Friends Should Not Help IT Managers Make Hiring Decisions

When it comes to hiring, social media may not be your friend
When it comes to hiring, social media may not be your friend
Image Credit:
Mike Mozart

No, hiring someone is probably not something that you do every day of the week. However, when you do do it, it is a very important task. You really need to pick the right people to join your IT team if you want to keep its performance high. This of course leads to the big question of what is the best way to select the right person. A great number of us tend to rely on people who are recommended to us by people whom we respect. However, is this really the best way to go about making this important decision?

What We Can Learn From The NBA

I must confess that if someone recommends someone to me when I’m in the process of trying to fill a position on my IT team, then I’ll give it a lot of weight and there is a very good chance that I’ll end up hiring that person. However, the researchers who study such things are telling us that this may not be the best thing to do – when we handle hiring this way, we tend to make a lot of mistakes.

The researchers wanted to find out what the impact of managers making hiring decisions based on recommendations from their network was. It was the impact of that decision that was going to be the hard part to measure. They looked around for areas where they could both collect data and make measurements and in the end they discovered the National Basketball Association (NBA).

One of the reasons that studying the NBA was so attractive was because of the immense amount of data that was available to the researchers. They had 34 years of data and the records from 146 different managers. These were the managers who were able to find new players for their team through their personal contacts. In most cases these personal contacts came from the manager’s former professional basketball team.

What the researchers discovered was that the managers who used their networks to find new players ended up creating basketball teams that underperformed teams that had been created by managers who did not use their networks to hire new players. Basketball teams who hired players by using the manager’s social ties with a former employer ended up winning 45.2% if their games. However, teams that were built not using a manager’s social ties ended up winning 50.2% of their games. Using just a single player who was hired using social ties had the impact of lowering a team’s ability to win by 5.2%.

Why IT Managers Make Bad Hiring Decisions

So this is all very interesting; however, I would venture to say that none of us are currently considering hiring NBA basketball players to join our IT teams. However, the good news is that I believe that we can learn a lot from what the researchers have discovered while studying the NBA. One of the reasons that we are making hiring mistakes is because we are trying to speed up the process. We’re turning to our social contacts because it makes the hiring process more convenient for us.

There are other reasons why we may be relying just a bit to heavily on our social contacts when we are making a hiring decision. Business gets done by people doing favors for each other. The IT manager is no stranger to this. There is a good chance that when someone makes a recommendation to us we are going to feel a need to do a favor for them by hiring the person that they recommended. The problem with doing this is that it can cloud our ability to judge the person who is the best person for the job. In the end, the performance level of our department will decrease.

One of the things that the researchers had to take into account was that we might be getting bad recommendations. Just exactly why this would be happening is a bit unclear – the person who is making the recommendation would have to want to do us harm. However, what the researchers found was that even when the manager’s hiring decisions were closely monitored by the team’s owner in order to prevent any mistakes from being made, the teams still performed more poorly when hiring decisions were made based on social recommendations.

What All Of This Means For You

When it comes time to fill a hole in our IT department, as the person in the CIO position we are going to have to get involved in the hiring process. We’re busy people and even though we know how important this process is, we would still like to get it over with as quickly as possible. That’s one of the reasons that we may be tempted to turn to our social contacts to get recommendations on who to hire.

However, this may be a bad idea. Research has shown that when managers make hiring decisions based on social recommendations, the performance of their team can be negatively impacted. The researchers studied the NBA and used over 30 years of data. What they discovered was that teams that hired players based on the coach’s social contacts with his previous team tended to do more poorly than teams that did not use social contacts when hiring. There may be many different reasons for this including a desire to speed the process up, doing social favors for people that we know who are making the recommendations, etc.

Look, making the right hiring decision when we are trying to fill a position is hard work. The impact of our decision may stay with us for many years. What research is showing us is that we can’t farm this task out to the people who are in our social network. Instead, this is a job that we’re going to have to take on and do by ourselves.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How much longer do you think that it will take to hire someone if you don’t use your social contacts to find a candidate?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The job of an IT manager is to use their IT manager skills to manage their IT team. There are a lot of different parts to this job; however, one key one is the management of the IT team staff. As we all know, this can be a tricky thing to do well and it can end up taking up a lot of our time in part because most of use really don’t have any IT manager training on how to do this. However, maybe there’s a different way to go about running an IT team. What if IT manager’s didn’t have to manage anyone?