Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The hiring study

I'm looking for a job.  At least theoretically, I'm looking.  I have actually found one company that I'm interested in, in part because I think they would actively support me doing projects like the research and book(s) that I'm working on right now.  I will probably approach that company soon, but I want to get more work done on my research project so that I'm approaching them from a position of increased strength.

I've been telling some friends and family members about the research project.  I think I have my story straight now, and I'm ready to write it up for everyone.  :-)

At both Journyx and CompUSA I conducted interviews and hired people.  And, like every task that I take to I did some research on how to find good candidates, how to interview them, and how to make the best possible hiring decision.  I'm not a PhD in hiring, but I've advised lots of other hiring managers, and they have all reacted like I had genuinely helped them get their hands around this activity.

Now I'm a job seeker.  I'm going to the classes and reading the books.  And I see a genuine disconnect between what people are telling job seekers to do and what I think hiring managers are looking for.  I believe that the people who are giving this advice are well meaning and working with the best information that they have.  But on a couple of critical points I think that they are completely wrong.

There have been very few scientific studies of the hiring process, and none that I can find that cover both sides of the process--hiring managers are looking for candidates at the same time that job seekers are looking for work.  I don't have enough personal experience to just call everyone out and design a whole new process.  I would probably be significantly wrong on many details, and no one would pay attention to what I said.

So I'm about to launch a scientific study of both sides of the hiring process.  I'll do this through a set of surveys that I run on the internet.  I'm going to use a major web survey company--mostly because they have built-in reports and analytics that I can leverage.  I will have surveys for hiring managers, surveys for job seekers, and surveys for people who have recently been hired.

I have a marketing plan to use viral and traditional web techniques to (hopefully) get hundreds of thousands of people to take these surveys.  If I can pull that off then I will have a scientific data set that will either prove or disprove my theories.  And then the study itself will provide the credibility I need to speak on these subjects and sell some books.

I am not posting my theories on the internet yet because I don't want to pollute the surveys.  And I don't want anyone stealing the theories before I can get to press.

I'm a practical guy.  I believe in myself, but I also know that not all of my theories will hold up to the data.  I'm ok with that.  I'm going to publish whatever the data says.  But I know that one specific theory will definitely hold up, and that one theory alone will justify the books.  I've already started interviewing people who have recently gotten hired, and what I am hearing from them is both confirming my theories and providing a bounding-box for the surveys.

So there are risks, but complete failure isn't really one of the risks.  The biggest risk is that I don't get enough surveys filled out to credibly demonstrate anything.  However, I have great confidence in the internet and in most peoples' desire to help others.  So I judge that risk as very small.

I think that the second biggest risk is that I get so many survey results that I have a hard time analyzing the data.  I believe I could get 5 million survey responses, or more.  If that happens then I will probably need to enlist some academics to help me analyze the data (cough) {Jeremy} (cough.)  That will force me to adjust my publishing plans some, but if that happens then the changes will be worth it.

The third biggest risk is that the whole thing will take too long.  But the vast majority of my work is done once the surveys are up and running.  So after that point I could work on other projects or get a regular job, if it comes to that.  This whole project will be going onto my resume, and so I think it will be easier to land the type of job that I would like.  And I'm building up quite a bit of expertise on the whole job search process, which will certainly aid me if I have to get a regular job.

Part of my marketing plan is to sell t-shirts, buttons, mugs, and mouse pads with the survey URL and a plea to help the project by taking the survey.  I don't expect to make a full income from that, but I think that I could earn enough from that to extend my budget deadline for getting the books published.

Right now I am actively working on the surveys, web pages, and cafepress store (where the shirts and mugs will be sold.)  I don't know how long this will take to get done, but I'm organizing the work in intelligent order so that I have first things done first.  I think I will have the surveys available for my friends and family to preview in the next week or two.  Getting the surveys configured on the web survey software will take a many hours--tons of tedious technical work that I have to triple-check before I launch.  But I think I could be ready to launch the surveys in the second week of December.

Part of my marketing plan is that there will be several rounds of survey marketing--each round bigger than the previous ones.  The first round is fairly small, and so I don't think it will be a problem to launch it right before the Christmas holiday.  The first big, public, marketing won't happen until after the first of the year.

I will be peaking at the survey results and working on writing the text of the books while the surveys are ongoing.  I don't really know how long it will take for my marketing campaigns to play out, but I'm guessing March.  By then it should be just a matter of doing the final compilation of the data and slapping it into the manuscripts.  So I'm looking at having books out in April.

So stay tuned.  The next few weeks and months could be very exciting.  Thank you for your prayers and support.

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