I was asked by a contact of mine on LinkedIn today whether I could recommend a recruitment company that can source software developers.
CyberCoders have got to be the most useless, spam filled recruiting company out there. A company or job seeker that uses them must be fools
Hi Justin, is there any recruiting company that you recommend for a company looking to hire developers? 4 hours ago
A hard question to answer.
Whilst I have worked with two or three great individual recruiters over the years, actual companies I have never had any luck with; from both sides of the fence. Unfortunately all three recruiters have fallen off my radar in the past few years and I think two of them have left the field entirely.
Whilst there is a definite pain point here for companies trying to hire, and many start-ups and headhunting agencies are attempting to re-write the rules to locate and hire engineers, the simple fact of the matter is, most engineers worth hiring aren’t listening to those messages. Even the mediocre and average engineers aren’t listening.
The best kept secret amongst engineers of all stripes is that there is a secret engineers club, and the only people invited are other engineers. Engineers with even a weak network have no trouble wooing and recruiting other engineers. Or at least the wooing part, there is a huge disconnect unfortunately between the hand-off from the engineers and the people who have the power to do the hiring. Very few companies do it right and most companies are shamefully not interested in doing it right at all. You personally have a doctorate in a hard-science field, you know this. How many times have you been approached by people outside of your field who cannot communicate at your level but want to sell you on what they have for sale?
One of the many reasons I complain about recruiters, head-hunters and "talent acquisition"-types is due to how they approach people using a scatter-shot, least effort approach. Case in point, today I have received three voicemails, from three different recruiters, at three different agencies and they are all the same empty, no details message: "Hey Justin, this is Derp Herpington from Derp’s Recruitment Agency, I found your resume on-line and were wondering if you were open to new opportunities. Looking at your resume I’ve got a great position in your area that would be perfect for you. Give me a call back and we can discuss it."
And the first thing I do is delete the voicemail because no fucks were given that day.
This is the follow-up email I got a few hours later from the same recruiter:
"I had the opportunity to read through your online resume this evening, & I wanted to reach out regarding some open career opportunities that I believe you’d excel in. If you’re currently on the job market please reply or contact me directly at 310-341-XXXX…I’ll be happy to present the details. Have a great night & hope to hear from you soon!”
I don’t know of any engineer unless they were desperately out of work that would respond to that kind of outreach. And I can think of no engineer, especially one in California, worth their job title to ever be that desperate. There’s nothing there to go on. It’s just voicemail and email spam. Do you honestly believe you could ever sell your product to a customer or business if you approached them the same way that recruiter is?
Here’s another problem with recruiting today, this is from one of the many mindless emails that are spat out from some CRM system and end up in engineer’s inboxes all over the U.S. on a daily basis:
If you are an iOS Developer with 2+ years of iOS Development for iPads/iPhone apps – Read on!
Exciting advertising agency is looking for an iOS Developer to serve interactive marketing clients by analyzing, designing, developing, building and documenting iOS applications and solutions including iPhone and IPad applications. The person in this role will be working in a client-driven, dynamic environment, and will work side-by-side with technical leads, project managers, creative designers and information architect professionals.
What you will be doing:
* Creating on-time IPhone and iPad apps
* Participating in and where appropriate, leading iOS related software development projects.
* Providing problem resolution and insight from a technical perspective
* Performing well under tight schedules and communicating effectively with team
* Adhering to/helping to develop department and company-wide application development standards, guidelines and best practices
* Ability to add insight to and execute all aspects of the development cycle including but not limited to: UEX, creative interpretation framework and architecture design, and coding.
What skills are needed to apply:
* 2+ years of iOS development experience (iPhone/iPad)
* Object Oriented Programming, with XCode, UIKit, latest SDK versions, Cocoa Touch and Apple HIG
* Understanding and experience querying against relational databases
* Experience working XML/JSON and familiarity with REST/SOAP methodologies
* Experience in Apple Push Notification Services, Foundation Framework and Memory Management
* Experience in provisioning and publishing apps in iTunes/App Store with working knowledge of Apple Publishing Procedures and App review Process
* Familiarity with using server side services/web services; Maps, GPS services for iOS apps
* Having strong knowledge/experience in iOS domain
What’s in it for you:
* Excellent benefits
* Working on an exciting brand with cutting edge technology
Tell me where, in that laundry list of requirements and must haves, the precise benefits of why anyone would even consider this drivel?
I paid more attention to the WoW "gold seller" spam I received right around the same time. There’s nothing there in the email that piques the interest. The email contains nothing other than what they want from their hire. There’s no location. There’s no definitive work or project that will be done. There’s no compensation. There’s no run down of "what do I get out of it?" The entire email is one-sided. It’s utterly vacuous and devoid of merit. The text was obviously thrown together by a non-engineer, possibly from some bullet points written out by an actual engineer, and then doctored up with idiotic biz speak and several stress level inducing words and phrases. This is the kind of crap that make engineers develop nervous ticks. Oh, and not want to work for the company. Or give a reply. Or even be contacted by them ever again.
Just as an aside, here’s my re-write of the above ad, with details thrown in:
Who. We’re an advertising agency and we need to hire an experienced junior to mid-level iOS developer. You need to know the essentials of iOS development and if you have done iOS development you know what those are. Our iOS app communicates with a server so if you are familiar with REST or JSON that’s a huge bonus**
What. We’re offering a market rate compensation package in the $60K to $75K range, the exact amount depending on how many iOS apps you’ve had a hand in releasing. Our company also offers a matching 401K, basic dental and full medical with a small co-pay for you and your family.
Where. Our agency is located in the downtown El Segundo area, there’s two Starbucks within a block so you stay well caffeinated and the beach is just a few minutes due North. We hang out at the Kettle on a Friday for our informal team lunch.
Why. Right now we’re building a super-secret app for one of our clients that uses maps and GPS to locate people who’ve potentially won a Publishers clearing house check and pinpoints them on the map so the camera crew knows where to go to catch them at their most embarrassing moment.
**But if you don’t, it’s no big deal, you were able to figure out Objective-C and how to debug in XCode so those basic technologies you can pick up in an hour or two.
Maybe it’s not great, but it’s more human, gives more details, lets you know the essentials and was put together in about a minute which is probably twice as much effort as the first email was. And those guys have the audacity to call themselves an "exciting advertising agency." They probably spent longer agonising over whether the C in XCode is capitalised than they did considering who they are trying to actually reach out to.
Engineers are data-driven entities, their resumes exude technical details and jargon but only because they have been taught that lazy recruiters and HR staff keyword filter to see if they know "C++" or "iOS 5.0" or SDLC. If you don’t supply engineers with the information they need they won’t give two figs for you or what you’re selling. Or at least, some of them might but they’re gullible and/or desperate and so you don’t have to pay market rate. But at the end of it all, engineers are still human. Except for that guy who used to share my office, I’m not sure about him, he smelled funky.
I could pull up hundreds of these idiotic, lowest effort emails as examples, this isn’t even the worst of them. At least this one had a reasonably short laundry list of requirements. There are emails floating around that look like long-form sales letters with varying font sizes, yellow highlighter and all sorts of other terrible gimmicks all but guaranteed to consign the email to a quick and early death.
There’s a few sure-fire ways to hire engineers, and not one of them involves dealing with a recruitment company because the moment you decide to outsource your recruiting you’ve pretty much lost the game. Sure, you can get a few good hires if you’re patient and have deep pockets, but generally, you’ll be playing catch-up to the pro-active people who aren’t using external recruiters. Of all the engineers that I hired at the previous start-up I worked at not one of them came through a recruiter. They were all sourced directly through these methods and at a very high rate of recruitment, i.e. as fast we needed them. All of them were great engineers and rock-solid performers and not one of them has been fired or let go from the company.
So how do we do that kind of recruiting? I’ll give you seven methods for free, but only because you have that cool engineering doctorate that I am insanely jealous of.
Use your current engineers to locate and woo other engineers. They don’t have to actively recruit their past colleagues or friends, and it is best if they don’t actually because that will just make them feel uncomfortable when they recommend their shit hot programmer buddy who ends up not getting the job because your CTO didn’t like the guy.
So who do they talk to if not their friends and past colleagues?
Start your own developer centric regular, repeating event and promote and market the hell out of it directly to engineers who have jobs. That doesn’t mean you don’t allow in students or people without jobs or non-engineers, but by promoting it to engineers, as an engineering focused event.
Attend a hackathon.
Guest lecture at every college that will let you. You should probably ask them first, but still…
Do these methods work? Yes, I’ve been able to hire amazing engineers over the years using all of these methods and more besides. I built an entire video game company around a single selling point: "Every engineer or artist that works for us gets two 30" LCD monitors on their desk." Whenever I brought in potential new hires for an interview I made sure that they got to see all the desks with the big fancy monitors. I only ever failed at hiring one engineer in a seven year period out of all the people I interviewed. He had an offer from Google and an offer from me and I told him I would physically kick his arse if he accepted my offer and turned down Google.
You have to approach hiring competent people, whether they be engineers or not the same way you approach selling to business customers. It’s a long, drawn out process that requires multiple points of contact and multiple message distribution channels. It is not a onetime "let’s hire somebody" event. It’s marketing and salesmanship. And those tasks are ongoing throughout the lifecycle of your business.
It’s marketing, but it’s marketing to a different kind of customer than what you market your products to.
It’s sales, and what you’re selling is your company culture.
Here’s a stupid limiting belief that everyone** has: An engineer applies to a company but the company is not hiring at that time and promises to keep the resume on file. And the engineer never ever, not in their entire lifetime, applies to that company ever again.
Because their resume… “is on file.”
That’s like going to the grocery store for milk, and when you get there, the store is out of milk. So you leave empty handed, and you go to the 7-11 that is two blocks further away, and you get the gallon of milk you so desired even if isn’t the freshest and you had to stand around for eight minutes because the old lady in front of you insisted on shaking and tapping each gallon carton to ensure its freshness. And from that day forth you always go to the 7-11 that is two blocks further away to get your milk, and each time you stand behind that same lady who is looking for the freshest milk right at the back of the cooler because the grocery store was out of milk the last time you were there. And if you told that to someone they would think you were fucking insane. And yeah, sometimes putting someone’s resume on file is a polite way of saying “I think you’re useless and you have the programming and resume writing skills of a child, please never darken our email servers again.” But that’s the way the world is. They apply. They never apply again. Your job, once you’ve got a resume is to get that person LinkedIn and keep track of them through their entire career because one day…
Okay, let’s back up a bit. You are ideally looking for someone who is well-versed in the arts of software development and specifically in your unique brand of software development using the FizzBuzz Methodology with at least five years under their belt. An aspiring engineer applies to your company, and they don’t know the full software development life cycle of FizzBuzz, they’ve worked with it for a couple of months on an internship they did, but nothing more than that. They’ve got a few years of other stuff they did that is unrelated but still in the field of software development. You say “Hey, thanks for applying, it was great talking to you, we wish you well in your job search, but at this time… adios!” because they don’t quite fit your ideal of what you’re looking for.
Our poor engineer goes away heartbroken because he really thought he was in a with a shot at working for your company. All your engineers have dual 30” LCD monitors on their desks for chrissakes! Who wouldn’t want that!?!
For the next five years our hypothetical non-FizzBuzz engineer spends three years learning all about FizzBuzz at the feet of a master FizzBuzzer, shipping large, horizontally scalable systems on full FizzBuzz technology stacks, writing a number of white papers on the subject, speaking at conferences, really becoming an all round knowledgeable practitioner of FizzBuzz. And your HR person bumps in to him at one of those conferences and thinks to herself “This cookie is a smart cookie, but we cannot hire him, because when we spoke to him five years ago he knew nothing about our particular usage of FizzBuzz technology and had only a few months of internship. And we have his resume on file and that’s what it says about him.”
And as a rational person you would think such a response would also be considered insane.
Companies do this all the goddamn time!
People, unlike cars and computers, actually get faster and better and more knowledgeable with time, not worse. The engineer you turned down two years ago because he wasn’t good enough, he just acquired two more years’ worth of experience and skills and knowledge and built a few hundred thousand dollars of value for some other company. They trained him for you… please take advantage of their generosity.
** Except me.
And finally, the seventh method:
Hire me as a consultant CTO for a year or so and I can build a team of engineers for you that can do precisely what you need.