How to hire for a company you plan to leave?
May 8, 2007 8:53 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with hiring new employees when you yourself are no longer satisfied with the company/thinking seriously of quitting?

I've held a job for a couple of years at my current place of employment, and while it's not entirely bad (or I wouldn't have stuck around for this long) the faults of the company structure and the people running it have become more and more apparent over time. I have a serious offer from a former co-worker to jump ship in a few months and will probably take it; however, my boss (who doesn't know I plan to leave) is asking me to find a second individual to help me with my current duties.

While this is excellent from the standpoint of not wanting to leave my employer in the lurch when I depart (i.e. I get to inadvertently train a replacement), I'm an honest person and will have a difficult time attempting to entice people to join up when I myself no longer believe it's a good place to work.

Is there any way I can deal with this? Should I be as up-front as I can about the company's failings while trying to put a positive face on it, or suck it up and pretend it's a great place? Should I be 100% honest (aside from the leaving soon part) and hope someone still wants the job enough to go for it?

In case it matters, I program as part of a small IT team at a medium-sized (and growing) company, but one where the management pressures us to buy cheap, off-brand equipment, makes unrealistic feature/release-date demands on the software I write for them, and just generally doesn't seem to appreciate the fact that their entire business is predicated upon having a solid technical infrastructure (it's a technology services firm of sorts).

Throwaway email is .
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a tough task. It might help to get a good sense of each candidate and what they are looking for in an employer/work environment. This will let you know if they'd be a good fit or not. If someone is leaving their present employer for similar reasons, then they probably aren't a good candidate for this job and even if you tell them the truth and they are desperate enough to take it, chances are you'll be replacing them before you jump ship. If a candidate seems like they'd work well in that environment, then hire them.

Do not share your jaded view with the candidates, that is just unprofessional. Do not tell them it is a great place, either. Just tell them about the job, tell them about what they'd be doing in that position, etc. Don't sell the company, don't dish, either. However, if the candidate asks specific questions about the work environment, answer honestly.
posted by necessitas at 9:01 PM on May 8, 2007

Your boss knows he/she may soon lose you and is using you to interview your replacement.
posted by longsleeves at 9:01 PM on May 8, 2007

Do your job. Select the best person. Do not criticize the company and only mention the positive aspects. Be honest, but not stupid. One man's trash is another man's treasure - people could really like the job - you don't know where they are coming from!

In a nutshell - do it as if you liked working there.
posted by falameufilho at 9:07 PM on May 8, 2007

I agree. Do your job. You can't put "I'm an honest guy" on your resume. Making personal sacrifices is part of being a professional. You should try to avoid developing a personal relationship with your trainee, and definitely don't share the company's failings with a relative stranger. No one will ever thank you for it.
posted by phaedon at 9:20 PM on May 8, 2007

As long as you're convinced you're being reasonably objective about this being a bad place to work, yes, you should be completely honest with the applicants. I'd be pretty upset if I was hired into a place with serious management problems and everyone acted as if everything was just fine.

I would hope the company would want to know about the bad management going on in your boss's area and fix it. By being honest, you allow the market for labor to work effectively and perhaps self-correct. Pretending everything is just fine could allow the current management to go on without a check and make the place even worse to work at.
posted by ontic at 9:23 PM on May 8, 2007

Until you quit, maintain the role of loyal employee unless you fear fraud or collapse.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:52 PM on May 8, 2007

Use language that the canny candidate will pick up on. Every interview I've sat has had this sort of veiled honesty. It's not particularly evil, because you want a candidate that is smart enough to pick up the nuances; what's more, one person's problem is another's opportunity. Plenty of us have taken on problem jobs, because our traits suit your problems.

the management pressures us to buy cheap, off-brand equipment

"We have a limited technology budget, so we need people who can code with what we've got, not an ideal environment."

makes unrealistic feature/release-date demands on the software I write for them

"Can you work to time pressure? We often have a crunch at the end of the production cycle, like most code shops."

and just generally doesn't seem to appreciate the fact that their entire business is predicated upon having a solid technical infrastructure

"We are the core of this company."
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:28 AM on May 9, 2007

I want to ask this in a delicate way because I obviously disagree. For (real) curiosity's sake, those of you who suggest playing the loyal employee, where do you think this duty of loyalty comes from? Do you think the company buys one's loyalty and rosy assessment in addition to one's work with the paychecks every month? Or does it come from some other source? Because this person's company seems to view their workers as mere means to an end, and pledging loyalty in return seems to really unbalance things.

(Again, I'm not saying all of your recommendations are necessarily bad -- I hear a lot of it from the business world (which I am not in) and there must be some good reason for that -- but I am puzzled about what justifies the loyalty.)

And after all, if thousands of people would kill for the job, wouldn't they take it regardless of what the poster said? At least if he did reveal the undesirable points, they'd be informed.
posted by ontic at 2:13 AM on May 9, 2007

I should also add that I imagine it could be bad from a self-interest standpoint to tell the whole truth to job candidates (it could potentially burn bridges and catch up with you at later jobs), but I take it that wasn't what the poster was asking about.
posted by ontic at 2:21 AM on May 9, 2007

I'm in the situation right now where I'm a relatively new employee (coming up on one year) in a company where a bunch of the "old-timers" (4+ years ... it's a small, young company) are starting to get burnt out and leave. I adore my job. I love my company, I really like all the people I work with, we do neat projects, and they have me doing stuff that makes me very happy to go to work every morning.

Meanwhile, I hear a lot from these other folks, who are leaving/in the process of finding other jobs, about how management sucks, our projects are the worst in the history of mankind, we have no hope of surviving the competition, our customers will stagnate, seriously who wants to keep working here ... and it gets really old after a while. I recognize wy they don't want to be here any more, but I joined the company it is now -- not the company they joined years ago, pre-acquisition -- so I joined it because I liked what I saw. And it's incredibly disheartening to me as a new employee to be hearing all of this all the time.

So the moral of the story is, if you're unhappy, be unhappy. That's fine. But don't take it out on whoever you interview, and do recognize that if they accept a job, it will be for the company it is *now*, not the company it was. You have to support that and be happy for them if they are happy; don't act pessimistic and disbelieving if they want to work at that company even if you don't. Be realistic in the interview process, but don't pitch everything negatively -- let them make the decision for themselves.
posted by olinerd at 3:59 AM on May 9, 2007

Jobs are like relationships (and are relationships!)... sometimes, it's not a good/bad dichotomy as much as just a mismatch.

Consider that you MAY be wrong... maybe they're not incompetent and your dissatisfaction may come from a mismatch of how you see things and what they think they need.

My experience with companies is that they are the way people WANT them to be, particularly managers. Perfect optimization and perfectly coherent consensus in decisions isn't the rule... actually, I have never seen it.

Just interview the new folks and find out if they have the basic skills. Be honest about the local personalities. Give accurate info. Hire someone decent. Leave when you get ready, and be comforted by the fact that you did your task well.

Nothing hard about any of that, is there?

Consider also that at the next job you may discover that "the faults of the company structure and the people running it will become more and more apparent over time". (This is true even of self-employment, in most cases! ) If you find the exception, I'd sure like to hear about it.

Good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 4:51 AM on May 9, 2007

Put yourself in the place of the person being interviewed. The worst thing that can happen at an interview is the candidate either sensing, or being told in as many words, that the interviewer is implying that you shouldn' want to work here because it sucks, management is bad, blah blah blah. And the poor sap is thinking "For God's sake, I haven't worked in months, the kids are starving, I need this job you fully employed jerk, I don't give a crap about what you think, HIRE ME! HIRE ME! HIRE ME!
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 4:55 AM on May 9, 2007

I think By The Grace of God has it.

That's how my colleagues and I have done it (in multiple jobs). A demanding boss that has been known to give demeaning tasks becomes: "Grace is an incredibly busy woman and you will need to be her right hand wo/man and really stay on the ball. However, there might also be some down time where you're doing tasks like copying letters, taking messages, or arranging her travel. She has a demanding job and sometimes the stress carries over into your position. How do you feel about that?"

The candidate that was hired had picked up on it and my colleague that asked the question didn't feel like she was misleading any poor candidates. The candidate that was hired eventually left because the woman was such a bitch, but actually said that she appreciated being warned in advance by us and that it helped her in her decision to take the job (i.e. she at least knew what she was getting into and thought she could handle it).
posted by ml98tu at 6:50 AM on May 9, 2007

What BTGOG & ml98tu said. I've been in your position and I managed to be honest and successful candidates picked up on it. I was very upfront: "This is not a 9 - 5 job. There will be at least 3 evenings and one weekend a month that you will have to work and you will not be compensated for that." but I didn't take any kind of value stand - I just stated the facts. You're actually doing the company a favor by being honest; people coming in with unrealistic expectations (something my (psycho) ex-boss excelled at) will not stay. I finally did leave that place and since I left and other, more "loyal" people took over interviewing, staff turnover has been much higher.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:41 AM on May 9, 2007

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