David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
I Knew The Guy (When He Used To Duck and Run)

May 24, 2013: I Knew The Guy (When He Used To Duck and Run)

I continue to not understand the general labor market.  In a time when employers still have the upper hand against job candidates in a tough economy, with the internet available for in-depth searches about candidates, and the ease of LinkedIN to search for former colleagues of these same candidates, more often than not it appears that companies, including higher education institutions, don't want to take the time to vet completely their hires.

First, I say this because I am happy to see people for whom I am a willing reference getting positions without me ever being called.  Nevertheless, what's the use of asking a candidate for three references if you aren't going to call all of them?  I suppose no one really expects the references to say anything negative, so why bother?   Even at places where I have worked, it has been the practice to call the references after making a job offer to a candidate.  Again, why bother?  What is the goal of this pedantic exercise?

Of more concern is the unwillingness for institutions to seek out additional information not available by references, or for those gaps in answers by references that suggest silence is a safer legal tactic than telling the truth.  I have most become concerned about this because of reading The Good Nursea fascinating book about Charles Cullen, a nurse estimated to have killed over 300 patients via tampering with drugs.  Within the first 50 pages of the book, he has left at least half a dozen hospitals or nursing homes under suspicion of drug tampering, if not outright murder.  Yet, because of the need for nurses, he is frequently hired only days later, with references never checked, or with hospitals content with confirming dates of employment only.  Good Lord, these are all freaking hospitals!  If they aren't concerned about the proper vetting of personnel for the safety of their clients, than why the hell should colleges be worried about the safety of their students when hiring?

Nothing is worse for an institution than a bad hire.  Everyone knows that!  So, why do search committees, search firms, HR offices, and hiring supervisors shortchange the most important way to identify a bad hire--by a thorough investigation of past employment?  Instead, too many of us are happy to stick our heads in the sand, desperate to get a position filled, even when it may mean having to fill it again in a year.

We need more companies and institutions asking anyone they can about what they know about a potential candidate.  And for the rest of us, it behooves us to tell what we know.  To illustrate that point, I adapt the Dave Edmunds' classic "I Knew The Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll)".  See original lyrics here.


"I Knew The Guy (When He Used to Duck and Run)"

Well, the guy looked a picture in the black suit he wore
With a boyish charm developed twenty-seven years before.
He had to clean up a little but he was certainly fetching.
They chose him without any background vetting.

Now in his bright new caddy, he smiles for the press,
And his story catches my eye and vomit I must suppress.
Maybe it's too un p.c., but he used to be a walking disaster,
But that must not have stopped him climbing the ladder faster.

Well I can remember him as the butt of so many jokes:
Is his career ascendency a hoax?
Spinnin' in disbelief, you should see us stunned.
I knew the guy when he used to duck and run.

Now his speeches always promised the best,
But his actions clearly came up in arrest.
We all called his resignation a win
As no body was better than him again

Take a look at the hiring director with firm handshake,
Gloating about the great hire he was able to make.
He got a real good job and his shirt and tie is nice,
But in time he will toll an exacting price.

But I can see him now flashing smiles,
Setting them up with his shameless guile.
He doesn't even see the damage he has done.
I knew the guy when he used to duck and run.

Well I can see him now behind a desk of solid oak,
Acting like he's just another everyday bloke.
I still remember when he failed to take a stand
And left the blame somewhere else to land.
He always looked good when work had begun.
I knew the guy when he used to duck and run.