Thursday, October 23, 2008

Recruiter tips: finding software developers

Recently a friend from a company outside of Chicago asked me some advice on how they should go about hiring a java developer. I found myself offering advice on screening techniques for technical people and how not to blow it, and found myself thinking, damn, these are things that professional recruiters should hear.

Despite this economy, the market for programmers seems very hot right now. (Seller's market.) I get contacted by a lot of recruiters all the time. When I'm actually on the job market, I get more of these cold-call emails/phonecalls than I can possibly consider returning. So unfortunately I have to go on their voicemail or email as to whether they are worth my time or not. (First impression is a big deal.) Many people say things that send bad messages, like the job description doesn't make sense (they want strange mixtures of technical and business skills), or there's too much detail on company operations and history at the expense of core details (e.g., what the software development environment is like, whether it's Windows vs Linux vs Mac, what webserver they use, etc.), or they want you to complete some coding test before you even get a how-do-you-do. When recruiters get the message wrong like this, the more senior and experienced people know to stay away, and you get more junior or unqualified people who are willing to go along...and you waste a lot of time discovering that, or even make the mistake of making a bad hiring choice.

So here's my advice. Before you contact any software developer, get a complete job description. Keep the description of the nature of the company's business to no more than 1/3 of the description; the rest should all be technical specifics of the programming core responsibilities. Make sure that part is written by, or at least with the collaboration with, a person qualified to manage that person. Get coached by that person on how to describe that position over the phone. When you find a person to contact, either get them the description in their hands before the phone call, or try to send it to their email address during the phone call. On the phone, don't try to say more than you know. Don't bore the candidate with the history of your recruiting firm---trust me, all recruiting firms histories and mission sound completely identical. Don't ask the candidate to read their resume over the phone to you; do your due diligence and show them that you've digested it already. If you meet the candidate first, don't insult them by making the meeting be about nothing. The recruiters who did the best work for me never asked me to meet them first. Hope that helps!

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