By inviting an experienced developer, you do not buy, but sell

Original author: Alexander
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Undoubtedly, it is difficult to hire an experienced programmer. But I do not believe that the market has completely dried up. Over the course of my career, I have worked with many teams that fall into two categories: those that cannot hire experienced developers and those that attract them with ease. In fact, the second category did not have any problems with hiring.

There are many reasons why some fail to attract talent. However, all the teams that did it easily understood one simple fact about the current market situation:

When hiring seniors, the company does not choose a candidate, but the candidate chooses a company.

Simply put:

Inviting an experienced developer, you do not buy, but sell.

If you do not agree, let me tell you about my experience. A few years ago, my resume came to recruiters. At that time I had about three years of experience as a software engineer in small companies. For several days, the mailbox was stormed by an avalanche of letters with suggestions. Another time, resumes went to recruiters again - and they called three times a day.

This story says nothing about my abilities as a programmer. Such stories can tell many colleagues with different skill levels. In the current market situation, an engineer with many years of experience has many options.

The funny thing is that in both cases I didn’t particularly like the current work. I was interested in other options, but these recruiters worked so badly that I refused to even meet with one of them personally. So do not think that seniors are not interested in your offer: you just need to make it convincing - you have to sell it! Most HR managers and recruiters with whom I spoke tend to agree with this statement. But if you look at real actions, they do not correspond to their words.

In fact, almost the entire system of modern recruiting is unsatisfactory. It works poorly for all parties involved, but especially for the candidate. Consider a few specific areas.

Your recruitment ad sucks

Imagine that you are looking for a candidate for another (non-technical) position. You placed an ad and received more than 200 resumes. How much time do you spend on each resume? A minute or two, even less? This is how an experienced programmer behaves when he searches for work.

Your ad is a candidate’s resume. He will spend only a few seconds on the assessment, and if it does not attract his attention, he will go further. Unfortunately, most ads are terrible.

Consider a typical lead programmer job ad. I went to one of the big job sites and entered the search into [Senior Software Engineer]. I chose a random publication - and I echoed it in order not to shine a specific company. Red areas indicate the needs of the employer, and green areas indicate what the employer can offer the candidate.

If you think in terms of purchase, it is perfectly normal - you say that you need. But if we proceed from the logic of the sale, this is crazy! You are used to reading resumes: Imagine that the candidate’s resume contains more than 50% of the text about what he wants.

Instead, it is likely that a resume will contain 100% of the information about the merits of the candidate and the benefits he can give the company. The man optimized the text and placed the most convincing arguments on the most prominent places.

Information about your company is too hard to find

Going beyond the announcements, it’s generally difficult to find important information about most companies. Be honest, is it easy to find answers to all the questions that are very important for future employees? In one click from your job posting?

  • How is the company organized?
  • What management style and development methodology (for example, Scrum, XP) does the team use? Does the manual have technical training?
  • How many people are in a team?
  • How do you track business hours? Keep track of the time of arrival and departure?
  • What product / area will I work on?
  • What does an office look like? What equipment will I use?
  • How do people usually dress in the office?
  • Does the team go to lunch together?
  • ...

Of course, different people have different needs. Not everyone is interested in each of these questions, but for many the answers are critically important.

For example, colleagues often talked about bad experiences with humanities managers. In the future, they categorically refuse to work with such people. Therefore, if you have a manager with a technical education, be sure to bring this information to the candidates. For some, this is a very powerful incentive!

Look on the other hand, put yourself in the place of the applicant. Imagine that you want to buy a new computer. You see an ad that seems interesting, but you still have questions. Then you go to the seller's website, but you can not find the answers. Continue to search - and after a while, finally, find the phone number. You are calling, but, unfortunately, the interlocutor can not answer all these questions. Instead, he asks to send a letter in which you explain in detail why you want to buy a computer. You must also send proof that you have enough money to buy. After that, you may be invited to a personal meeting, where they will be happy to answer all your questions about the computer.

Will you really go through this whole process? Or just look for another computer, where the seller without problems? This is the experience of most candidates who are trying to get answers to the questions above. You will not learn anything from most companies until you have an interview. This is a dead end for most engineers, which brings me to the next point.

Your interviews suck and the hiring process is too slow

Let's go back to the example of buying a computer. Imagine that you have gone through the whole process - and hit the store. You still have questions, and you are waiting for an employee to answer them. But he is late for half an hour. Then she continues to ask why you want to buy a computer without answering any of your questions. When they finally get to the point, he says that he no longer has time. Or that can not answer, because they do not know the specifics of this computer. Asks to come back later. In general, you first need to go through a computer quiz - and check that you know the computer well enough to buy it. When you submit a test (which took you more than an hour of personal time), you will not hear from them for a few weeks.

I personally experienced it all.

We will sort the scenario point by point, with recommendations. Most of them seem obvious, but for some reason many companies cannot understand them.

  • Do not be late. Do not make the candidate wait.
  • Prepare well. You must read the candidate’s resume and interview structure. You should know as much as possible about the position and answer all questions.
  • Be friendly. This seems obvious, but it is very important, and many companies fail. This is a matter of mentality. Create the feeling that you really need this person. Never think that he has to prove something, if you have to prove something. Even if the candidate is weak, it is still better to make a good impression on him. Maybe he will tell friends about his experience or re-send a resume in a few years, honing skills.
  • Make decisions quickly, without impudence.

Brief note about assignments for candidates

It is clear that you want to know whether a person is capable of actually doing his job and doing it well. Returning to the above example with the purchase of a computer, of course, the seller wants to make sure that you have the money. But if he is smart, then just assume that there is money. He will check this assumption only at the very last moment.

You should do the same. Of course, this moment largely depends on your specific situation and resources. If you have many applicants, then you need to make some preliminary assessment of their skills. But in any case, act like a smart seller and try to make sure that the candidate really wants this job. And when it comes to the assessment, it should be as quick and painless as possible for the candidate.

Opinions differ on this point, but if the interview is conducted by another engineer, then it may not be necessary to conduct a formal assessment of qualifications. In my experience, skills are fairly easy to assess: a friendly conversation about technical interests and recent projects is usually sufficient. If you decide that a formal assessment is necessary, let the candidate choose between a small home task and a time-limited task in the office. In any case, I recommend giving the task as close as possible to real work. Let them use their own laptop, access to the Internet, ask questions. It should be more like working together than testing skills.

Poor adaptation and management

These topics deserve a separate article. The first days in the company may be more important than the procedure for admission to work. I will not go into details, but keep in mind that if the processes in the company are not very streamlined, then there may be difficulties with hiring great people, even with ideal sales.

Perhaps there is little that depends on you. But at least you know about the advantages and disadvantages of your company and can clearly convey them to the candidate.

Fortunately, much is subjective here. As I already mentioned, different people have different job requirements. Some like to work from home, others prefer to spend time in the office with a great team. It is important that you talk with employees and know what they prefer and how they are coping right now. This knowledge will allow the best way to convey information to potential candidates.

In addition, individual managers simply do not allow some liberties, such as working from home or flexible hours. Even when you are set up for sale, you will not be able to satisfy all the candidate's requests, and this is normal. Just keep in mind that lack of some benefits is a potential weakness in your company when it comes to hiring engineers. It is useful to know the weaknesses of your “product” in order to better present it. And perhaps you should openly talk about them. First of all, it will prevent the hiring of inappropriate candidates.


If you used to hire personnel in another industry, it is difficult to change your thinking. In most industries, the “seller” is a candidate. Changing roles has many consequences. All the systems, tools and processes that we have been creating for decades are no longer applicable or can be significantly improved.

Therefore, my advice is to stop resisting, accept the role of the seller and get down to good work. When taking any action to find candidates, put yourself in the place of a professional who has five proposals on the table. Ask yourself the question: “How can I beat the competitors?” Also make sure that all colleagues who are involved in hiring understand the situation - for example, share this article with them! ;-)

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