When no employee is better than a new employee

In midst of tech boom and hiring frenzy, a new techie comes on -- and leaves staffers longing for days without extra 'help'

Whom you hire matters. You always want the best staffers on your team, but both the job market and overall economics factor into personnel decisions too. Perhaps you've seen it for yourself in the current tech boom; I'm reminded of a story from the dot-com years when demand was fierce, and it seemed that anybody with a pulse could get hired to work in IT roles -- sometimes to less than ideal results.

Back then, many startups -- whether or not they had a practical business model -- vied for job candidates with certain skill sets. Employers often paid big bucks to tech personnel, even ones just out of college and with no experience. In this gold rush, many people left their existing jobs to seek positions with higher pay; at the same time, recruiters and companies actively tried to hire employees away from their current positions -- offering as much as 50 percent higher salary and truckloads of perks.

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Such offers were tempting, but I didn't change jobs because many of these new startups didn't have viable business plans, which I found to be a red flag. Also, I liked my job and my manager. I worked at a traditional tech company in the department that fielded support for our customers. Like many businesses in the tech field, we too had to hire more people for the increased volume of service calls.

But competition for employees was red-hot. Our more traditional company couldn't offer as much as these startups, but unlike many of them that required 12-hour days seven days a week, we had more normal work hours. At the same time, many people wanted the bigger bucks, so it was difficult for us to hire and keep talented staff. We were supposed to double the number of field support engineers in our department so that we could add even more customers -- easier said than done. It was a very slow process.

Thanks for the help, but stay out

I was the senior engineer at the company, and normally my manager would ask my opinion before hiring a new person. But one time, a new tech was hired when I was on an extended offsite project. When I got back, my manager introduced the New Guy to me. My first impression of him was not positive, but I hoped I was wrong. After all, it was another person to share the workload.

One of my duties was to train the new hires and get them up to speed as quickly as possible. We normally didn't send new hires out into the field at first; instead, we had them fix issues in-house for at least the first weeks.

I soon noticed the New Guy was very sloppy in his work habits. For example, he'd grab memory modules barehanded when not at the ESD workstation and walk across carpets with them as if it wasn't a problem. His resume indicated he'd graduated from a local tech school, so I expected better.

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