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Developers at odds with Tech Recruiters

10 Jun 2011

"The job of the smart business person isn’t to fish in waters where coders are cheap. It’s to have enough initiative and vision that the best coders in the world will realize that they’ll do better with you than without you." - Seth Godin

Recruiter Vision

I've met some incredibly pleasant, friendly, and genuinely kind technical recruiters. The friction arises when a subset of recruiters see developers as a piece of real estate that they have to move in order to generate revenue. The extremely negative perspective of recruiters is born from the notorious few who wear a friendly demeanor, but treat engineers as a piece of meat that is best chopped up and served at the butcher.

No matter what kind of work devs are looking for, head hunters will try and shoehorn them into any role at a company willing to pay hefty premiums on new hires. This motivation is at odds with being a great fit between both the candidate and the company.

Developer Perspective

Sharp hackers loathe recruiters. Hackers are smart enough to know that great companies don't need recruiters. Legendary companies are known by their name alone. Their best employees already hang out in the right places (real or virtual) to attract more talent.

Developers talk. If a company has an awesome culture and is working on fantastic problems, engineers and designers will beat a path to their door. Epic technical companies form like a coral reef around a core of super sharp founders.

Hackers compare the organic growth strategy, to the image of unleashing an army of recruiters who rip through resumes like fat guys tearing through a brownie wrappers (I eat fast).


"Getting an interview through a tech recruiter is like having your mom set you up on a date." - me

My 2 cents on looking for work

  1. It's hard to find a great fit, and could take years. Take work that you need to survive, but keep your eyes and ears open. Companies and people change. The job you loved a few years ago may not be the best fit for the type of work you need to do today

  2. Do great work. That means finding and doing work you love. Discover tough technical problems, and build solutions that work. Do it again. There's no better way to build a positive reputation than by repeatedly doing solid work

  3. Be generous. Contribute to open source. Blog about your findings. Whether you're patching bugs or sharing your own findings, throw some code up on the web and blog it up. Down the road you'll save someone a few hours who's struggling with the same issues you did.

    Unfortunately the half life for tech blogs and code is shrinking, so you'll have to work to keep your posts current.

    Don't be discouraged by critical feedback, that's your reward


  4. Try not to be an ass when recruiters contact you. I failed at that yesterday, my apologies Kainne Hansbury. Politely tell them you're not interested

  5. Work out a trial basis with a potential hiring company so you or the company can part ways without any hassles or false expectations

That last rule of thumb is based on how I perceive the global market changing over the next decade for highly skilled work forces. Multi-year long, full time positions will become the great minority (core company teams). They the predominance of life long labor is a vestigial artifact of the industrial economy. Technical experts will be sought after by public and private reputation, and through their personal networks.

Elite businesses that dominate the network economy will function with smaller permanent staff who own a share of the success (or failure) of a company. Companies will hire a small legion of talented consultants for specific projects. Many of the fluid work force may regularly work together in loose company like formations (aka the Hollywood model). A dynamic work force will better serve the needs of a rapidly shifting market place.

Consider the following hypothetical example: This month ACME needs a handful of designers to help put the finishing touches on their latest packages. But the past several months they staffed up with dozens of engineers and technicians to build captivating yet bizarre products. ACME's ideally staffed to meet the expected ramp of demand brought on by WSGDC, Wiley's Super Genius Developer Conference, and has no problems trimming down afterwards.