March 8, 2013

IT Hiring Lessons from Aziz Ansari

Aziz AnsariAziz Ansari is a funny guy. And while he’s been involved in lots of hilarious projects, his one-hour standup special Dangerously Delicious is one of my favorites.

In one bit during Delicious, Ansari begins describing a common scenario he encounters when courting women over text message. He mentions that he’ll text a woman, she’ll quickly text him back and this cycle repeats itself many times over. However, as soon as he asks, “So, wanna get pizza on Tuesday?” she stops answering.

Ansari then describes that such a woman will often get back to him hours later with some rationalization for the tardy response, but it’s too late. He informs her that she has been uninvited to the pizza party and that he’s already eaten with his friend Brian.

Now while many might assume that this short clip is useful for entertainment purposes only, this scenario is actually highly relevant to the IT hiring process. Think I’m crazy? Let’s take a closer look.

How it applies:

Imagine the scenario in which your company has an open technical position and you’re in the process of ‘courting’ a solid potential candidate. You bring him/her in to meet with appropriate members of the team and everything seems to be meshing. It’s just like the start of Ansari’s story when the lines of communication are totally open.

However, the candidate then begins to ask for feedback and when a decision will be made. The bomb has been dropped he/she is ready to move past the small talk and take the relationship to the next level. But, you’re not ready to give him/her an answer just yet because you have too much bureaucratic red tape to cut through before an offer can be made. So everything gets slowed down. Communication is now stalled.

From the candidate’s vantage point, now it’s like waiting for that text that never comes for Ansari. As a result, the candidate becomes frustrated and gets proactive with a competing firm that has more efficient and transparent processes, just like Brian’s.

Therefore, even if your firm gets back to him/her down the road with good news, the moment has passed. The candidate has already lost faith in your offer, turned to someone else and retracted your invitation to the pizza party. What a shame.

Why it matters:

It’s important to remember that in Ansari’s bit, he’d much rather have shared his pizza with the woman than with his friend Brian. But, even though the female was  a more desirable dining partner, that attraction wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of responsiveness and he went with his next best option.

So to, even if you’re company has more sex appeal than others in your industry, it won’t likely be enough to reel a candidate back in once they realize you have a slow or wishy-washy hiring process. As such, so as to not lose great technical candidates that get into process with your firm, consider two things:

1. How urgent is your need?

If your firm needs to hire a new CTO or any other high-level, business critical position, all staff members need to understand that it’s crunch time. Having these kinds of seats empty means that projects are being delayed, work is piling up and other staff members are likely getting burnt out trying to pick up the slack.

If that’s the case, your company can’t afford to be slow with next-level candidates interested in the position lest you risk losing him/her to another opportunity. In this circumstance, you would be best advised to catalyze processes and get to an offer stage as quickly as possible.

On the other hand, if the need is for a level-one help desk support person, you can afford to take a bit more time since that work is more easily outsourced or spread to other employees (even though it is still advisable to move quickly with good people at any level).

2. How hot is the market for the type of technical professional you’re trying to hire?

It is important for hiring authorities to understand the demand for the professionals they’re looking to bring on board. You can start tackling this question with independent research, which will bring you to resources like The January 2013 Dice Report. This resource shows the results of’s most recent hiring survey in which more than 1,000 hiring managers and recruiters expressed their top staffing priorities.

Mirroring the results of the 2012 hiring survey, Java, .NET, mobile and software developers were among the top five most sought after positions in the job market.

Similarly, the October 2012 Dice Report shows that demand for software developers is at an all-time high with more than 14,000 job postings published on Dice on any given day requesting software development know how.

Dice data also indicates that the most bustling regions for IT hiring in the country are currently New York City, Washington DC and Silicon Valley.

Moreover, by speaking with trusted vendors, you might discover that professionals working with trending technology Microsoft SharePoint are virtually flying off the market (as SharePoint consultant Samuel Sabel mentioned in an interview ‘the dirty secret is you don’t even have to know anything about SharePoint other than its name and you’ll get a job.’)

With that in mind, if you think you can rest on your laurels with these in-demand technical professionals (especially in one of those bustling geographic regions), you bear immense risk that they will get scooped up by someone else who moves faster.

By contrast, if you need less in-demand technical skills like Mainframe or COBOL, you may be able to take more time with fewer consequences (although again, it’s never advisable).

3. What to do when your need is urgent or the skills you’re hiring for are in high demand?

  • Schedule interviews as soon as possible: If you get a resume with rock star experience, skills or certifications, get that person into process as quickly as possible … day of or the following day if possible.
  • Have candidates meet with necessary team members on the same day: For most important IT positions, candidates need to meet with a combination of human resources folks, senior developers, business analysts and C-level leaders.

With that in mind, rather than making a candidate with rock star experience, skills or certifications come into the office multiple times (during which he/she could be getting into process with other firms), do what you can to streamline the process and knock out all the interviews in a row so that you can get to the offer stage as quickly as possible. It might take some pushing, but it will be well worth it when you have the tools to make a decision faster than the next firm. And considering the skills gap so many employers complain about, it would be a shame to lose a capable person who could have hit the ground running on day one because you have a rigid two-month hiring process.

The bottom line:

In Ansari’s example, the character who takes a long time to respond to his text has minimal consequences. She loses the opportunity to go on a date with a funny guy. Not the biggest deal. But, when you go cold on candidates because of convoluted and overly-complex processes, the consequences are far greater … you lose a potentially awesome team member and your brand can suffer.

According to an interview with CareerBuilder’s Senior Director of Talent Intelligence and Consulting Sanja Licina, pokey and non-responsive hiring companies leave candidates with negative impressions of those firms. As a result, they are liable to tell their network about their negative experience and even boycott that firm’s products or services.

With that in mind, try to streamline as much as possible and get feedback to in-demand IT candidates without that uncomfortable lull in communication. This will convey that your firm has conviction and loyalty, knows what it wants and takes its talent search seriously … all factors that would motivate candidates to accept an offer.

But, when streamlined processes are impossible (perhaps a key interviewer is on vacation), at least leave the candidate with a positive impression by being a next-level communicator. An inability to give a finite yes or no may lead candidates to pursue opportunities elsewhere, but keeping them in the loop every step of the way may at least keep your invitation to the pizza party on the table.

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Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist at Infusive Solutions, an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network specializing in the placement of .NET, SQL Server and SharePoint developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help-desk support professionals. Follow them on Twitter @InfusiveInc.