(For Employers Only)

The other day I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when an IS executive called me for help on some positions in his department. Being in a peculiarly good mood that day, I really listened hard to his problem and jotted down a few notes. It seems that the firms they were working with weren’t coming through with the AS/400 talent they needed, so he asked me if my organization could try a new twist on solving the staffing problem. What was the new twist? Temp to perm. Something none of us have ever heard of — NOT! I told him that we would plug into this new angle with vigor and emailed the spec to my team of recruiters. Sure enough within a day or two a candidate surfaced who was very interested in the idea and we presented the resume with confidence.

The IS executive called the next day and relayed that they would not be pursuing the candidate. In the spirit of being a good sales man, I posed the time-honored question, “Jeez Glen, how come?” Well, Glen explained, it seemed that this candidate used to be a VP at one time, and now he is a developer. The IS executive felt that this was an unacceptable direction for the man’s career to be going and therefore he would not be a suitable candidate because- well— because he couldn’t really be that smart because why would a smart guy stop being a VP and become a developer?

I tried to explain to the IS exec that his employer “Bob’s Baked Goods” of Harvard Illinois was a one-man shop and my candidate was “the shop” so he shouldn’t put that much stock in the VP title cause after all, the candidate didn’t put that much stock in it himself (because what he really was, was a developer who had written about 40, 000 lines of RPG code last year), and he should be happy that an AS/400 developer wanted to work for him and go temp to perm like they wanted. I was sure that this would take care of the matter, but then the IS executive lowered the boom on me with an objection I just couldn’t’ handle. There was a misspelled word in the resume. I saw my life pass before my eyes and I knew the temp to perm concept for this candidate was down the drain with the Drano.

So why am I telling this story? One, I never want to forget this incident because it will become part of the folklore of the late nineties computer business. I want my grandchildren to hear this story and learn something about what grandpa did at work to try to avoid the millennium disaster. Two, I want to emphasize that the kind of mentality displayed with this situation is part of the reason why IS shops will fail to get their arms around Y2K problems. There isn’t enough time left for some companies to get fickle and reject good talent because the resume has a misspelled word, or because they imagine something horrible from looking at the resume.

This is about something bigger. Executives have to start being executives, delegate or outsource the work to professionals, and get out of the way. If the headhunter is good, he won’t want his reputation tarnished by referring a knucklehead for the job. A simple phone screen on the candidate my company surfaced, would have convinced the IS executive that he had someone on the line worth reeling in, but because of some wacky conclusion from a resume, they lose, the candidate loses, and the headhunter loses.

Oh, don’t worry about the AS/400 developer, he’ll get work. He may even get a little dishonest and put “Senior Analyst” on the resume instead of VP to avoid this kind of mishap in the future. After all, it’s all about the piece of paper anyway, right?

Steve Eddington