When it comes to IT hires, you get what you pay for

A new employee's rookie mistakes raise questions about his qualifications, experience -- and the manager's hiring standards

Does this sound familiar? You apply for a job, only to learn you're overqualified for the position. In the current economic climate, it's not so unusual to hear this refrain. On the other end of the scale, you sometimes scratch your head wondering how some people get hired at all, considering their lack of skills and experience. Welcome to my world.

At the time of this story, I was working in a 24/7 environment where we took shifts. All the techs working these shifts were senior level, though our job description didn't have the word "senior" in it. For the most part, we all had the same skill set and experience. This was key because the work had to be carried on seamlessly, regardless of who was on duty.

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All of our shifts overlapped slightly so that the tech going off-duty could pass along whatever the tech in the next shift needed to know. Normally, most of us would try to fix issues that arose on our shift rather than let it fall on the next person. Complicated issues might take more time to fix, but those couldn't be helped.

When a new person got hired, we braced ourselves for a learning curve and for more work to get passed on from one shift to the next. Usually after a month, a new hire was up to speed and the work settled back into a routine. Overall, we knew what to expect from each other and from the job -- a plus in my book.

Trouble in paradise

Then a new manager threw a monkey wrench into our setup. A senior-level tech left for another job, and the manager hired a replacement. "Jim" had only entry-level skills, though the job description and advertisement specifically asked for a more advanced work history.

In the beginning none of us knew that Jim didn't have much experience. He would pass on more than the usual amount of unfinished work, but we gave him the benefit of the doubt and figured he was settling in to the job.

However, after three months on the job, Jim was handing over not only a high amount of unfinished work at the end of his shift, but also surprising issues. The extra work was having a domino effect -- it slowed down everyone else as we pulled Jim out of another hole. It wasn't noticeable outside of our department, but it definitely caused frustration among our group.

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