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Don Burleson Blog 








Hiring for high stress jobs

Computer job hiring Tips by Donald Burleson


When hiring computer support personnel it's important to ensure that the job candidate has the skill to deal with the high stress that accompanies a production support environment.  Everyone is aware of the traditional high-stress occupations (law enforcement, firemen, military) but many folks don't realize that computer support professionals must bear a high degree of job stress. 


Just like Dentists (who suffer a much higher suicide rate than the general population of professionals), customers who contact computer consultants only do-so when they are under great stress and the computer consultant must be able to deal with irate end-users and IT managers.


When a factory is idle because of a broken computer the company can be loosing $100k per hour, and their is tremendous pressure on the support person to get the problem fixed immediately.  We also see high stress in troubleshooting performance problems and doing routine maintenance. 


Production support personnel must be able to stay awake for days at a time during a crisis while maintaining a clear head.  The central question is how to screen for people who can thrive in a high-stress environment.


One common approach is to hire computer professionals who have been trained to handle stress.  We have found that U.S. Marines, Airborne Rangers, Seals, and military special Ops professionals make excellent on-call production support personnel because they have been specifically trained to cope with high stress situations.


Unfortunately there is no foolproof screen tool that can separate candidates with a high stress tolerance, yet this is an important issue for companies who hire computer consultants.  The up-front training costs are high, and you don't want to loose time and money hiring computer professionals who will quit during the first crisis.


The most important predictor of success in a high-stress computer environment is prior experience. 



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