How not to attract and retain an I/S professional

The information systems (I/S) staffing crisis seems to be a lot like the weather. Everyone complains about it, but nobody does anything about it. As the I/S education and training columnist, it is my responsibility to provide helpful information to solve problems like this. So, I did some research and talked to like this. So, I did some research and talked to 100 I/S professionals to find out what they looked for in an interview, and what made them want to stay at a position once they were hired. The tips you are about to read are true, only the names have been deleted to allow these people to interview for new jobs -- and almost all are looking!

How to hire

The management had installed a new Oracle system and desperately needed experienced Oracle developers and project leaders. These tips were gleaned from various candidates who were interviewing with a large retail video rental and sales store.

* Keep the candidate waiting for 25 minutes.

Invite a senior technical person for an interview, then treat him or her like a new graduate and give an unannounced test.

* Ask senior technical people to take a test on a subject they know nothing about and then criticize them for a lack of knowledge in that area.

A large check printing and electronic payment systems company had a methodology manager position open for about four months when it invited a highly qualified candidate for an interview. The following tips are from the experience of just one person.

* Tell interviewees during the interview that you will be reorganizing shortly, and you have no idea what will be happening after they are hired.

* Extend the hiring process for months with no contact for weeks.

* Ask a highly qualified candidate back four times and then have no contact with the candidate for at least two weeks.

* Tell candidates you will be taking them to lunch and then take them to the company cafeteria.

* Leave them in a conference room alone for 25 minutes with no directions to the bathroom.

* Have the candidate interview with an HR person who talks slightly louder than a Boeing 747.

* Have the candidate interview with an Human Resources person who asks questions that have no discernible connection to the job.

Since May 1997, a large retail pharmacy chain has been trying to fill a technical writing and training manager position. Perhaps the experiences of several candidates for that position will help the company improve the hiring process.

* Post an ad six months before money will be available for the position.

* Use contract recruiters who do not understand I/S and are rude and discourteous.

* Have the candidate interview with a new HR professional who at least attempts to make people think they know everything about I/S when they only had one MIS class in their masters degree.

* Tell interviewees during the interview that you currently have a hiring freeze.

* Tell interviewees during the interview you are being acquired and the I/S function will be eliminated.

A large midwestern food producer had recently experienced a large increase in turnover in its I/S shop and attempted without much success to hire several new employees.

Oddly enough, it did manage to hire two new employees -- one who left after a month, and a male who sexually harassed his manager (a female) for the first three days of this tenure before being terminated for attempting to kiss the manager during a disciplinary meeting with an human resources representative present.

Thanks, but no thanks

These tips are from those candidates who did not accept offers.

* Have disgruntled employees interview candidates.

* Have employees who are about to leave interview candidates.

* If candidates are late for an interview because they were hit by a car crossing the street to an interview, tell them it was bad planning on their part.

* Hire managers that scream at candidates for no apparent reason, then promote the manager.

* Tell a candidate you are taking them out to lunch, then make them sit in the back seat of a car with no back seat while you and one of their subordinates-to-be sit in front.

Few organizations can compete with the government in the hiring process. These tips are from candidates who interviewed with the several different agencies at the federal, state and local level.

* Tell interviewees during the interview they must join a union that is currently on strike, has successfully negotiated pay raises for the next three years at half the rate of inflation and has a policy of no internal job changes for the first three years of employment.

* Tell interviewees during the interview that the I/S function is being eliminated in two years, and they will be terminated at that time with no severance pay or benefits.

* Tell candidates for a manager position that they will be forced to have a secretary with a history of mental illness and instability, as well as a very bad attendance record.

* Hire candidates with the promise of a promotion within six months, then ignore them for a year.

* Hire candidates and then place them in a group lead by a sociology major with six months of I/S experience. When they complain, move them to a group led by a chemical engineer with four months of I/S experience.

* Ask candidates if they want to see what's under the bandage on your neck.

Retaining I/S employees

Once you have hired these valuable professionals, you must retain them to provide for the continuous operation of your I/S shop.

Often, retention means the inconvenience of listening to employees, and then trying to meet their needs within the limits of company policy.

Here are some retention tips from I/S professionals who attempted to get their organizations to listen. Of course, those shops showed good common sense and ignored the employees, consequently ridding themselves of those pesky people.

A large direct mail company had grown very quickly. To retain and reward the employees who had helped them grow, the I/S shop promoted many employees to leadership positions.

Unfortunately, this did not work out quite the way the I/S managers had intended, and turnover went up. Here are some tips on retaining employees from those who left.

Promote individuals right out of school to positions of power even though they have no skills in the area and have them hire lots of experienced professionals to "back them up."

* Glad hand employees.

* Give fake praise.

* Ignore them for weeks.

* If they need to see you, tell them you will talk to them later and then ignore them for weeks.

* Deliver their birthday gift certificates at least one month late.

More tips ...

Consulting firms are known for being kind and fair to employees. That's why there is such a low turnover rate at those firms. I asked some employees who left their consulting company why they went to other shops. They offer the following retention tips.

Overrule managers in favor of their staff in front of the staff.

* When employees do something well, do not praise them. Instead, criticize them for filling out their performance appraisal form incorrectly.

* Assign an employee to a very important project and then put the project on hold for weeks while senior I/S managers fight political turf battles.

Ignore important employees until they resign, then tell them they are important and you wish they would stay.

* When employees tell you they are interested in moving into a different area of I/S, tell them that there are not any

* Two weeks later, when they resign, tell them there are openings in their area of interest.

Quality matters

Manufacturing companies typically employ strict quality control practices. Thus, you would expect them to use those same practices in I/S and in managing their human

Of course, I/S organizations are special, and those types of restrictive practices would simply interfere with the creative process. Here are some tips on retaining I/S employees in a sensible, caring manner.

* Hire a contractor at twice the annual salary of an employee, and then make sure the contractor does nothing for at least three months.

Force managers to hire an employee they dislike.

Tell employees that they can go to lunch, give them no time restriction, and then yell at them when they get back because you had a deadline you did not communicate to the employee.

*Only hire I/S managers that dislike change.

* When an I/S employee successfully manages a large conversion project to a zero-defects conclusion, reorganize the department in such a way that the employee is completely dead-ended in their career.

Obviously, the employees interviewed for this column showed poor common sense in leaving their positions. How could anyone not like the companies mentioned herein?

Hopefully, readers of this column will copy this column and distribute it to the appropriate hiring managers in I/S departments around the world. Only then will we see a significant decline in I/S staffing shortage and retention problems. Happy April Fool's Day!