Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
Commentary
7/29/2014
10:56 AM
Jack Perkins
Jack Perkins
Commentary
100%
0%

Stop Recruiting, Start Connecting

Software engineers want to talk with their fellow professionals about job opportunities, not run the HR gauntlet.

Recruiting for software engineers and other in-demand positions gives everyone the willies. Engineers suffer from spam, recruiters hate pestering people for a living, and ever-more-desperate employers wish they could just talk to some serious, intelligent developers who know how to get the job done.

We're calling for a reinvention of the entire "recruitment" process, starting with the way we talk about it. With a change of words and practices, we can start to change the system and make everyone happier: hiring managers, developers, and recruiters (except we're not calling them recruiters anymore).

Out: recruiting. In: bringing people together
Serious job candidates want to talk with their fellow professionals. They don't want to be a plug to fill a leaking req. And they don't want to run through a gauntlet of recruiters and HR screeners who know nothing about software engineering. Recruiters make them shudder. Smart, engaged, peer-to-peer conversations make them feel warm and fuzzy.

Out: staffing process. In: grooming your teams, or even hiring a ragtag band of lovable misfits
In a sector that thrives on innovation, it's crazy how engineering teams comply readily to the same old "staffing process" thrown over the wall by the HR department. They cede their responsibility, relying on HR pros to plop perfectly screened engineers into their laps. Then the engineers wind up screening out candidates anyway, which they very much dislike doing.

From the perspective of the interviewees, why would gainfully employed software engineers want to test your waters if their only option is to endure an HR grilling before talking to someone they respect as a colleague?

Let your engineers engage with their peers. They want this! So many of them are introverts, and they keep hearing that they should be networking more, but they don't have enough valuable networking opportunities. Why not let your engineers and other IT pros network as part of the recruiting process, and then bring in the professionals who most impress them?

Out: war for talent. In: finding the people who are the best fit for you
The war for talent is really a war on talent, as inboxes groan under an onslaught of recruiter spam. It's getting bad out there: Recently, a professional with no technical background -- he happened to be a recruiter himself -- got a LinkedIn InMail pitching him a job in DevOps!

Remember: Hiring doesn't have to hurt. If we make the right connections, we can do it without the inbox abuse.

[Are you looking at the right data? Read Deep Data Trumps Big Data.]

You're not selling a used car. You're bringing in respected colleagues who'll be spending nine hours a day with you. The soft touch approach is soft touch for both parties involved. Not only the interviewees, but also your engineers who talk with them, will breathe a sigh of relief.

Out: screeners. In: ambassadors
Since the engineering department ultimately must choose the right candidates, let's let them do their job in the most pleasant and productive way possible. In today's market, VCs and VPs of engineering are cold-calling engineers. If their time is worth it, so is your engineers' time. Don't be afraid to let candidates talk with members of your software development team. With proper performance benchmarks -- how many calls result in an on-site meeting, how many on-sites result in an offer, how many offers are accepted -- this more efficient hiring process can save time and money.

If a prospective candidate's LinkedIn, GitHub, and other online profiles look compelling, the engineer who talks to her shouldn't be "screening" her. That engineer should be leading the welcome wagon. The two should talk on the phone, go for coffee, whatever it takes to get the dialog going. Even the more introverted software engineer will jump on the opportunity to talk shop with a professional peer. For more on this concept, see our article Informational Interviews for People Who Don't Need Them.

Out: My boss is hiring. In: Come work with me
Opening a dialog through normal channels with an experienced and comfortably employed software engineer is almost impossible. How many great engineers read ads, pay attention to sourcing spam, and talk with recruiters

Next Page

Jack Perkins, principal of Oryx Search, has been bringing software engineers together for well over two decades. He has worked with hundreds of Silicon Valley startups as well as recognized technology icons. Always an independent and never an inside recruiter, he has a unique ... View Full Bio
Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 2 / 3   >   >>
Jack Perkins
50%
50%
Jack Perkins,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2014 | 10:30:05 PM
Re: Examples?
Example: In my day job as a recruiter I recently shifted to what I call "soft touch" recruiting. This led my favorite Big Data client to hire a senior distributed systems engineer through my introduction. Besides a few emails I did not call and talk to the candidate. I acted as an ambassador, made the connection and nature took its course.

A bigger example is I mostly work with start-ups and I've seen this hundreds of times: By the time the start-up wants to work with me they have already hired their first dozen engineers. How? Through their own network: friends of friends of friends, referrals from their lead VC, people they meet commuting on BART (really)... Then they get too busy and start to think their network is tapped out so they hire recruiters and drop their networking efforts. Except maybe adding "I'm hiring" to their Linkedin profiles.

The start-ups are already pretty good at social recruiting and they don't know it. What they need is a system to help support them in continuing their already excellent efforts of organic growth. A system outside the realm of HR.

This is why I am an advisor to RightJoin (www.rightjoin.io). They are software engineers that see an opportunity to improve the experience of hiring software engineers. We have begun some initial pilot programs in software start-ups in San Francisco and Tel Aviv to prove results. Stay tuned and I'll let you know how the pilots are going.

Jack
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/30/2014 | 7:28:31 PM
Examples?
Jack: These are all ideas that could be tremendously helpful in changing the hiring process. Can you please share one or two examples of your own experiences where you have applied one or two of these different approaches, how it was taken by the hiring company and by the potential employee? I think many of us would like to know how this approach has worked for you in practice. 
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/30/2014 | 7:26:38 PM
Re: Stop Recruiting, Start Connecting
@Zerox203: everyone reading this post is probably in very heated agreement about what Jack is proposing here. I think it's up to all of us to make sure we're sharing this with HR and other hiring managers we deal with in our own organizations or even with the headhunters that we hear from.

While hiring software engineers definitely has its specific requirements, much of what Jack outlines here really could be applied to the hiring process for almost any position in a company. I especially like his idea of uncovering ways of finding those "stealth" people who are employed and may be interested in looking around but dont want to expend all that energy.

Right now, the only way to find those folks is to cultivate your own robust peer network so you can put out feelers to find those folks. This is something that has to happen within industry or job sectors and not something HR professionals are really equipped to do.
mejiac
50%
50%
mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 3:42:29 PM
Re: Hidden gems
"This may be the reason why technology companies don't have a very sound hiring process."

Agreed, sadly many HR recruiters treat the hiring process as a sales process, and, not to blame them, aren't able to determine what fits and what doesn't.

This happened to me several times when I was unemployed for a couple of months.... the reps that I would talked to were clueless on the software and projects that I had managed, even less regarding certifications. I would say "I'm PMP certififed", and then they would later ask "Do you have any Project Management credentials?"
mejiac
50%
50%
mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 3:24:45 PM
Re: IT
@H@mmy,

Agreed, my current company has been able to streamline the process that a new resource is requested, from start to end the new person is located, onboarded in ready to go in less than 2 weeks (start to end), and like you mention the long processes were steamlined so that we can focus more on skills, abilities and if the personality if the right fit (versus simply having the correct skill set)
mejiac
IW Pick
100%
0%
mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 3:22:27 PM
A paradigm Shift
Wow... this has to be one of the best tech articles I've ready in a while (aside from the next Star Wars film)

"Since the engineering department ultimately must choose the right candidates, let's let them do their job in the most pleasant and productive way possible."

When I was a supervisor for a manufacturing company, I actually voiced out my concerns on the recruitment process, since I would only get people that had only been screend by HR, and no matter the amount of questiosn, there's that "fuzzy" feeling you can only get when actually talking to someone. At the end, I would do the "screening" which was more a conversational interview, and I would ask scenarios just to get a sense on how that person reacted. But It would be a tier process...since I would invite the candidate to spend half a day at the office, actually getting to know who would be there peers. At the end they would provide feedback and we would extend an offer.
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 1:07:44 PM
Re: candid conversations
I absolutely support the idea of sharing with an employee about your operations so that he can be well conversant with what he is required to do and his role in your organization. Finding an expert HR who is a professional in the field of technology is normally very hard because for you to be come an expert in technology, it clearly means that you started a very long time ago when you were young and this field hardly allows you to get interest in other things like studying to become an HR manager as well.
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
7/30/2014 | 10:33:55 AM
Re: Stop Recruiting, Start Connecting
I profiled Waste Management, in 2011 when it was #3 on our annaul InformationWeek innovators' ranking, and they talked about how every hire at every level met with a group of IT employees, including at least one of the senior IT leadership. Usually the CIO. He commented on how surprised the candidates were, especially for more entry-level analyst roles, to have the CIO as part of that group.  
zerox203
100%
0%
zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 8:37:51 AM
Re: Stop Recruiting, Start Connecting
Very well said, Jack, and even though this is an oft-talked about topic, it seems that most companies have yet to enact better hiring practices, so there's no harm in talking about it more. The example you gave about your Ph.D friend is mind-blowing, and I couldn't think of a better anecdote even if I was making one up. To call the modern hiring machine 'inefficient' is an understatement. If we compare it to say, things like modern agile development process (or, ironically, even the DevOps we're recruiting for), it looks like a joke. It's become accepted that you don't just do what everyone else is doing, you do what's right for your business - except, apparently, when it comes to hiring.

While I definitely agree with you, I will also say I think that you run some risk of preaching to the choir here. I hope there are a wider variety of professionals reading InformationWeek, but I suspect there are a much larger number of Software Engineers than HR people. As Taimor (@tzubair) says, HR people are the ones whose minds we have to change, and they have a stake in this matter as well. That said, do HR people really go home and read technology blogs? I'd like to hope some (at certain companies) do, but I suspect not many. Maybe we have a broader role to play as technology people in evangelizing concepts like this.
H@mmy
100%
0%
H@mmy,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 7:44:53 AM
IT
With the help of IT hr work has been made very easy. All long procedures have been eliminated. Now from all over the world You can easily hire any best candidate. It is all about connecting and then recruiting. In those old days it was as first you recruit and then connect. 
<<   <   Page 2 / 3   >   >>
The Business of Going Digital
The Business of Going Digital
Digital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014
Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.