In the software industry, we toss around terms such as “Holacracy,” “meritocracy,” and “collaborative environment.” We claim to hire for skills. That's not what I see. I see hiring managers hiring people just like them (mini-me's), people ...

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  1. Do You Hire for Confidence, Comfort or Capability?
  2. Top Job Search Articles of 2016
  3. Interview About Hiring Posted
  4. Why You Want to Hire Older People
  5. Many More Than Five Tips to Combating Ageism in Hiring, Summary
  6. More Recent Articles

Do You Hire for Confidence, Comfort or Capability?

In the software industry, we toss around terms such as “Holacracy,” “meritocracy,” and “collaborative environment.” We claim to hire for skills. That’s not what I see.

I see hiring managers hiring people just like them (mini-me’s), people who went to their schools, make similar life choices, and are roughly the same age. That’s because these people talk the same way. Too many people call this “cultural fit.” No, it’s not. It’s hiring people you are comfortable with.

How can you tell if you are hiring for confidence or comfort?

I agree, it’s nice to be comfortable with people. And, you can get that comfort if you hire for capability. Hiring for capability will even get you to cultural fit. Here are some ways to know what you are hiring for:

What you doYesNo
You have a job analysis, where you wrote down the essential personal qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills.
You have behavior-description questions that help you see what a candidate did, not thought about.
You have an audition to see a candidate perform work that's relevant to the open position
You're not so stuck on specific job descriptions; you are open to what the candidate can provide.

What if you do some of these things, not all? Here’s how I see this work when people hire:

  • When you create a job analysis, you go through the difficult thinking about what’s essential in a human being for the problems you need to solve now. You think about and decide what capabilities you need.
  • When you use behavior-description questions, you ask a candidate to tell you about the work that person actually did. This shows you their capability in many dimensions.
  • Auditions help you see how people work, especially if they work with people on the team to solve a problem.
  • If you want to increase the team’s general capability, you might be open to what a given candidate can provide you.

It’s easy to be wowed by a candidate’s confidence. It’s easy to look for someone comfortable, who might be just like you. It’s a little different to find someone with the capability to increase everyone’s throughput.


Top Job Search Articles of 2016

My friend and colleague, Jacob Share, puts together a list of the top job search articles each year. Yes, I have an article in there! See this ebook: The Top Job Search Articles of 2016. I hope you enjoy it!


Interview About Hiring Posted

The nice folks over at Paysa interviewed me and posted the interview at: Expert Interview Series: Johanna Rothman of

I had a chance to wax eloquent about a number of topics: mistakes people make in recruiting and hiring, and the job search. Enjoy!



Why You Want to Hire Older People

This morning, I read For Economy, Aging Population Poses Double Whammy (registration required). If you don’t read the WSJ, here are some interesting takeaways:

On average, every 10% increase in the share of state’s population over the age of 60 reduced per capita growth in gross domestic product by 5.5%.

The authors note: “An older worker’s experience increases not only his own productivity but also the productivity of those who work with him.” All else equal, experienced workers are more productive. One study found that productivity peaks at age 50, when productivity is 60% higher than for the average 20 year old.

Notice this: Productivity peaks at age 50. 50!! (I actually know I am more productive now than I was 10 years ago. I bet there are people just like me, out there.)

In high tech, we love the shiny new object (people with a couple of years of experience). They are less expensive. They appear to know the latest, greatest thing (tools and technology). And, unless they are extremely mature, they do not have the perspective and emotional maturity that older people do.

If you want to increase productivity (throughput in software), hire older people who have been successful in previous roles. Here’s why:

  • They know how to work, to finish their work.
  • They have seen your problem or something like your problem before. They have experience that can help.
  • They often know how to build connections between disparate people. (They build small-world networks.)
  • They understand how to persevere through the difficult times. (All projects have difficult times where people feel as if they are slogging through the project.)
  • They understand how to work with other people.
  • They are adaptable. (Have you thought about how software has changed since the 70s and 80s? Wowie zowie.)

Not everyone has all these qualities in the same amount. And, if you dare look for people over 50 (and over 60), you will find enough of these qualities that you will find a great employee.

Look for and hire someone older. If you need to, negotiate on salary. Remember, money is just one component of compensation. But, don’t think that the eager-beaver 20-something is the only person who will help you increase your throughput.


Many More Than Five Tips to Combating Ageism in Hiring, Summary

Let me summarize what you can do if you are a person of a certain age—maybe just over 30—and you want to find a job.

Prepare for your search in these ways:

  1. Look relevant to hiring managers.
    That means you will do whatever you need to do your resume:

    • Keep the resume to 2 pages or less.
    • Add technical skills for the ATS. (Yes, I know this seems crazy. Do it anyway.)
    • Show your value, especially with numbers for each job.
  2. Develop and use a target network to find people who will talk with you.
    With a target network, you will find people who like you, and jobs you like. Network online and in person. Discover where those people with jobs go for meetings.
  3. Showcase your qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills.
    As an older person, you might not have exactly the technical skill combination a potential hiring manager thinks they need. Instead, show how fast you learn and adapt. Show how you coach and collaborate. Show how you finish work so the organization can ship product.
  4. Create and practice the stories of your career. How have you solved problems in the past? What can you apply from the past to the present and future?

During your search:

  1. Be someone people want to spend time with.
    Look clean and neat. Make sure you are groomed properly. I am always surprised I need to say this, and I do. The older we are, the less forgiving people are about our appearance.
  2. Practice networking, in-person and online.
    You must leave your house to meet people in person. Meeting people in person is best for developing your target network connections, directly or indirectly. Also, develop loose connections online, as well as in person. Add more people to your network each day.
  3. Develop your loose connections. You are more likely to find a job via a loose connection than with a direct connection. Encourage younger people to connect with you. Use their connections to reach people in your target network.
  4. Practice interviewing. The best interviews are conversations. Practice your “let’s meet for an informational interview” pitch. Practice telling the stories of your career so you can showcase your work to its best advantage.

Here are the parts to this series:

Five Tips to Combat Ageism in Hiring, Part 1

Five Tips to Combat Ageism in Hiring, Part 2

Five Tips to Combat Ageism in Hiring, Part 3

MYJS_border.300Read more in Manage Your Job Search.

The people in the hiring “sweet spot” have between two and 15 years of experience. Once you have more than 15 years of experience, you will experience some form of ageism. Learn to organize and prepare for your search, so you can find your next job fast.


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