Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Programming Businesses Software

Skipping Traditional Recruitment, Going Straight To the Source 207

theodp writes "Out of necessity, reports Slate, tech startups are changing the way workers are screened and hired. Take database technology startup RethinkDB, whose old-school recruiting effort — job boards, external recruiters — yielded hundreds of resumes, dozens of phone screens, and numerous four-hour meetings with viable candidates, but no one who fit their criteria. 'They [recruiters] can't tell the difference between the competent ones and the stars,' complained Y Combinator's Paul Graham. Instead, the RethinkDB founders turned to sites like Github.com and stackoverflow.com to pick up six people (they're still looking), a mix of full-timers and interns, both senior and junior. 'You can see the code being written and how technically accurate they are,' explained RethinkDB's Michael Glukhovsky."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Skipping Traditional Recruitment, Going Straight To the Source

Comments Filter:
  • Google does that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @02:46AM (#33401424) Homepage

    Google did that in their glory years. I've been contacted by Google recruiting because of posts I made on comp.lang.c++.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 28, 2010 @03:06AM (#33401488)

    I'm 20 year old software engineering student and my resume... I wouldn't perhaps say that it is full of lies but I know that it is full of exaggerations. Gross ones. For example, I list Python under my skills even though my knowledge of it is pretty much limited to one course I took.

    I don't like doing that but feel that I am expected to do that. When I browse job advertisements it is obvious that many claim to require skills you would never actually need in such a job. They have often been written by people who aren't software engineers themselves so my process goes like this:

    -See a job that I think I would be skilled enough to do or learn quickly enough

    -Ignore all skills they claim the job to require

    -See if I can in any way justify adding them to my resume without outright lying

    -Try to get to an interview and sort everything out there.

    Of course, if I actually do get to an interview and there is a technical guy present and we begin discussing my skills, I will make it clear what I really can do and what I can not. If there isn't a technical guy present (IE: a mid-sized company is hiring their first in-house webmaster) I pretty much have to use my own judgement about whether I can do the job or not. That is a horrible way to do things because it sometimes wastes employers' time, etc. when I am not actually qualified to do something. But if I wouldn't do it like that, I might not even get to an interview for some job that I would be very competent at.

  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Saturday August 28, 2010 @03:29AM (#33401570) Homepage Journal
    Beautiful comment. And sometimes you have to lie as much as they do, especially if they're asking for 5 years experience with a technology that was invented 2 years ago. Those bastards are often as guilty at buzzword bingo as we have to be.

    "-See if I can in any way justify adding them to my resume without outright lying"

    Way back in my stupid days, I applied for a calibration technician position. The technical director asked me if I knew how to calibrate a Spectrum Analyzer, and of course I did. It was simple - you just navigated the menus and activated the autocal. He told me that calbrating a specan requires actually opening it up and performing over 200 adjustments. Then he chuckled and told me to GTFO.

  • by Beowulf_Boy ( 239340 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @03:59AM (#33401626)

    My mom ran a very profitable business for about 20 years, from before I was born until I was 16 or so.

    When I was 16 my parents got a divorce, long story short, my dad was to blame.

    She had a hell of a time finding a new job, because the only job she'd ever had since highschool was as the office manager for her own business. At times they'd had up to 10 employees, she did all the payroll, bid on jobs, everything on the office with the help of one secretary, etc etc.

    No one wants to hire someone when they can't verify their employment. She finally found a job (which was was laid off from 2 years ago) as a phone answerer / secretary for a small business. Took her forever to even find that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 28, 2010 @05:37AM (#33401850)

    Linkedin should be that better process. Sadly people give out recommendations like confetti. I've worked with a sociopath and a lazy slimeball ( two people ) who both got good recommendations on there.

    I think there is even a negative correlation between the number of recommendations people have on LinkedIn and their actual competence.

    Of the persons I know on LinkedIn, those who have many recommendations are mostly 1) those looking for a job 2) the incompetent ones.

  • Great idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by neuro-commando ( 1888256 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @07:47AM (#33402234)
    I would prefer if browsing stack-overflow and similar sites was the preferred way of finding possible workers, like the article said, it shows a much bigger picture, as well as a person's strengths, and major areas of interest. It sure beats a resume that's designed to make the recruit look like a golden angel, especially because there are bound to be hundreds just like it, finding the right guy is pretty much a "pin resumes to the wall, and throw darts" type of science.
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @09:28AM (#33402628) Homepage

    The rockstar programmer is not dead. They are just working for someone else right now. The conventional job hunt is not the way to find them, for the most part. When they do lose a job (because the company's financial people fail, for example), they usually have contacts in place and can latch a new job quickly. Those that don't have such contacts might build them online. Open source projects are one of the places (though RethinkDB might be working way to narrow with just a couple places). Hopefully, they will be approaching this less as a quick-hire place, and more as a build-contact place. They might well find the rockstar there today, that they can hire two years from now.

    But I can understand the want to hire the top-talented core people, often just two or three of them, who will then be surrounded by a team of twenty to forty eager beaver programmers who can at least understand new concepts, even if they are not seasoned enough to create them on their own. It seems to me RethinkDB is trying to do this, but doesn't realize it actually is very hard to do.

    California itself is problematic. It's perceived as the go-to place for tech jobs. So everyone that wants one goes there. That's why it has both a surplus and a shortage at the same time. It's being diluted by the lower 50%. Once they can spread out and hire people from other locations, they'll find out where those lower-end programmers moved away from. Top-level talent doesn't need to move and it will exist in its small proportion everywhere.

    FYI, I've turned down a job at more than double the pay these guys are offering, just because it was in California. I would have taken it if I could have telecommuted and visited in person three or four times a year for a week each. If they were hiring within 100km of me, or in any of the places I'd be happy to move to, then I'd send them a resume and see if they will still look at those.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday August 28, 2010 @10:17AM (#33402880) Homepage Journal

    I need to reply out of order for this to work out...

    I don't see how the inability to get a job or find qualified people, is on the recruiter, or why all the headhunter hate in general.

    Out of hundreds of contacts (I know some of you have had thousands, but apparently I'm just this guy) I've had only a couple of invitations to apply that actually matched the skillset on my publicly posted resume. From managers I know who have done hiring from a recuiters' pool of applicants, I know that most of the applicants delivered by headhunters are clearly and obviously unqualified for the positions for which they are presented.

    I'm not sure how getting me interviews with places I might want to work, for people who might want to hire me == lack of integrity.

    Simply, it is because most of the time they're interviews with places you don't want to work (they were clueless enough to try to hire you via headhunter) and most of the time they don't want to hire you because most of the applicants are not matches for the positions (which is why it's clueless to try to hire via headhunter.) This is not to say that there's nobody good out there, of course. Exceptions, however, prove the rule.

  • by weav ( 158099 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @10:41AM (#33403032)

    My current boss put an ad on Craigslist which said send your CV and write a perl script that does [thing]. I did so. That turned into a 90-min. phone screen in which he grilled me technically, and then he set up an on-site interview. 5 people, 45 min. each, intense technical drilldown.

    The hr person was annoyed that he'd gone to Craigslist (mgr. never told me to say otherwise...), but the mgr. found somebody who could do what he wanted.

  • by cetialphav ( 246516 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @10:49AM (#33403096)

    For example, I list Python under my skills even though my knowledge of it is pretty much limited to one course I took.

    I have interviewed lots of people and this kind of thing would get you dumped in my book. I look for three major things in an interview. 1) Personality - can you work with the team and culture. 2) Intelligence - Can you think on your feet and give me some evidence that you use your brain. 3) Do you know what your resume claims.

    It is number 3 that would end up getting you. When someone knows they know product X, I expect them to really know it. So I pick something on the resume and start asking questions and digging deeper and deeper. If I spend 15 minutes asking questions about a topic that you really know, I should not be able to stump you, especially if it is in a field I know little about. This is probably the most common reason for rejecting someone.

    For example, I know very little about Java as none of my jobs has required much use of it. But since I keep up with technology in general I know a bit about it. So if someone's resume presents them as a Java expert, I feel like I can ask as many questions about Java as I want for as long as I want and they should be able to dazzle me with their knowledge since I am clearly not an expert. Time and again, people bomb out on this. They think Java programs cannot leak memory; they claim Java automatically makes programs secure; they never heard of JIT compilation. The list goes on and on.

    If you can become an expert on Java (or anything else), then I feel like you can become an expert on the technology my company actually uses. I rarely ask technical questions based on what the company uses. That stuff changes over time and employees are always learning new things. I want to see that people are experts on what they have worked on. So if you put something on the resume, I expect you to know it inside and out.

  • All that is well and good, but it ignores my key point - the vast majority of IT failures have nothing to do with people's technical skills, but management's failure to communicate. Technical skills can be acquired (and when you're developing new technology, obviously it's the only way to go, since there is no prior art, etc.) - communications skills, obviously not so easily.

    The use of extensive testing is an easy way to cover up for the lack of a proper way to assess the more important aspect - is the person a good communicator? Not in the "marketing/powerpoint/bs" fashion, but can they take a concept and teach it to someone else on the team?

    Stick them in front of a whiteboard and have them give a talk about something. Did you understand it? If so, they've demonstrated 4 things - that they know it, that they know it well enough to explain it to others, and that others can understand their style of communicating, and that they also know how to listen (more on that in a sec).

    15 minutes to a half-hour should be all that's needed. If they wash out on communications skills, then it doesn't matter how hot-shot prima donna they are with code. If they're good communicators, they got that way by listening to others, and adapting their "pitch" to the abilities of their audience.

    It's a simple test, with a simple pass/fail standard - did you understand what they were talking about? If they bored the crap out of you, they're a poor communicator. If they kept having to pause for 15 seconds to 1 minute to "fill the pipeline", they're not really on top of the subject matter, so you've also eliminated the "BS-ers".

    You also get to see if they're really enthusiastic about what they do, or if it's just a job, so you cover the "desperate for a job" motivation as well - someone who's enthusiastic will easily be able to go beyond the 15-30 minutes. It also lets you see if anyone else in the room is not going to be a good fit, personality-wise, during any Q and A. Do they get into a "pissing match?" If so, who started it, and how did the other person handle it? (You might want to have a "plant" for doing exactly that).

    Of course, this is just too simple and obvious, just like using two screens is a simple and obvious way to improve productivity, from secretaries to coders and everyone else, but most companies won't do it.

    Fear. They'd rather trust in some mythical scores so that if it doesn't work out they can CYA by saying "the checkboxes looked good." Do we pick our other relationships like that? I hope not - and work is just as much a relationship as any other.

  • I think you misunderstood - I wasn't saying hire a contractor as a replacement during the hiring process - "hire a programmer on a contract basis to help them weed out candidates." - and only that.

    In other words, come in one afternoon or evening a week, or on a weekend, and sit in on the interviews, then give your opinion on the pros and cons of the candidate.

    Certainly a lot better than anything that a recruiting agency will do, and cheaper in the long run.

  • by sigmabody ( 1099541 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @03:43PM (#33404896)

    I do basically the same thing; not because I want to be dishonest, but because I know how the process works. For me, I know I can get a job if I get interviewed by a technical person: I have good technical skill. The "hard" part is getting passed the screening processes, where non-technical people eliminate candidates based on keywords, employment patterns, or other non-technical aspects of your on-paper appearance. You do what you need to do to get a conversation with the employer, and that's 90% of the difficulty in getting a job.

    On the flip side, as someone who is trying to recruit people atm, I totally get the initial post sentiment too. I've gone through many resumes and many phone screenings, and the current process seems to be no better than pulling people off the street. There's got to be a better way to get competent people into jobs.

  • by winwar ( 114053 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @04:24PM (#33405086)

    "I have interviewed lots of people and this kind of thing would get you dumped in my book. I look for three major things in an interview. ... 3) Do you know what your resume claims."

    And you are part of the problem. He stated a skill that he had. He didn't say he was an expert. You assumed it.

    "So if you put something on the resume, I expect you to know it inside and out."

    That is absurd. And not realistic. If you want specific skills with specific levels of ability they need to be stated very clearly. They rarely are. For instance, I've seen companies that ask for "knowledge" of something. What the heck does that mean? Well, I covered it in a course once, so yes, I have knowledge of it. Likewise, "experience" doing "y" for "x" years. That too is pretty broad.

  • by GeckoAddict ( 1154537 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @09:48PM (#33406594)

    I almost never look for specific skill sets. When smart people have a solid knowledge of the field as a whole, they can pick up anything quickly. I use their resume as a starting point of judging this because they wrote the thing. This is their chance to market themselves to me.

    That's great, if you get to see every resume. The problem is with the HR filter. They usually don't know that a resume with multiple years of Java, C++, PHP and VB.net development means you could probably do C# work without a problem, especially if you've actually done some minor C# work but didn't list it because you're not an expert. The job description says C# preferred, so the hiring manager never get to see that resume.

    That said, I usually do your approach as well: list out a ranking of your skills. e.g "Very proficient in C# and Java, Some experience with C++, PHP, and Perl". The resumes that are a real problem are the ones that include a full page of programs because 'my C# program once called a stored procedure so I'm going to list SQL Server as a skill'. I've seen a lot of these that either came from a recruiter or are contractors (especially foreign).

  • by cetialphav ( 246516 ) on Saturday August 28, 2010 @11:08PM (#33406888)

    That's great, if you get to see every resume. The problem is with the HR filter.

    I don't deny that the recruiter filter is a problem. The fact that HR folks are bad at distinguishing good and bad engineers is an unfixable problem. If HR had the engineering skills to do that, they would be in the R&D department and not recruiting. If you want to get the best engineers then you have to have the engineers sifting through a lot of the resumes. If companies are making hiring decisions based on the 3-4 resumes that HR presents, then there is no way they are getting the best and brightest.

    But I won't let this bait me into padding my resume to pass the filter and then hoping I can explain things away in an interview. I want to work with the best and the brightest. The interview process works both ways. I don't want to work for loser companies, so I'm okay with companies with poor practices passing me over.

User hostile.