Where's the line between networking and favoritism? A story out of Dallas City Hall raises some questions about that. It seems that seven people have been hired in the city's technology department who attend the same church as department director Worris Levine.
Levine is an associate pastor at The Chosen Vessel Cathedral, a Pentecostal church in Fort Worth. For the city, he is responsible for about 200 employees and a $62 million budget. And in the past two years, he approved the hiring of two of the church's other associate pastors, a deacon and four other parishioners, according to a Dallas Morning News story reprinted at TMCnews. Is the church a hotbed of tech talent? Is getting a job in the IT department just a matter of who you know?
Experts say over and over that networking is still the best way to find a job. It was the most cited answer in a recent study by Right Management, a unit of Manpower Group, on how 60,000 clients found jobs. In a previous post on networking, I quoted a seattlepi.com article, which said:
The way you land your dream job is unpredictable. It could surface in the least-expected place, such as in the serving line as you volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter. You have no idea who might be volunteering right next to you ... or who they know.
The story also says Levine arranged an elevated salary for one of the associate pastors, Charles Rainbow. The other associate pastor, Patricia Smith, became a senior manager. Except for Rainbow, the other Chosen Vessel parishioners were initially hired as temp workers, meaning they bypassed civil service procedures that would have required a more thorough vetting of their qualifications. Still most of them became managers. And, according to the story, City Manager Mary Suhm is troubled about a lack of documentation accompanying the hires. According to the article:
The city could not produce even basic documentation of any selection process, such as records showing that the jobs were posted or drew other applicants. In several cases, the city has no record of even their job applications.
Levine maintains that although he signed off on the hires, managers below him actually made the decisions.
"People come to me and ask, 'Do you have job openings?' Everywhere I go, I'm always trying to recruit if someone comes and asks." Levine said that he sometimes gives people the names of hiring managers, but that they handle the process from there, usually interviewing at least three candidates.
The Morning News reporter, however, tracked down the parishioners and five said they had never been interviewed at all.
According to the story, just months after Levine was hired in 2006, Suhm received an anonymous letter signed "CIS Employees," accusing Levine of disregarding civil service rules by promoting unqualified people, picking favorites and shutting out others. She appointed a team to investigate, but the allegations were unsubstantiated.
As my colleague Lora Bentley has written, it's important to create job applicant screening policies - along with thorough documentation. You'll find a wealth of resources on hiring and work force management in our IT Downloads center. This "New Hire Business Case Template" is a good place to start.