Monday, September 19, 2011

Recent Thoughts On Hiring and Being Hired

The job market is insane right now. It got to the point that I was receiving job-related email so often that I changed my LinkedIn profile to say I lived in Jacksonville, Florida (I don't - I'm still happily in NYC). However, I do read every job related email that makes it through Google's spam filter, and a few things did catch my eye recently.

Recruiters doing it right:
One recruiter emailed me and didn't ask for a resume, but did ask to see my github account. Setting aside the fact that plenty of code lives outside of github, this request impressed me. If they actually have people doing a bit of research on applicants via their open-source contributions, I imagine they're much better at hiring than their competition.

A different recruiter asked if I was available or if I knew anyone I'd be interested in referring, but the conversation was unique because the recruiter offered a $5,000 referral fee if a friend of mine was hired. Occasionally I will pass a recruiter's contact information along if the job sounds interesting, but I never spend more than 2 minutes thinking about who I know and if they are a match. Obviously, when 5K is the reward, I spent significantly more time considering who I knew with appropriate skills and desires.

Recruiters doing it wrong:
Don't bother telling me that you're offering a $500 referral fee. It's not that $500 is insignificant, but referring a friend is such an unlikely event that the payoff needs to be much higher due to how infrequently things come together. Also, if your competition is paying 5K and you're paying $500, that can give a false impression on what you'll provide as salary. I'm guessing some cool companies only offer $500, and that's cool - but, I think you'll be better off focusing on where you are superior to your competition and omitting where you're definitely behind.

Programmers doing it wrong:
If you're out of work right now there should be a significant reason why. Perhaps you are tied to a small town or a specific domain - those are valid reasons. However, if you find yourself without the skills you need to get the jobs that are available in your area, you've likely been neglecting your craft. This summer, a family member asked me if I could tell his son my secret to success. The best advice I could come up with was: Hit the job boards and see what the largest technology need is and get to work learning it.

Once upon a time the technology I knew the best was Pegasystems. I was laid off and I ended up spending plenty of time on monster.com and the various IT specific clones. There were jobs available, but everyone wanted someone with a Microsoft background. I ended up turning down some well paying jobs working with dead-end technologies and took a decent paying job that allowed me to use .Net. Twelve months later I accepted a job making 125% of the decent salary - which was the most I'd ever made. If you are passionate and have high demand skills you should always be paid well.

Another thing that surprises me is programmers who are "too busy to read about new technology or attend conferences". Perhaps I value innovation more than other programmers, but I simply can't understand this perspective. I see my job as more than whatever feature I'm currently working on. To me, my job is to provide the most features in the shortest amount of time possible. On occasion that means needing to get something out as soon as possible. However, my general working mode is annual production, and in that timeframe inefficiency adds up. On occasion innovation can offer productivity boosts that I couldn't match if I worked 24 hours a day using more dated solutions.

As an employee, I feel it's my responsibility to the company to ensure I'm not ignoring any innovation that could drastically impact my delivery speed. As such, I need to be on top of as many relevant innovations as possible. Interestingly, a side-effect of this attitude is that I should also have the necessary skills to find another job should I find myself looking around. This is an everybody wins situation, but only if you choose to do the right thing.

That's all I have off the top of my head. If you have any interesting experiences with hiring or being hired, please leave me a comment.
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