Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How to Recruit Developers Redux: Idealism, Personal Ads and Reddit

First of all: Hi, Reddit. I was surprised when I logged into Google Analytics this evening and saw my graphs spiked heavily today. There's been a fair amount of traffic today, so I wanted to continue the dialogue on some of the points that were raised.

Byrne's Eye View argues that my essay gets idealistic as it goes on, that, in essence, most jobs suck, and that there's really nothing to tell.

Fair enough -- there's some merit to that. If everything you could say about your project, your company and your potential employee is, in fact, likely to scare away the candidate, maybe you're better off keeping it generic:

We're a small professional services firm in a tiny, windowless office in a character-free section of the Toronto downtown. Our sales staff has done their usual botched job of overselling the client on features and timelines that we can't possibly deliver, so we're desperately seeking staff with which to pad the project team so that we can show the client how hard we're working. Your coworkers are beaten-down developers that don't have the initiative to look for other employment and contractors who only show up because we're paying their high hourly wage to put up with our bull$h|+. Please apply.
If you feel this way about your company, then I'm going to have to suggest that you work on refining your resume instead of your job posting. That said, I hope that many of you do, in fact, feel there are redeeming qualities to the work, the company and your attitude to employees that just aren't getting out there.

I'm not ducking the point. It's true: the 'sales' job here will be really easy for some companies, and pretty hard for others. But if you focus on what appeals to you, or to the software developers who you employ, and try and make sure that what you post hits those points hard and gives some context, I think you'll find that you're already better off than most job postings that have been generified by recruiters and well-meaning but hapless HR wonks.

Personal Ads
As I was on my commute this morning, after posting, I was thinking how this advice sounds a lot like the kind of advice you might give someone who's preparing a personal ad. That personal ads and job postings aren't entirely dissimilar. Apparently I'm not the only one thinking that, as discipline and punish proved.

That said, I think some personal ad writers and readers thrive on being treated as a commodity, some don't. Personal ads are also, space-limited in ways that job postings aren't. But there are certainly points in common. You'll find that people describe their fondness for candlelit dinners and walks on the beach rather than their skill at romance and cooking. Those are immersive, context-rich ways to get the same content across. I don't think a job posting has to be so oblique, but you do want the posting to resonate with the reader, and dropping the bullet-point skill list in favor of evoking an atmosphere may not be the wrong choice.

In Other News ...
I'm sure there were other comments that I've missed. Feel free to drop me a line, post a comment, or keep the dialogue running.

I've considered, a few times, what it might be like to run a recruiting firm run by developers for development jobs. Could we do a better job of recruiting than recruiters do? I'd be curious to find out, but not curious enough to try.

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