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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Connections Vs. Ability

I hear this frequently stated. "Your connections are much more important than your ability."

I have pretty high ability but no useful connections. It would be nice to join some promising startup and write version #1 of their product singlehandedly. No such opportunity has come up.

Many employers would hire a friend of a friend, rather than hiring the most skilled applicant. If you're like me, with high ability but few connections, you're SOL.

"Connections are more important than ability!" is a symptom of a non-free market. Here is an example.

Suppose most employers hire their friends, rather than hiring skilled strangers. Then, there would be an arbitrage opportunity. Someone could search for well-qualified strangers, and then get skilled workers cheaply. That business would have an advantage. This arbitrage does not occur, due due to a non-free market.

What is a job? If a job is an exchange of value for value, then jobs should go to the most skilled workers. If a job is a meal ticket, then jobs should go to your friends. In a corrupt economic system, a job represents a meal ticket much more than an exchange of value.

People say "Connections are more important than ability!" as if it's a universal economic law. That is false. It is a symptom of a non-free market. In a really free market, clever employers would seek workers who are skilled, but lack the connections or experience.


Anonymous said...

I've worked in three companies (one unknown start-up, one middle sized software company and one famous tech company) that all had phases of hiring friends. On all occasions it was not pretty.

In the unknown start-up two managers conspired to hire friends so they would get paid recruitment bonuses. Blatantly one manager said the man he had hired was incompetent but it wasn't his money! One friend was hired and given a non-job writing code that wasn't even built into the final product. The software worked fine without even his code being compiled!

In the middle sized software company one friend was hired. He didn't even bother to learn programming and hardly did any work. At the time far more skilled workers were paid low salaries. They left the company but the useless friend stayed.

In the famous tech company at least two friends were hired. They refused to do certain types of work and that work was passed on to me, despite having a high workload already. I ended up fired for no good reason while the friends kept their jobs. The useless friend was hired on a high grade and got promoted again. I did work briefly with him on one tiny project. He was not at all pragmatic and wasted days of my time with his stupid, unworkable ideas.

Anonymous said...

Why should the boss let you prove how clever you are by writing lots of useful code?

A friend of mine says bosses like a constant turnaround of staff so they can look like the clever person and end up the only person knowing about things (second-hand of course).

Master Doh-San said...

Even in a free market, there are idiots.

Corkster said...

I currently work for a friend and have also employed friends, primarily because the "interview" process whereby a prospective employee and employer get to know one another has taken part over an extended period of time. We are mutually assured of one another's abilties and personalities prior to entering a mutually beneficial commitment. I save time and money on recruitment and take minimal risk compared to employing a skilled stanger. My employee also takes less risk, gets a proper remuneration to suit their specific circumstances and flexibility on work patterns.

Works for me.

FSK said...

However, if *EVERYONE* only hires friends, then there's a huge untapped market of people who are skilled but lack connections.

There are two types of hiring errors. For a type I error, you hire someone who's an obvious failure. For a type II error, you miss out on hiring someone great. A "hire only friends" policy minimizes type I errors, but you don't notice the type II errors.

Anonymous said...

In a couple of companies I worked for, I was fired shortly after managers hired some of their friends.
Worse in my last few months of work, I was given tasks to do originally allocated to the newly hired friends. I hate to work weekends during my last months at work, just so the friends would have an easier time.

The evil thing is that when you unexpectedly lose your job, you have to explain to prospective employers why you lost your job?

So it is a double whammy really.

Anonymous said...

My life does prove the point that connections are more important than ability.

I now run my own semi-successful software business. I've sold my software to so many famous companies, organizations and departments I no longer am surprised when another famous company buys my software.

People write rave reviews of my software.

For the first time in my life working for myself I can put by real money.

Yet when I look for a job, days of my time are wasted with employer testing and then I am turned down for the job despite scoring highly in their tests.

In one job interview at a very famous software company, the interviewer walked out just after I answered a question correctly and then said I got the answer wrong! It was a blatant lie and I told the company recruiter that in a slightly nicer way. So I got rejected on one question that I got right that he walked out on and yet the fact that I had answered every other question right for the past 40 minutes was irrelevant. Plus the fact I had 5 other interviews that day with other employees that I had done well on was irrelevant as well.

People just seem to be hired on connections. When someone such as myself that had proved his ability by writing near famous software comes along, he is rejected.

It seems friends just hire friends.

Anonymous said...

Forget about jobs and work for yourself. People like you should not have bosses.

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