Tech Recruitment is Mostly Terrible

We all know this and the first major problem is a lack of available resource, at least in many countries. We can’t all recruit from overseas due to the additional management/legals required but despite this, it doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. Why? Because Recruiters do have access to people in-work, not looking but might be tempted into another job because of location/culture/salary/market and if they did their job effectively, if we can afford people, we should be able to recruit.

Recruiters are generally sales-people right? If they were Developers, they would work as Developers. Instead, it is their job to oversell every candidate and every business. Why not tell the candidate that this company is really successful and going places? It might be true but it would seem weird to try and place someone by telling the company is very “run of the mill” or “mediocre at best”. At the same time, you aren’t going to place many candidates by telling the business that this person “might be just about good enough”, is “better than nothing”. Again, weird, even if true!

People who don’t recruit might not be aware of the sorts of money that is driving recruitment. If I accept a candidate from a Recruiter who is paid £70K per year, I could easily be paying £15K in commission. That’s right, £15K! You can see why the Recruiter oversells, even the individual Recruiter could be paid several thousand in commission from the £15K so would be pretty sweet to place a couple of people a month. If you could place 6, wow! No surprise that one Recruiter I spoke to last year were about to take the company to Monaco for a knees-up. This money puts a bad taste in the mouth of Businesses and errodes trust. With so much money at stake, how can I believe anything I am told about a Candidate.

By the way, if a person doesn’t work out, you can’t always get the commission money back. There is usually a roll-off period but after 3 months, which is about how long it takes to tell if someone is working out, tough luck. If you get rid of the employee, you have lost your £15K and now have to start the process again. A Recruiter will tell you this is bad for them too because of reputation but despite them telling you this, they don’t give you your money back, that would prove that they really do care.

The Candidate Oversell

It is common for Recruiters to send us a summary like:

  • Experienced Vue Developer
  • Involved in complex projects
  • Was a lead developer

But the problem, if not obvious, is that those statement are all relative. Experienced compared to whom and in what way/area/technology? Complex projects compared to Paint or compared to Adobe Photoshop? A lead developer of who? A load of non-Developers? A team of 1?

Again, the oversell I have come to expect but it is really hard to actually specify what that means because, as we know, someone might not have the chops on paper but could easily do the job. So what do we ask in an interview/pre-interview to try and gauge this?

Basic Tech Questions

You would be amazed how a simple tech question can tell you a lot about someone. If you ask the difference between == and === in Javascript, you would expect that anyone calling themselves experienced in Javascript (or PHP) would confidently and easily answer the question. If they can’t, it tells you they are either not very good at remembering things, that they don’t necessarily care about details (as opposed to just getting something working) or perhaps they were self-taught and didn’t get this grounding.

Another question like the use of Slots in Vue JS might help explain whether the person has ever done anything other than basic components since property pushing very quickly becomes onerous. You would absolutely know this if you have ever done any significant work.

These are “screening questions”. Not open-ended questions that you might ask to show a way of thinking that might not be answered perfectly (the famous Google questions) but questions which say concisely that this person is at a very basic level.

The Industry Question

You might be able to tell this from a CV or by asking some questions but as an analogy, a Car Garage down the street, a professional go-karting track, a rally school and a Formula 1 team are all similar verticals but at completely different levels. Someone with “10 years at the garage down the road” is not necessarily going to add much value to a rally school (they might be able to, but not definitely) and certainly not in Formula 1. However, someone with 5 years in Formula 1, even at a junior level, is likely to know a lot about Formula 1 and could probably move to a more senior role in another Team with hopefully not too much friction.

So ask what kind of business you are. You might not consider yourself Formula 1 (think Apple) but maybe you are a rally school. You have well-established processes or frameworks, good testing policies, automated deployments etc. Maybe you are a web agency producing basic output with little in the way of formal processes and low requirements for security and accessibility.

Once you know this, try and ascertain the experience type of the candidate. If you are a rally school and they have, even, 10 years at a web site agency, there is a good chance that they will not hit the ground running, they might even despise the additional interactions required to work in a software business when previously they were left to themselves. If they are expecting senior money for experience in a lesser business, you can afford to be more targetted in your interview. Ask about the things that you take for granted: automation, accessibility, maintenance, security, process, decision making etc. and find out what experience they have of it.

And Recruiters?

You need to understand much more about what makes someone a good fit to a business because quite frankly, my entire professional experience of every Recruiter I ever used has not been this!