The True Value of Working for a Crappy Company

As some of you may have realized from recent posts (Wanted: People Who Aren’t Stupid), I’ve been interviewing candidates recently for the position of Technical Recruiter working for my company HRU. I love interviewing because each time I interview I think I’ve discovered a better way to do it, or something new I should be looking for, and this most recent round of interviews is no different.

Like most HR/Talent Pros I’m always interested in quality work/co-op/internship experience. Let’s face it, it’s been drilled into us, past performance/actions will predict future performance/actions.  So, we tend to get excited over seeing a candidate that has experience from a great company or competitor and we’re intrigued to know how the other side lives and our inquisitive nature begs us to dig in.

What I’ve found over the past 20 years of interviewing is that while I love talking to people that worked at really great companies, I hire more people that have worked at really bad companies.  You see, while you learn some really good stuff working for great companies, I think people actually learn more working for really crappy companies!

Working at a really great companies gives you an opportunity to work in “Utopia”. You get to see how things are suppose to work, how people are suppose to work together, how it a perfect world it all fits together.  The reality is, we don’t work Utopia (at least the majority of us) we work in organizations that are less than perfect, and some of us actually work in down right horrible companies. Those who work in horrible companies and survive, tend to better hires. They come with battle scars and street smarts.

So, why everyone wants to get out of really bad companies (and I don’t blame them) there is actually a few things you learn from those experiences:

1. Leadership isn’t a necessity to run a profitable company. I’ve seen some very profitable companies that had really bad leadership.   Conversely, I’ve worked for some companies that had great people leaders and failed to make money. Leadership doesn’t equal profits.

2. Great people sometimes work a really crappy companies.  Don’t equate crappy company with crappy talent.  Sometimes you can find some real gems in the dump. I talk with idiots, every day, that work for really great brands. Blind squirrels…

3. Hard work is relative.  I find people who work at really bad companies, tend to appreciate hard work better than those who work a really great companies with great balance.  If all you’ve ever known is long hours and management that doesn’t care you have a family, seeing the other side gives you an appreciation that is immeasurable.

4. Not having the resources to do the job, doesn’t mean you can’t do the job. Working for a crappy company in a crappy job tends to make you more creative, because you probably won’t have what you need to do the job properly, so you find ways.

5. Long lasting peer relationships come through adversity.  You can make life-long work friends at a crappy job who you’ll keep in contact and be able to leverage as you move on in your careers.  And, here’s what each of you will think about the other: “That person can work in the shit!”; “That person is tough and get’s things done”; “That person is someone I want on my team, when I get to build a team”.

We all know the bad companies in our industries and markets.  Don’t discount candidates who have spent time with those companies. We were all at some point needing a job, a first experience, a shot at a promotion or more money, etc., and took a shot at a company we thought we could change or make a difference.  I love people who worked for bad companies, in bad jobs with bad management, because they wear it like a badge of honor!

7 thoughts on “The True Value of Working for a Crappy Company

  1. All those features can also describe the startup environment. There is chaos, lack of or too much leadership, constantly changing visions and strategies, hard work with long hours, no resources, etc. You may want to look for those folks, too. They tend to be flexible, open to new ideas, creative problem solvers, etc…

    Great article! 🙂

  2. Great points! My last job was really tough and I had to be creative and detail-oriented in order to ensure that we didn’t repeat mistakes. My new job is amazing but I think my view of it is largely in part to the fact that I know first-hand what crappy is. Only through bad can you truly appreciate good & I believe this for life in general.

  3. This post is fantastic – you capture exactly why these employees make good candidates and great employees. The point about leadership is particularly strong. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I couldn’t agree more Tim! I currently work for a crappy company with a crappy boss and have learned more in the past 9 months than I did the prevous 5 years working for an awesome company!

  5. Morning Sacko!

    The arrogance of our profession – and we’ve probably talked about this – is frightening. The belief that “well since you haven’t recruited for Google, Amazon or Facebook you must not be a very good recruiter” is sadly pervasive. Funny thing is that when we go to the recruiting conferences, guess which company’s recruiters come up to the grizzled speakers and ask, ” hey – can you show me how to do that?”

    Of course there are exceptions – met 2 fabulous Amazon recruiters at SourceCon who have ‘great potential’ all over.

    What large company recruiters fail to understand – because they simply do not know – is that a bad or nonexistent brand combined with a very small recruiting budget brings with it creativity & grit.

    Now what company wouldn’t want these skills in their recruiters?

  6. Great post Tim! I have a couple of friends who are in this situation and we consistently talked about gaining insight from the experience and leveraging it in their future endeavors. Good to know you get a sense of this when interviewing as well. Best of luck with your tech recruit hunt.

  7. This was one good article and really hit home for me. I’m confident in who I am and what I want to achieve, just not sure if I’m making the right choices and maybe there is not alot of choices to choose from a less diversified workforce. Thank you for sharing, it has given me hope!~

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