Thoughts On Recruiting Developers

recruiting_developers_radar_chartHere in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the supply and demand of talent are both incredibly high, turning your crew of 2 nerds into 20 isn’t easy.

That being said, it’s not impossible.  I love this challenge.  And I want to share an approach that’s worked for me.

After years spent helping to build teams, I’ve noticed some clear patterns start to emerge from the questions that get asked during coffee shop conversations.  Every developer is a snowflake, but there certainly are some common things that come up again and again.

Specifically, I find that there are the eight things that smart developers are trying to evaluate.  My advice – before you sit down, first perform a brutal self-assessment about how your organization and your opportunity measure up on the following:

1. Company
2. Physical Space
3. Position
4. Product
5. People
6. Platform
7. Process
8. Pay

For each item, I’ll highlight the salient questions developers are rolling through during your pitch.  Make sure you have clear, concise answers for all of them.

1. Company

  • “Are they viable? Are they going to be around for awhile?”
  • “When I tell my friends where I work, will I be proud of it?”

2. Physical Space

  • “Is the office in a location that works for me and my commute?”
  • “When I walk in, does the office workspace itself feel dynamic, vibrant, modern?  Or does it feel kind of junky and cluttered?”
  • “When I go to the office, I want to get stuff done.  Is this a place with the right balance of meeting space and personal space to do that?”

3. Position

  • “In my role, will I have ownership over the things I really care about?”
  • “Are my technical skills and interests a good fit for the role they’re offering?”

4. Product

  • “Am I working on something meaningful?”
  • “Is this something that people are excited to use?  Even if it’s not my friends and family, there should be somebody out there that would miss this product if it were gone, right?”

5. People

  • “Do these folks have a sense of urgency about what they’re doing?”
  • “Do they have the right people in the right spots so far?”
  • “Plain and simple – Do I like them?  Do they communicate honestly and openly?”

6. Platform

  • “Do I like the technology choices they’ve made?”
  • “Are new technologies going to be introduced along the way, so that I can continue to learn and grow?”
  • “How much of what they’re working on is untouchable legacy – and how much of it is greenfield?”

7. Process

  • “Will I be able to use the development tools I care about?”
  • “Are they a bunch of hacks gluing stuff together? Or do they do things the right way?  And can they prove it to me?”
  • “Do the engineering managers serve as vocal advocates for quality?”

8. Pay

  • “Is the pay competitive at this company? Am I happy with those numbers?”
  • “Going forward – If I do well, will I be recognized?”

That’s it.  No secret ingredients. No secret formula.  After reading that, you’re likely thinking “Of course, Steve.”

Listen up: Put your own cognitive dissonance aside and be completely honest with yourself about how your organization truly scores out across all of those facets.  Go from the outside looking in, not the inside looking out.

Maybe you think there are acceptable reasons as to why you have boxes all over your office entryway.  And you’re used to seeing them, so who cares, right?  Wrong.  There’s a good chance that the developer you invite up to the office for a look around was recently at an office with a clean, well-lit space free of clutter.  Where would they rather spend their time?

Maybe you think there are acceptable reasons as to why you don’t quite have the test coverage you want yet, but the site is up, so who cares, right?  Wrong.  There’s a good chance that the developer you’re talking to was recently at an office with realtime wallboards showing current build status.  Do you think your hand wavy answer can compete with that?

Wherever you’re strong, highlight it.  That’s easy.  But wherever you’re weak, fix it.  Don’t hand wave or bullshit (we developers have an incredible detector).  Just face it, own it, fix it.

Make it an initiative to legitimately address any weaknesses above before hitting the streets.  If you do, you’ll turn “meh” into “hell yeah” and have a great group of builders around you. Good luck out there.

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