someone.

Patrik
Tuesday, December 02, 2003

It's their choice; the best you can do is answer their questions honestly and then let them make it.  Not only are they perfectly capable of having different goals than you, you can't know what the situation they want out of is like.

If you describe things honestly and objectively, and they decide to take the job, they will gain something from it.  Even if, like one guy I hired, it ends up being, "I no longer seek employment in the food service or software industries."

Mikayla
Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Okay, so the consensus is to let candidates make up their own mind. I think I can live with that. The next question I have is how much information should I volunteer?

Should I mention in the interview that my boss would like to find a way to make the Test Engineer position billable? Or that he has refused to hire an IT support person because the Technical Staff can fix most problems and he can't find a way to make an IT professional billable.

I suppose I can state that we're looking to hire our first Test Engineer; and if the candidate asks why we haven't hired one before now (although we've done several multi-million $ software development projects for clients), I can explain the billable-position fiasco.

Jeff
Tuesday, December 02, 2003

>> Should I mention in the interview that my boss would like to find a way to make the Test Engineer position billable? Or that he has refused to hire an IT support person because the Technical Staff can fix most problems and he can't find a way to make an IT professional billable.

NOW I am starting to see the problems. :-(

>> I suppose I can state that we're looking to hire our first Test Engineer; and if the candidate asks why we haven't hired one before now (although we've done several multi-million $ software development projects for clients), I can explain the billable-position fiasco.

Ok, this is helping. If I were to interview a company and the explained that my position was not "billable" while most other positions in the business were, I would take this as a big fat red flag that: I would have a lot of unpaid overtime, poor compensation, little respect, and having to beg for other people's time.

Yes, your current employer is f***ed up. They have failed to educate their clients on *all* aspects of proper system development. It sounds like they bill only for development and they stay mute on IT support and test because that's the corner that the salesheads have painted all of you into.

Which is fine, IF they charge enough to pay for the "overhead" non billable positions adequately.  And I am getting the impression from you that they don't.

Do they? Or is my adverse reading correct?

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, December 02, 2003

When I told my boss that we needed to hire a Test Engineer ahead of hiring either the Sr. Software Engineer or the Security Architect, he nearly flipped. Although we have enough projects going on right now to keep a full-time Test Engineer busy, the boss was afraid to hire someone who might idle when software development projects (only 1/3 of our consulting business) dry up.

Frankly, I also question his dedication to either of the development positions (Sr. Software Engineer & Security Architect), because both are strictly engineering positions and are not intended to be client-facing, as is my position. You see, if the software development projects dry up (as they do from time to time) he can always assign me to other billable projects: writing research reports or feability studies. Most engineers do only one thing: write code.

Jeff
Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Sounds like the company I used to work for.  Your boss needs to make a decision,  if they're a body shop (just doing consulting) then maybe a test engineer isn't the right fit.  However if you're trying to sell software then a testing *team* is essential.

Trying to get quality 'shrink-wrapped' software out of a company set up for 'consulting and billing'  is an uphill battle. 

To your original question,  I'd explain the situation to the prospective hires.  Something like:

"We currently make most of our revenue from various consulting projects, including development.  Yours will be the first position that won't be strictly  billable."

Most candidates will pick up that their job security / satisfaction will be affected.

Michael Koziarski
Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Michael K., I like it!

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Just a follow-up: one of the candidates came in yesterday for his second interview (w/ COO and other Founder/Partner) and I had a nice "chat" with him for about 30 min afterwards.

We left the office and went to a nearby Starbucks (it's in the building, I prefer independents but I didn't want to brave the cold) to talk. I gave him a very candid outline of the company and its problems. I answered every question he had; and I told him he might hate the company after six months.

My boss had told him that bonuses can amount for as much as 50% of a consultant's salary. I corrected that misconception: while bonuses can make up a portion of the salary of any consultant who closes a sale, technical consultants are never credited for closing a sale. Plus, he was being hired as a Software Engineer.

Furthermore, I made it very clear that when negotiating salary, he should try to get exactly what he wanted rather than expect to get a raise for outstanding performance. I also gave him some hints on how to play to my boss' ego during the negotiations.

I made it clear that I was trying to solve all of the problems we discussed; but I was careful not to sound too confident that solutions could be found. I also tried to convey the fact that if the situation didn't improve, I wouldn't remain with the company.

Of course, I finished up by telling him that I would deny I said any of these things.

As I expected, he wants a steady job bad enough that he's willing to put up with the situation. But at least now he knows what he's getting into.

I don't know whether I can pull this off with the other candidates...

Jeff
Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Jeff, you stuck your neck out farther than most giraffes' for this guy. I guess it's one of those human decency calls that are impossible to make unless you're there, and I hope you can rely on this guy's discretion.

I think you're exactly the kind of asset that companies should try very hard *not* to drive away.

Integrity doesn't grow on trees. I'm impressed.

Bored Bystander
Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Blow a whistle on this company. Some how some way you have to tell someone above you. What is the worse thing that could happen? You get fired?  So what, you can get unemployment until you find a better job. The real question is... Are there ethical companies out there?

Best of Luck

Jen
Saturday, March 13, 2004

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