posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 11:14 PM | comments: 0

This is a repost from my technical blog. It seems to have been viewed quite a bit, so I figured I'd repost it here on my personal blog.

Once you get your name out there in the world of software, you’re pretty much out there for eternity. This means that your name and contact details will find their way into the databases of recruiters and staffing firms everywhere.

The truth is that it’s good to be “loved,” but as is the case with dating, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get what you need. After being at this for more than a dozen years, working at everything from a tiny private company up to the Microsoft mothership, it’s interesting to note that all of my best jobs came from either me applying for them, or being contacted directly from the hiring company. In other words, staffing firms have yet to offer any real value for me. There is one that got me close to a good find, until the company decided to promote someone internally.

In any case, if you’re a recruiter, and especially a recruiter for a staffing firm, here are some helpful tips.

  • “I came across your resume.” Of course you did. And because every recruiter starts every phone call or e-mail this way, I associate the phrase with the usual outcome: “I haven’t bothered to look if the required skills for this gig I can’t fill match your own, but let’s talk.”
  • You wouldn’t pitch a solution architect job to a junior developer, so why do you pitch junior developer jobs to solution architects? If you have the resume in front of you, I think you can gauge where the person is in their career.
  • Keyword matches suck. It appears now that some firms gather huge amounts of candidate profiles, match them with keywords for job openings, and then farm out cold calls to a call center in India. No one ever looks deeper to see if there’s a good match, so a huge amount of noise is created. You know what? It all sounds the same, and I ignore the noise.
  • Geography. I understand that there is a segment of the population happy to just move anywhere at any time to pick up some crappy contract job. All the more reason you’ll get black listed if you pitch a non-remote job in Madison or Phoenix to me in Cleveland. Not only will I not do it, but this “class” of developer is responsible for a huge amount of the crap out in production systems, devoid of any craftsmanship or maintainability. It’s the difference between eHarmony and AdultFriendFinder.
  • The money doesn’t matter, except when it does. People in our line of work want to be paid what they’re worth, and frankly it shouldn’t be a big part of the conversation. Markets with shallow talent pools in particular work to the workers’ advantage. Make sure your clients understand this.
  • If you can’t be up front about who the company is, or where they’re located, don’t bother. I understand why you may want to keep that information, but none of those concerns are shared by the person you want to get hired. Remember, you’re likely competing with a dozen other calls Joe Software had this week.
  • E-mail. Software people (the good ones, at least) are all about making things efficient. Calling them with vague statements about an “exciting opportunity” is a total waste of time. Phone tag is a waste of time. We want to filter out the crap quickly, and we can’t do that if we have to call. It’s inefficient. If you want to have a nice relationship and take us out to lunch, great, but don’t be inefficient. It’s absurd to leave a voicemail message and not e-mail in 2012.
  • If you want me to take a test on whether or not I know some obscure method in the .NET Framework, you probably don’t get it, and I won’t talk to you. I have an open source project with over 20,000 lines of code that you or your client can look at. I have stuff in production on the Web. Let’s talk about what’s real.

Putting all of that aside for a moment, let me frame the most important thing you have to do. You absolutely must make us understand why the job is interesting. I want to work with great people, I want to be fairly compensated, I want a solid culture that is results-oriented and not about face time, but more than anything, I want work that is interesting. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

I married my wife because she’s interesting. I had a child because parenthood is interesting. I like video and photography because it’s interesting. I ride roller coasters because the machines are interesting. There isn’t much I do in life that wouldn’t qualify as interesting. Why would I want to do work that isn’t interesting? That’s the key not just for recruitment, but for retention.


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