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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hiring The Right Replacement

The University of Arkansas is dealing with a coaching change in the football program. After ten years, Houston Nutt is out as the head football coach of the Razorbacks, only to
take a new job the next day as the head football coach at the University of Mississippi
. But if you can separate yourself from the irrationalities of team loyalty in college football, what it all boils down to is a common personnel/HR issue (need to fill the position) that adds a few minor wrinkles of complexity (top leadership position, high paying position, and we lost the old guy to our direct competition).

At my day job, we went through a recent ‘coaching change,’ with our general manager leaving. After a few weeks of interviews from around the country, our new GM was hired from within. The General Sales Manager took the top position as a promotion, but left the same need to now fill a her vacant position.

Whether you're looking for a new CEO or parking garage attendant, filling a vacant slot is hard enough when you don’t factor in the actual reason why you have to fill the position. Sometimes a person gets promoted, moves on to a new company, gets fired, dies…and now you’ve got to put somebody in thier old position, and the more important the position, the more critical it becomes to hire the right person, and the sooner it needs to happen.

Pay close attention to all the visible workings of the hunt for replacements around your company. Do they look for the best available? The cheapest? The quickest person they can get hired? Is the search being directed internally or externally? Do they really want to do away with the empty position, but can't figure out how to divide the work that person did? Do they really want to expand the position, and can't get the proper approval?

And don't think you're helpless in the decision making process. You're going to have to live with the new boss, peer, or peon that gets hired, so if someone asks for your input, give it freely and honestly. If no one directly asks your opinion, bring up the job search in small talk conversations with those involved, with prior knowledge that you won't get the full scoop. Try to listen more for what isn't said and how the information is delivered to you.

In the end, you have to refer to the old adage, 'The only thing constant is change.' The University of Arkansas may have had the luxury of a football coach with ten years tenor, but Houston Nutt wasn't going to be there forever. Your boss will not be your boss forever. You will not be in your position forever. Eventually, they'll have to find replacements. Study up on the process while its still not your responsibility, so that when you do get the power to hire and fire, you'll have some experience in making a search process as painless as possible.


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