How to recruit a software developer. (Part 3)

As promised, we’ll talk about the traits of successful recruiters.

Good recruiters look for people to fit a position, and pursue them individually. I’ve mentioned before that my name and resume pop on Google search results when a recruiter is looking for a senior web architect or development manager in the Seattle area. The best experiences I have ever had with recruiters come from these approaches, and they are instantly distinguishable from the usual.

One recruiter, Shannon Anderson from NuWest Group out of Bellevue, personifies this approach. She’s professional, spectacular at her job, and rarely presents more than a single candidate for a job. She matches people perfectly, and as a result, she gets a near perfect return on her investment and an ongoing relationship. It’s more like talking to a very friendly and competent matchmaker, and I’d encourage anyone to work with her or someone
like her.

She makes personal connections, and takes her time getting to know her candidates.

Other great recruiters have a large database of positions, and instead of matching a candidate to a job, they match a job to a great candidate. Tara Gowland runs Startup Recroot, a Seattle-based firm, and her approach is to find spectacular and competent people, and try to pair them with positions that she’ll seek out. Her approach to me was diffident, even shy, which was a refreshing change from the normal TRUMPETS BLARING approach.

Now, while I can recommend each of these firms, and most specifically these two recruiters, I can’t tell you about the positions for which I was either hired or interviewed, since that breaks some confidentiality agreements. However, if you find recruiters like these ladies, I heartily recommend that you not only work with them, but that you give them all the social media and blogging help you can. Firms that are
ethical, helpful, and who have recruiters with personal and competent approaches are few and far between.

Find these firms, and work with them. They’re full disclosure, honest, and they’re great at what they do. Please feel free to leave other firms that you’ve been happy to work with in the comments.

How to recruit a software developer. (Part 2)

We’ll continue with the problem of incentivization for recruiters.

Recruiting must be the most outsourced, underfunded, middleman-heavy profession there is. There are several frustrations that go along with being heavily recruited by people who do not know or care whether you fit a given job description, and they range from the merely careless and time-profligate to the truly unethical.

(1) CARELESS: Recruiters who mass email everyone on CareerFinder and Monster with the word “Ruby” in their profile for an Austin, Texas-based junior web developer 3-month contract gig specializing in Ruby on Rails.

I am not a Ruby developer, I will not move to Austin, Texas, especially for a three month contract, and I’m not a junior ANYTHING. I have some skills with Ruby, meaning that I can install the necessary scripts, edit them, run them to operate a site, and I know enough to know when I need to call a specialist. This makes me able to list
Ruby as a general low-level skill on my resume, but does not in any way qualify me for a development job on a site that solely uses Ruby for an environment. However, that keyword hits big with recruiters, and I get probably 15 emails a day from recruiters trying to get me to take a job for which I am unqualified and in a location to which I would not move. A simple glance at my resume with the words “Senior Development Manager and Web Architect” emblazoned across the top and a brief scan of my skillset tells anyone I am a skilled coder who has been moved up the chain to management, and would likely help those recruiters to target me far more efficiently.

(2) CARELESS: Recruiters who speak such poor English that their emails are unreadable–and that sometimes includes native English speakers.

I am glad that you’re “pleased for making time and hoping you will be helping me networking to fill VERY IMPORTANT positino immediatly in NEW YORKCITY as JAVA DEVELOPAR” [not a joke; I seem to be
perpetually emailed by the recruiter version of Paul Christoforo], but I don’t need it filling my day. At the very minimum, have your job posts reviewed for content and grammar before sending them to thousands of developers.

(3) UNETHICAL: Recruiters who are paid by the emails they generate, not by the positions they fill.

This is a common problem among firms that have outsourced to the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia…in fact, name your popular outsourcing destination in Asia, and you’ll find these recruiters, who are paid to send out as many emails as possible. They’re no better than spam, but because they’re targeted to you and have your email address, you can’t filter them the way you would filter a Cialis or pr0n ad.

(4) CARELESS: Recruiters who have not paid attention to your preferred location–and don’t care.

I will not take a job in South Dakota; I’m sorry. I’ve lived in several midwest states and think that South Dakota is quite eerily beautiful. I
will not be transferring my life, my career, and my love of well-produced opera to Sioux Falls any time soon.

(5) UNETHICAL: Recruiters who expect you to do their job for them.

My final post will be the most egregious example I’ve found, combined with a horrific example of #6. The most common variety is this:

To better represent you, kindly fill out the skills inventory below. Thank you

1) Agile/Scrum (Beginner/Intermediate/Expert) (Years of experience/Date Last used)
2) Software Development Proj Mgmt (Beginner/Intermediate/Expert) (Years of experience/Date Last used)
3) Web-Based Application architecture knowledge (Beginner/Intermediate/Expert) (Years of experience/Date Last used)
4) Test Driven
Development / XP (Beginner/Intermediate/Expert) (Years of experience/Date Last used)
5) Java development principals (Beginner/Intermediate/Expert) (Years of experience/Date Last used)
6) Release Management (Beginner/Intermediate/Expert) (Years of experience/Date Last used)


Remember that I get about 50 or so of these emails per day; this person doesn’t even want to read my resume, and instead wants me to fill out his paperwork for him. Note: this was for a position in California, making it irrelevant anyway.

(6) UNETHICAL: Recruiters who expect you to prep and interview with no information about the company.

This is the worst one. How can I know if I want to take a position if I’m not told: (1)
what the salary will be, (2) where the company is physically located, (3) what benefits are available, and (4) to whom I would be reporting? This is just another version of wasting my time. I don’t talk anymore to recruiters who are secretive; they are occasionally fronts for disreputable companies who want a chance to sell you before you find out what their online reputation looks like.

Next, the traits of successful recruiters.

Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack to speak at Seattle Central Community College, Jan 18th, 3-5PM

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I’ll be speaking as a joint guest of the Ignite program through Seattle Public Schools and the IT department at SCCC.

People of all ages who want to know more about becoming a female programmer and entering technical careers are welcome to attend; I’ll be speaking on interview techniques, what to expect from your colleagues, how to succeed, and the rewards of software and web development compared to many traditional women’s career paths.

Please let your friends and mentees know; I am looking forward to answering your questions and giving you the insider information you need to succeed!

Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack, 
the Cowgirl Coder, to speak at SCCC 01/18/12 3-5PM
Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack, the Cowgirl Coder, to speak at SCCC 01/18/12 3-5PM

How to recruit a software developer. (Part 1)

I have a problem. Hundreds of people every week contact me to try to get me to work for them.

In an economic downturn, this may sound like what I call a ‘high-class problem.’ Noted examples of high-class problems include: paying taxes on your lottery winnings, being unable to make up your mind between your Harvard and Yale college acceptance letters, and getting a shopping cart dent in your Rolls Royce.

It may sound like I should have absolutely no problem finding my next contract or FTE position, but the truth is that I am bewildered by the sheer quantity of irrelevant job postings and shady headhunters by which I am besieged on a weekly basis. This is no joke: I have hired a remote assistant whose sole job for me is to go through all my emails related to job postings. I have no way to process them all and still get coding, blogging, eating, and living done. I have an obligation to follow up on each posting that fits my skill set, and
I am trying my best to do so…but there’s no way to spend hours per response following up on thousands of postings–99.7% of which are irrelevant due to location, skill set, or compensation level.

Then, we come to the issue of rude and unethical recruiters. I’ve had some recent encounters that inspired this series; I’ll be describing that situation as I discuss the ethics of recruitment from the other side–the people being recruited. I’m bombarded by recruiters who have the incentive to email as many people as possible, since they have no reason to care about the skill sets or fit of the people they’re slotting into jobs. They’re paid by the number of people they place, not the quality of the placement or its duration. That doesn’t add up to a recruitment culture of individualized attention and courtesy. I’m also constantly hit by emails demanding my time and effort without so much as a ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’

Finally, there are rules that good recruiters follow which instantly
get my attention and cause me to work with them. I’ll let you know what traits a recruiter possesses to make me work with them again and again.

So, over the next several days, I’ll be posting a multi-part series on how to recruit me. I want to be hired; people certainly want to hire me–so why is it so hard to be paired with a recruiter who has actually read my resume and thinks I’d be a great fit for their open position?

Welcome to the joy of being heavily recruited by thousands of clueless and careless headhunters who have your email address and phone number.