Stop Recruiting, Start Connecting - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
7/29/2014
10:56 AM
Jack Perkins
Jack Perkins
Commentary
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Stop Recruiting, Start Connecting

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

unless they absolutely have to? These engineers stick to their own networks for future jobs, just as you plumb your networks for future hires.

You must expand your network through your employees. When your employees post job openings on their social networks, their message shouldn't be: "Come work for my boss." It should be: "Come work with me." Serious professionals (and that's who you have working for you, right?) care deeply about who they work with. A referral bonus is a mis-incentive. The best engineers seek out future colleagues who they respect and can learn from.

Out: passive candidates. In: stealth candidates
The term "passive candidates" conjures mannequins waiting for you to press their "on" buttons. Who you're really looking for are "stealth candidates." These are employed engineers (all the good ones are employed) who consider switching jobs occasionally but don't feel like sticking their head out. Why not? Because they know that applying for a job puts them in a worse negotiating position. Since they aren't desperate for a new job, they're not about to update a resume and fight their way through HR firewalls.

These stealth candidates aren't about to cold-contact you. (They're not salespeople. They hate cold contact.) You can't just tell them, "Send in your resume." You need to make it easy and unthreatening for them to ping you with a click, to signal "Let's chat." Using their LinkedIn or other online profiles to help in vetting them, you have enough to carry the conversation from there.

Out: recruiter. In: matchmaker
A good recruiter doesn't pester candidates. There isn't a reason for her even to talk with candidates. The members of the development team should do most of the talking. They're the ones who are hiring.

Recruiters -- let's call them matchmakers -- do have a role to play. They help stealth candidates come out of the woodwork. They help the candidates lay out their real requirements, not the ones they think potential employers want to hear. Then they put the two parties in touch and get out of the way. For more on the matchmaker concept, see our article Rise of the Anti-Recruiters.

Out: acquisition. In: anything! Just not that!
Does "talent acquisition" mean that we're buying our technical staff? They're not for sale! They're paid (very well) to do their jobs. In the elite sectors of the software industry they're business partners, paid as much as some executives and rewarded with ample equity.

New world, new approach
New software worlds are opening up, as older industries shrink and disappear and software takes over. Demand for software engineers will continue to soar. Employers that keep trying to fill reqs like they're 20th century assembly line jobs will fall behind companies adept at peer-to-peer communication.

When two software engineers who understand each other talk, they build a professional connection that benefits both of them for the rest of their careers. If all goes well, that brings the best of the best on board your company, even the top stealth candidates who never talk with recruiters.

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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
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Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
7/29/2014 | 1:26:28 PM
Let peers talk
"Employers that keep trying to fill reqs like they're 20th century assembly line jobs will fall behind companies adept at peer-to-peer communication."

Well said. Recruiters and HR reps are still necessary of course but the hiring process at most companies has become so rigid and formal. Couldn't agree more with this article's call for more informal dialogue between peers as part of that process.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
7/29/2014 | 3:58:43 PM
Hidden gems
Jack, thought-provoking piece, thanks for sharing it. I think IT loses too many "imperfect" candidates during a recruitment screen by non IT-people.  Who better than your peers to gauge your passion for learning? Smart companies are training data analysis pros on the spot right now, for example. They are learning by doing.
Jack Perkins
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Jack Perkins,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/29/2014 | 4:43:35 PM
Re: Hidden gems
Thank you Laurianne - allowing smart people to matriculate a bit should be a primary strategy for companies falling behind in their software engineer hiring.  Even the mighty Google falls short in this department. For example: Recently a particle physicist I know (Ph.D. High Energy Physics) who just finished his post doc at Stanford. In the course of his research he had to code C++ and do Machine Learning. He was referred by Google employees who know him(other physicists) to interview at Google.  First step: one hour with a Google recruiter who read from a list of questions. Second step: Phone "screen" from a software engineer on the team.  Conclusion: not enough computer science fundamentals.

If they looked at his resume they could have plainly seen this.

He was looking for an entry level job and he was an employee referral to boot!

But the "process" trumps all logic.

No matter how advanced our technology is becoming the mounting entropy of "hiring processes" is mind numbing.

Jack

 
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 3:57:26 AM
Candid conversations
In my experience, the best way to hire someone (and be hired for that matter) has been through candid conversations with the people working there. Talking about stuff the company does and the projects the candidate has done along with finding common links between the two has always been very effective for me. It usually gets the candidate to speak up more openly and not just speak to impress. On the recruiter's side, it helps the candidate know more clearly about the culture and the working environment rather than a rosy picture painted by the HR.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 4:04:24 AM
Re: Hidden gems
"I think IT loses too many "imperfect" candidates during a recruitment screen by non IT-people.  Who better than your peers to gauge your passion for learning?"

@Laurianne: I totally agree with you on this. However, the last time I talked about this with the HR head in my company, he argued that IT people have a very myopic view about assessing people. They'd only focus on the technical part and not on the overall personality. Plus, he argued, that the IT people might not be aware of the strategy of the company and won't be able to find a sync between the people and the company strategy.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 4:15:21 AM
Re: Hidden gems
"No matter how advanced our technology is becoming the mounting entropy of "hiring processes" is mind numbing."

@Jack: I think one of the reasons behind this might be the fact that there's not a lot of people out there who understand both HR and technology. There are HR experts and then there are technology experts. The combination of both of these is a great area but you don't seem to find a lot of professionals who qualify for this. This may be the reason why technology companies don't have a very sound hiring process.
H@mmy
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[email protected],
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. 
zerox203
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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.
ChrisMurphy
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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.  
SachinEE
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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.
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