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Hiring a Data Team With a Stubborn Manager

Managing Up
Building A Team
Conflict Solving
Hiring
Data Team

24 May, 2022

Liz Henderson
Liz Henderson

Executive Advisor at Capgemini

Liz Henderson, an Executive consultant at Capgemini, shares her experience hiring a data team with a manager who was difficult to work with.

Struggling with Strict Hiring Requirements

In a previous organization, I had a manager who had a very strict recruitment process. Due to his high expectations, it was nearly impossible for me to hire a team. The candidates I interviewed simply didn’t meet his criteria – even if I thought otherwise.

Working Towards Building a Team

I was brought into this company to develop a data team to build the foundations for data governance and management. My boss and I agreed that the best way to do this was to hire a data team rather than repurpose internal people. Together we determined the roles, wrote job descriptions and started the recruitment process.

The hiring process was extremely painful. There were a few challenges that added difficulty to this process:

Using an Internal Recruitment Team

We had to use an internal recruitment team who didn’t understand how to hire for data roles. Many times I’ve found that recruitment teams group together IT and data roles – even though they are completely different. This process would have been much easier if I had been able to bring in an agency that understood data roles.

An Unfitting Job Description

A specific problem that I had in the hiring process was within the job description. My boss added to the job description that the ideal candidate would be bubbly and enthusiastic. This added an increased difficulty, as data people, in general, are more reserved and technical.

A Stubborn Hiring Manager

Whenever I found a candidate that I was interested in – which was already a challenge due to the candidate-led market – my manager would sit in on either the first or second interview. Every time this happened, it seemed that my manager decided that the candidate was not a good fit for the role, and we could not offer them the position.

At one point my manager even spoke negatively about my performance: mentioning that I was acting too operational and not strategic enough. However, it was difficult to focus on strategy when I was unable to hire a team to work on the operational duties. If I had spent my time planning strategy, I would have been in a worse situation by not delivering the key operational activities. I was caught between a rock and a hard place.

Putting my Foot Down

Finally, I put my foot down. I was in a meeting with my manager where I was given a few more operational duties and actions. I told my manager that I couldn’t do these tasks without a team. We needed a team to be successful. Afterward, it was like he melted, and agreed I could recruit two of the individuals who had previously been rejected. Within days, I had two fantastic extra people, working alongside me.

Learning How to be Heard

  • It's something I call “metaphorically crying.” If you don’t shout loud enough you won’t be heard. Managers deal with so many issues that if you aren’t verbally explaining your pain, they will focus on other priorities. The best way to be heard is to set your issue on fire in the eyes of your boss.
  • Don’t use agencies that don’t understand data roles. When hiring for a data team you must work with a recruiter that understands the role, position, and required skill sets in the context of data teams. I’ve been assertive about this in my career and had the privilege to work with amazing teams that I've recruited.

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