Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Beware of dog - recruiter alert

What to do…
I am beginning to wonder if my temperament and demeanour is suited to certain interviewers, interview techniques or job prospects.
My CV is generally supposed to present me as an expert in a field of expertise where the simplicity of installation obfuscates the complexity of implementing useful solutions.
For instance, in my last project, the “Customer Solutions Architect” had spent the best part of 7 months installing a Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 environment which worked but was completely unmanageable.
Any administrator would have cried in frustration with simple day-to-day activities. A person with my experience and expertise would consider all stake-holders affected by any solution offered.
This comprises of the business, their requirements, the users, the administrators and any prevailing political and organisational influence that impacts the effectiveness of the solution.
My pitch sits squarely in realising solutions for the enterprise with due consideration of all resources provided and expected benefits. It means that one has to be authoritative, candid, truthful, realistic, resourceful and always honest.
Illiterate pimps
Starting with the interviewers, these are sometimes recruitment consultants in recruitment firms who usually have one thing in mind; the mark-up they can earn off your contract fee.
In some cases, there has been close to a 50% mark-up; it hasn’t really bothered me, because what is not negotiable is my fee at the first time of asking.
That is beside the point; it is when they have not taken time to read my CV that irks me the most. I used to be a director of a company called NextStep Limited in Nigeria then I got a call asking if I could offer programming expertise in NeXTSTEP software.
Then after 12 years of IT experience (I now have 18) of which 7 then were at a senior technical specialist level, sometimes in management, I get a call asking if I am interested in a trainee position. I have no problem with being a trainee if I am working on the launch controls at NASA.
However, apart from recruitment consultants, there are professional recruiters employed by organisations to sift prospective employees with bizarre questions and mind games.
Bouncers in the bank
The biggest bank in the Netherlands was recently on a recruitment drive which they co-sourced to an agency that was to weed out ineligible candidates along with agreeing certain terms of remuneration.
Having passed that hurdle, I met up with this male and female team of recruiters whose first onslaught was to refuse to interview till I had agreed to take a salary 15% below what had been agreed with the agency.
Evidently, this was on the paper sent to them by the agency well over a week before, and it could have been discussed with the agency who would have sought my consent or advice about going further or not.
In the circumstances, they blamed their lack of preparation on the agency where they should have paid more attention to the detail of the client to be interviewed.
Then the interview starts with “Give us an example of relationship building” – you must be kidding me.
Now, if I had only been working in IT 2 years, I would probably still be learning about how to get things done.
After 18 years, with the roles I have held and the beneficial things I have done in the organisations I have worked for … if my whole career has not been about building, maintaining and nurturing relationships, my career must have been a farce.
OK, maybe I am being a bit melodramatic, but after the salary haggling that would not have been worthy of a sub-continental marketplace or bazaar, I do not think I was in the mood for unimaginative recruiters.
They were like bouncers, you either have an invitation and we let you in, or you are going nowhere regardless of your relationship with the host.
They interview to an organisational mindset if there is one, or are just probably incompetent and answerable to no one especially when they can cover up their lapses.
At the poker table without chips
One other reason why I probably was not considered could be the fact that I decided to carry on the interview on the prospect of a better position, which they did not have to offer.
Interviewing with people who have no latitude on the one hand and then cannot recognise the skill you offer could as well be a dead-end.
So then, to another interview that is for the role of a specialist and I get the question “How do you set up a user?” – That is definitely taking the biscuit. Having worked in global enterprises, some sites have had well over 40,000 users along with their computers under my management.
They probably have not read my CV and if they had, maybe those questions are just to tug at my intellectual arrogance and the brooding “expertise complex” that beclouds the ability to deal with fundamental issues.
The truth be told
Aspects of a CV can sometimes look like they are too good to be true, then, ask for references; there is not reason to purvey falsehoods, the IT world is too small to get away with lies and sloppy work, you soon get found out.
Though it is gratifying when 10 years ago, was I walked into an interview they placed my in a room and I had to do a technical test. I then was hired within hours of that interview – I learnt that people doubted my abilities and I was baited with the test in which I attained the best ever score.
Beyond a good professional relationship with my manager which lasted 4 years including his taking over to another posting he had, we are still very good friends. Do I have to cry from the hilltops that I really am what my CV says I am? I am beyond exasperated.
At least, 80% of the work I have done in the last 10 years has been through networks formed off working with colleagues, managers or agencies – every now and then, I get a call asking about my availability for a project they have at hand.
I can fix that
All is not lost, I realise that I interview best when I am hired to fix something. At least the last few projects have involved my going in sort things out, mentor people and implement working solutions.
When people have questions, problems or appalling catastrophes requiring first a confident understanding of the issues and a good idea of how to chart from the rotten and bad through the acceptable towards the ideal coupled with availability in terms of both my expertise and time, I always get the job.
Probably, my wealth of expertise is also becoming a burden, I thrive in teams where I have something offer, something to share and something to learn. However, the mentoring aspect is gaining more significance when I embark on projects.
Projects are however, short-term, longer term contracts probably require that one be ensconced in management. This calls for a radical career re-alignment assessment; am I ready for that? 
Muzzle the dogs
Recently, it appears, I am not doing well with jobs that are mundane, routine and easy-going or barely anticipate problems, not because I am not qualified, but because I first have to outrun the dogs to get to the main door.
Sometimes the dogs make so much of a raucous the man of the house is forced to come out to calm the commotion and see who is trying to get in. Alternatively, I might just get Pedigree Chum laced with sedative, feed it to the dogs and walk right up to the door.
This is where; Mighty Mix and the dog food offer might be better appreciated than it has been in Kenya.
Once that happens, well, it is another notch to my CV.

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