Experience, competence, chicken & beef | Choosing the right people for projects.
Bear with me on this one, as I’m sure many will get the title wrong or just laugh at it, and I love that; a nice good poke.
This subject comes after a long conversation with a friend about potential candidates for a job he's looking to fill.
With all the information in our hands, going through each of the resumes and having many back and forth about the subject, I thought it was important to talk about the importance of pure experience vs pure competence when identifying possible candidates.
What I had in hand was a mix of both. Many had much experience and others seemed to have solid competence in the required key areas.
Still, I identified what I thought he needed and able to come out with at 3 solid candidates for him and his team.
After seing his picks, we rapidly figured out we hadn't chosen the same people. Not a single one!
Our first reaction after that observation was to quickly review the resumes we had. So we went through them again just to make sure we hadn't missed anything significant, some detail that would of made a big difference.
Maybe one of us had missed key information...
But after doing so, we didn't find anything particular. Nothing that would render our choices as less. He did the same and came to the same conclusion, so both a bit puzzled by our findings, we challenged each other.
To give you a bit of perspective on the situation, my friend is looking for an advance programmer to join a new team to build a new software his company is looking to market in the next year or two.
Advance code, complex algorithms, web services and all this in real time; not just another web page (NJAWP).
During my review, based on these details and the level of complexity, my first instinct was to look for advance competence in coding, deep understanding of mathematics, logic and such.
Intentionally and maybe with flaw, my mind was set on finding someone with the most competent resume. The right languages, the right environments and so on.
For me, such a resume shouldn't be about numbers and figures, dates and company names, but concrete competence in deep coding (AI, ML, etc.) and knowing how to make all of this working together.
So my mind wasn’t set on management expertise, company names, age or anything like that. I'm certain tasks you bet, but for this project... not really.
For example, how many times has someone told me they work in one of the FANG's and still they seemed not to have a clue or deep understanding about certain key subjects...
Nothing personal really. Some of these companies or similar are really great and do have great employees, but I can't see this as a guaranty of any sort; a warranty. At least, not today, not anymore.
So based on our findings we then talked some more, as I really wanted to get his perspective.
His perspective was different (and that’s all good). He thought the size of the company where people worked was important. He also thought the school where they went to was key information, international experience, and also, if they had managed a team or sub-team at any point.
And that’s exactly where I was struck at how differently we looked at the same documents and potential employees. So here's a piece of our conversation...
ME: “Based on the resumes and the information/challenge you gave me, I think I have solid candidates for the job”.
HIM: “Well based on my experience, I think these people would be better.”
ME: “OK, you know what... This is the experience, competence, chicken and beef thing!”
After he finally stopped laughing I started to explain the idea behind the comment.
There's this place I go to once in a while (restaurant) close to one of my clients. Over there, I regularly hear people trying to decide on what they’re going to eat. It’s a kind of a Greek, Indian, Canadian Drive-In place where you’ll get just about anything you want.
Come to think of it, I’m actually surprised people finally order as there’s so many choices there, it’s ridiculous.
That's when I see groups, friends and colleagues talk and argue about the simplest things, such as if they should get the chicken or beef wrap...
This always makes me laugh. I know this story sounds ridiculous, but when you think about it, whether someone eventually goes for the chicken or beef wrap, both are meat, both can be low fat, both have protein and you could even argue both have a similar impact on the planet.
So what’s my point?
Well, I think the same for resumes. You can decide to focus on many aspects of them, but most usually the principals include “apparent” experience and competence. I say apparent, as a resume can always be made way more beautiful than it really is. But I think you get the idea.
In both ways, experience is good and so is competence. The only way you'll ever make a choice, is by actually talking and meeting these candidates to make the best possible decision; based on your knowledge of the challenge and what you hear and see from the candidates.
Same goes for the wraps. We could argue to eternity about the pros and cons of chicken and beef, but at the end, your truth is a preference and it’s not about what’s wrong or right, it’s simply a preference.
To clear up my contention, I’m most usually a big fan of competence as someone could have years and even decades of experience in another country or company or software environment, and still be very bad at their job.
I've seen this too often, and in any enterprise, especially big ones, people can hide very easily and stay there for a decent/long time.
And may I add, with a competent person, someone could be 22 years old and be your all-time BEST option. Also, someone could be 60 years old and have the best attributes AND be great for your team.
Others could argue and have a different point of view. Experience is really solid as the person is maybe better equipped to navigate through challenges, teams, clients and so on.
People that think that aren’t wrong from my perspective, we just have a different opinion and again, that’s all good.
Exchanging ideas is all about being a team and being better, stronger and healthier. It’s a very powerful tool in coming with the best outcome. Just make sure you limit the discussion time and actually decide in the process. Someone needs to cut to the point at some point.
Experience, competence, chicken & beef. They’re all good, it just really depends on what you want.
I really do hope you get the meaning of my title now...