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Finding People

I am sure that what I am about to say will generate a rash of emails. But hey, I'm a big boy. Bring it on!

Why is it so damn hard to find good people to hire?

For all the talk about joblessness in this industry, my experience is that 90% of those without a job deserve to be.  From the mountain resumes I've seen in the last few months, not one has fit the bill.

I have found plenty of displaced academics who can talk all day long without producing anything worth while. The only real skill they have is the ability to ask for 6 figure salaries with a straight face.

There seem to be a never ending supply of HTML "dudes" who fancy themselves programmers because that know how to make text bold. I guess we can thank the 90's for this class of code warrior.

Oh, and don't forget the Russians. Anyone need some Russian programmers for 90k a year? I have a slew resumes from them. You can have them for free. I’ll even pay for shipping.

Those that I have found with actual experience and/or skills seem to fall into three categories; people who manage to have less tact than a 4 year old with ADD, people who smell like onion bagels (I have no idea why this is, but it is *always* onion bagel), and people who just plain scare the crap out of me.

So where do the sane developers with skills, tack, and working showers live?

We are looking for someone who wants to work on commercial software (shrink-wrap) using .NET and SQL Server.

If you know someone who would like this, send them to Boston please.

Marc
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Are you taking QA types too or just programmers?

Daniel Shchyokin
Saturday, June 21, 2003

They all have jobs?

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, June 21, 2003

I'm looking for a programmer.

It is a commercial software app that is being built using .NET and SQL Server. It is a desktop application (Winforms) but will also have some web, PDA, and Tablet PC interfaces as well.

This is a re-write from another language and database platform if that matters to anyone.

(Yes, I know. Never re-write. It is caused by a license issue, otherwise we wouldn't be doing it. )

Marc
Saturday, June 21, 2003

I think you are right Mark. I've found three very interesting people on the net (personal website with their resume) but each of them was happy where they were.

Marc
Saturday, June 21, 2003

"people who smell like onion bagels (I have no idea why this is, but it is *always* onion bagel)"

THAT'S what that smell is! I think you've nailed it!

Philo

Philo
Saturday, June 21, 2003

yeah, we spent 6 months looking for a developer in silicon valley. you'd think it'd be easy but lots of resumes, a dozens of interviews, but just not the experience or background that we were looking.

le bob
Saturday, June 21, 2003

So what was wrong with all the Russians?

Employed Russian
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Nothing is specifically wrong with the Russians. But I'm looking for "Local Candidates Only" and last I checked, Siberia isn't very local to Boston. :)

Marc
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Just to be clear, it is stated in every add that we have run that we were looking for local candidates only.

Marc
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Yeah, I second this question!

And to return insult, the job seems to be not that hard. If you can't find a programmer for THAT job, you're clueless about hiring.

On the other hand, if you can just start liking onion bagels...

On the serious note, never, and I mean, _never_ insult people based on their nationality. You stupid prick.

Another Employed Russian
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Ah, I posted after your reply. So you can pay for shipping from Siberia but are too cheap to pay H1B costs?

Another Employed Russian
Saturday, June 21, 2003

I do apologies if I offended anyone with the Russia comment. It really had nothing to do with nationality. And it was meant as sarcasm only.

I really should have used the term "off shore" because that is really what I meant (um, editable posted Joel?).

As for paying H1B costs, we are a 10 person company. There is no way we can afford to sponsor someone.

Again, I apologies if I offended you. It was complete unintended.

Marc
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Marc,
I can't believe you.
Or I don't trust your offers.
Or both.
You are looking for someone working on a mainstream technology.
And all the people are stinking or only able to create a html form??
What are you willing to pay?
60% of the usual.

Panna
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Check your email Marc...

GiorgioG
Saturday, June 21, 2003

>>  Those that I have found with actual experience and/or skills seem to fall into three categories; people who manage to have less tact than a 4 year old with ADD, people who smell like onion bagels (I have no idea why this is, but it is *always* onion bagel), and people who just plain scare the crap out of me.

>> So where do the sane developers with skills, tack, and working showers live?


I posit that they're steadily leaving programming. Why? Offshoring + no respect + no viable career path + continual planned obsolescence + HR culture that treats us as commodities. The only ones left tend to have the insight of grapes or cranberries.


I remember when I first got into contracting in the mid 90's. Some prospects seemed to be absolutely *amazed* then that someone (anyone!) of my age and skill level (then mid 30s) and relative ability to deal sociably with others was actually willing to do real deliverable software work.


I should have taken that as a hint. To say that I'm a developer in my mid 40s' is pushing the bounds of science fiction in most people's eyes.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, June 21, 2003

"looking for local candidates only"...

It is my impression that Boston is literally filled with quite sharp (but unfortunately unemployed) Russian programmers, which is why I asked what was wrong with all of them.

Where you careful in distinguishing between "local" Russians, and the ones from "Siberia", or did you just assume that they were all "non-local"?

Employed Russian
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Hey, look. I apologized for what I said. It wasn't indented to offend you in any way. I'm sorry that it did. There was no racist or nationalist indent to it. I can do and say no more than what I have.

Making the remark was stupid and insensitive on my part.

But now you are just baiting. And that is uncalled for as well.

Marc
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Marc, on first reading it is difficult for me to believe that you are having any problem at all.  My employer, a small contract software development company, just had its first layoff ever and is losing 1/3 of its technical staff.  Since we do mostly telecom and embedded systems type work I don't know if any would be interested in your job, but that is an indication that the job market is really still in bad shape.

You gave us your employer's viewpoint of the job search process.  Could you take a look at your company from the viewpoint of the job hunter?  If you have read Joel's descriptions of Fog Creek and how they hire people who are "smart and get things done" you'll see one example of a company that was built with the idea of being attractive to quality employees, not just posting job notices and expecting to be inundated with great resumes.  Why would the sort of person you want to hire want to work for your company?  Why would they even consider applying?

Where are you getting applicants?  As a job hunter I figure my best chance is through networking,  finding a job that someone I know knows about.  Have you used this process from the other end?  Your current empoyees may know a few developers looking for work.  Or you may be familiar with other companies in your same line of work that are having difficulties and might be about to have layoffs.

mackinac
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Hey German boy, go back to Germania!

Guy Incognito
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Russians smell like Vodka!

Guy Incognito
Saturday, June 21, 2003

It depends on how picky you are on hiring. I don't think it's any easier to hire people when you're being choosy, whether you have 10 or 10,000 applicants to choose from.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Marc, apologies accepted. And please accept my apologies for using the word "prick". I was in a bad mood last night! :)) Good luck in your search.

Another Employed Russian
Saturday, June 21, 2003

marc, i am a boston based programmer. (happily employeed with too much contract work)

there are a few issues. one is that your job seems really boring, no offense. thus you aren't going to get any of the local MIT braniac types who are looking for something interesting to work on.  the other is that you are weeding out people without social skills. anyone in boston with the skills you are looking for PLUS a great personality and people skills is probably making a mint as a consultant.

old School
Saturday, June 21, 2003

old School,  what kind of work is available in Boston?  In the MD-DC-NoVA area there are lots of jobs - active security clearance required.  That is, jobs for people with jobs.  Not much for the rest of us.

Presumably Marc needs someone who has a chance of being able to do development for .NET for an application that uses SQL Server.  But he never said exactly what skills or experience are required for his position.

I hope he didn't give up on this thread.  There are a lot of us looking for a job that would like to know why he is having such a hard time finding someone.

mackinac
Saturday, June 21, 2003

mackinac, there is work doing almost anything in boston, but you do probably have to know someone. with contacts, it seems to be hard to be out of work here. without contacts, you are probably applying to marc's company without success...

old School
Saturday, June 21, 2003

also, to re-ignite the russian flame fest. the job marc describes seems like the perfect type of job (porting an existing system to new architecture) to outsource to an offshore firm. and i've heard the russians are pretty good at that sort of thing.

old School
Saturday, June 21, 2003

You hire programmers based on how they smell and look? That's your problem. You're too stupid to understand that hiring developers has nothing to do with how well someone is groomed.

John Rosenberg
Saturday, June 21, 2003

>> You hire programmers based on how they smell and look? That's your problem. You're too stupid to understand that hiring developers has nothing to do with how well someone is groomed

Hiring is ALWAYS discriminatory. And employers are allowed to discriminate based upon whether they like or don't like someone.

In fact, it's even more stupid to hire someone with absent interpersonal skills and inability to focus, only because they have tech skills. What good are technical skills if the person is a complete misfit and can't work with anyone?

Bored Bystander
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Since when did how someone looks or smells have ANYTHING at all to do with their ability to focus? Are you even reading the same thread?

John Rosenberg
Saturday, June 21, 2003

Well,

I think personal hygene, no matter where you work (even at home) is important ;-)  I'm sure you all know an IT person that smells funny or has so much back hair that it deserves its own haircut ;-)  No offense, but I don't care what profession you choose - you should have a minimum level of physical hygene...  It doesn't matter if the client won't see you =)

GiorgioG
Saturday, June 21, 2003

What does having back hair have to do with hygiene?  If you shower regularly, presumably your back hair would be clean and shiny.

I think this thread raises an interesting point.  The high level of tech unemployment of late, though due to the tech recession, is exacerbated by the huge influx of talentless wannabes who found they could temporarily make a lot of money by claiming to be programmers.  In my last company we interviewed a Java programmer.  I sat him at a computer and asked him to right a "hello world" program.  He looked at me as though the jig was up.

This recession will shake out a lot of the programmers and, when the recover comes, tommorrow or in ten years, those fo usd who are left will have jobs again.  Until then, it is government cheese all around!

Erik Lickerman
Saturday, June 21, 2003

>What does having back hair have to do with hygiene?  If you shower regularly, presumably your back hair would be clean and shiny.

Let me clarify - a guy I used to work with had so much back hair that it would literally be coming out of his shirt...it was unsightly.  People should have a minimum level of personal hygene is all I'm saying =)

GiorgioG
Saturday, June 21, 2003

I want to clear a few things up about this.

First, this is a commercial application sold to small businesses with 1.5m or less in revenue. The average system is 5 PCs (our top is somewhere around 100 users in 4 locations). This isn't a large CRM or ERP application, it is a small business management application along the lines of QuickBooks.

Second, we are a small company with a single developer (me) and are looking to add a second developer. This position is for a mid-level developer using C#, VB.NET, and SQL Server. Really, I'm looking for someone moving on to their second or third position. 2-3 years of experience is fine. I'm also open to recent graduates that have some exposer to VS.NET.

As for the personal hygiene, this position requires personal contact with our customers. This stems from my personal philosophy that unless you intimately understand the customer you will never be able to build quality software for them. So we need someone that can represent the company to our customers.

Also, I have to sit in a room for 30+ hours a week with this person. If that person and I cannot click then it is going to create more problems than it solves. To put it another way, if they don't understand why chickens with lips are funny then it just isn't going to work.

On the subject of off-shore development, I don't see how this could work based on what I outlined above. Off-shore works for a number of things but it doesn't allow for interaction with the customer. And as this person will "own" (in Microsoft terms) areas of the application, it is imperative that they can fully realize the needs of our customer base.

Marc
Sunday, June 22, 2003

i think that some companies have just got too picky.


- there are places that look out for

  * 10 years of .NET experience
  * great interpersonal skills (not always typical for of a programmer)
  * yes, MBA would not hurt - you should understand business requirements

- some places look out for people who did exactly-the-same junk.
  if you have done-something-very-similar then you are out.

- 'ability to learn' is out; you have to fit in like a screw into the bolt.

Michael Moser
Sunday, June 22, 2003

I'm not sure why think this is what I'm asking for.

I'm looking for 2-3 years with exposer to .NET. That doesn't sound very picky.

Maybe I'll write up someone the actual interviews I've had. I don't think I'm being too picky.

One fellow spend 30 minutes telling me how much he hates Microsoft, how much he loves his iBook, and how Linux will win the desktop. That is fine and all,  but not when the job is to build Windows applications using the .NET Framework. It would be like auditioning for Matalica and telling them how much heavy metal sucks.

Marc
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Oh, and "ability to learn" isn't out. It is absolutely key.

Marc
Sunday, June 22, 2003

3 years of .net is rare  - it means that the person in question would have to be a very early adopter.

Three years ago people would hesitate (at least a bit) with going for .net

few people would  take this fresh new thing .net in order build _dependable_ applications.

3 years ago you would be happy with somebody knowing PHP ASP SQL DHTML .... add another ten WEB acronyms stuff.

Michael Moser
Sunday, June 22, 2003

... add to that that the mainstream is still not .net.

Michael Moser
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Micheal,

<Quote>
I'm looking for 2-3 years with exposer (sic) to .NET
</Quote>

He's not looking for 3 years of .NET  experience.  Only 2-3 years of software development with SOME .NET.


Sunday, June 22, 2003

Marc,
          How many people will have been using .NET for three years? I seem to remember that Albert, who has years of experience writing stuff for small businesses, only got round to looking at it last weekend or so.

            "Exposure to" is a meaningless phrase and most people try and get through life without being "exposed" to things. If you want somebody with experience writing database business apps ask for somebody with three or four years experience either in VB and SQL or in Java (or even better both)  and put a few months working with or studying .NET as a bonus.

              If you put something stupid in the ad, then you will only get the bullshitters and the incompetents.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, June 22, 2003

You never said what you pay? Is your firm profitable? Are you an arrogant prick that no one wants to work with? What happens when  the rewrite is done...do you ditch the new guy?

Maybe you should find out why anyone would want to work with you.

Tom Vu
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Hmmm not to seem like I'm heaping ordure on your head, but regarding your interview with the guy who seemed entirely unsuitable; how did he slip past the initial filtering of the CV?

Or is the cult of the minimalist CV and resume making it virtually useless for the purpose its intended?

Simon Lucy
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Methinks some people have missed the point of this thread...

For those who took on Marc because they thought he was asking for 2-3 years experience with .Net - despite Marc's correction, that would still validate the point. Thread after thread on here berates the job market, yet here's a guy looking for someone that can't even find anyone close. Even if everyone who read the ad thought he wanted 2-3 years .Net experience, there should be plenty of those around. (.Net had a HUGE beta - the beta newsgroups were immensely busy). If the rebuttal to that is "well of course guys who've used .Net since early beta have jobs" that belies the "nobody can get a job" argument, doesn't it?

Tom Vu - I find your inquiry abusive and insulting. More to the point, again you miss the root of the argument. People aren't complaining "only crappy firms are hiring" - it's "there are NO JOBS".  Anyway, your questions could only be addressed if Marc was interviewing good people and not getting responses to offers. But he can't even find good people to interview.

Simon - I suspect the anti-MS type probably had MS experience. I'm hoping Marc isn't looking at resumes that are 100% Java/*nix and thinking "I'll interview this guy and see how he feels about working VB.Net on Windows"

Philo

Philo
Sunday, June 22, 2003

>> "good people to interview"

The problem with that phrase is that you use the term good to define people and on top of that you only mean good in the sense that you think about it.  I don't like you for reasons X,Y,Z and I'm not going to hire you.  Plain and simple.  You nor anyone else can judge someone to be "good".  That's problem with hiring.  Maybe we should all become communist and simply say here work with this person or we'll throw you in jail or chop your head off.  I find it very insulting to be judged as "good" or "bad".  I find it very insulting that people would even think of me in such a way, not worthy of their employment.  I am normally upbeat, clean shaven, educated, have military experience and a very nice person and I can't seem to find programming work.  Why because I'm being unfairly judged by the people who do the hiring.  "Finding good people" pisses me off.  Define not good, that way I'll know if I'm "good".


Sunday, June 22, 2003

From the other side of the hiring fence  - I've found (here in the Midwest) that one can walk into interviews literally dripping with the technology that the company is asking for, and be nitpicked to death and treated like a pathological liar because the local techie prima donna du jour who has automatic veto power over all hiring has decided that he simply doesn't like you.


It doesn't sound like Marc has set a very high bar and he's having problems finding anyone who has enough self esteem to bath regularly, use mouthwash, and have a reasonable ability to communicate conversationally with other people. I do find it interesting that even asking for decent personal hygiene and a personality above that of a 4 year old is offending a lot of people here.


Of course (and dont' take this personally, Marc) I could walk into that interview with the exact experience he's seeking, and feel that I was summarily dismissed due to some absolutely unknowable factor that is never mentioned. I don't know. I'd have to know Marc personally and take the interview myself in good faith in order to ascertain whether the criteria seemed fair or not.


Maybe that's the crux of the matter.  Usually, the people in this industry doing the hiring are INCREDIBLY discriminatory to an idiotic extreme of their own personal biases, to the extent that even innocuous statements are taken as politically laden with subversion. One big 'problem' is knowing about or having an interest in technology that is different from the hiring entity. IE: if you state in an interview that you enjoy messing with open source and Linux, I know for a fact that many, many MS type shops will mentally withdraw and cross you off the candidate list as "too open sourcy" or interested in irrelevant and threatening things. A clash will be inferred where none existed.


And, it *never* pays to be smarter than the techies with whom you're interviewing, or to know more or be more accomplished than they are. You're instant threat material and dead meat in that context.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Never say never. I jumped at the chance to hire the first person I interviewed: he knew more than I did about assembler programming (I had written an assembler, whereas he had written an entire IDE). I wanted to hire him because, having fired the previous programmer for being drunk and useless on the job, I needed the extra help.

Christopher Wells
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Christopher,

You're unusually enlightened. Generally, techies doing hiring are in continual "avoid threat to my supremacy as the all knowing and all wise" mode.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Philo: You are correct. I should have been more clear in my description. I hate to think that someone didn't apply because they misunderstood.

Although it seems these days that few people read the description before shooting off a resume. To bring in Joel's cover letter complaint, I've had many resumes that have the exact same cover letter. The last round of hiring we did, I had six cover letters that were cut & paste from the sample at Monster.com. :)

---

Tom: I normally just ignore you (I don't like to feed the trolls) but this time I think I will. Please don't send me your resume. Thank you.

---

Simon: The problem is as you suggest. The resumes today are so cookie cutter that it is really hard to discern what they bring to the table.

As for the guy who was complete off the mark; he came to us via networking and I felt obligated to at least talk to him. And as Philo said, he did have some MS exposer (albeit less than we were led to believe).

In fact, I try to talk with just about everyone who comes in with 50% of what we need. You never know what you might find and twice I have passed on the resume to others that did hire them. In this market we need to help each other out. So while I may not be able to use them, I might know someone who could.

---

Bored: Do my a favor, don't leave this industry. We need more people like you. Too many of us lack the voice to express the issues we face today in terms anyone could understand (as I proved with the  ill-fated Russian comment).

The prima donna issue is a major problem. Too often, solid candidates are passed on because the interviewer feels threatened by them. This lead to less than adequate developers being hired and adds to the feeling that developers are lazy and incompetent.

Personally, I have no fear of loosing my job because someone with a 190 IQ walk in the door. If anything, I'll be praised twice as much for finding such a gem. But more importantly, I am paid to deliver a product that our company can sell. The hiring of someone smarter than I simply means that the product will be that much better.

Really, the only reason I could see there being a problem in hiring someone like this is that they likely command a salary that is higher than we could manage. And that is a constraint that I unfortunately cannot avoid.

And I also find it funny that people are offended by the minimum requirements I have set. But fear not, most seem to have understood the heavy amounts of sarcasm in my initial post. Good to know some of us retain a sense of humor. For example, I've received a number of emails about the onion bagel comment. Seems I have discovered something; onion bagel is to bad smell what chicken is too food. :)

Marc
Sunday, June 22, 2003

You are correct, most techies fear smart people. But I would bet most of them don't read Joel's site. Most of the people I find here are a step above the average techie.

Marc
Sunday, June 22, 2003

A friend of mine (another programmer) once noted:

'A' quality people hire other 'A' quality people. 'B' Quality people hire 'C' Quality people (and so on)."

The point:  very sharp people are secure in thier ability. Not-so-sharp people are often intimidated.

The corollary here is that when you hire your first 'B' person, the company is starting on a downward trend ;-)

He added that he'd just met the first 'B' quality person at the company and was a tad concerned ;-)

Clay N.
Monday, June 23, 2003

"To put it another way, if they don't understand why chickens with lips are funny then it just isn't going to work."

Chickens with lips are not funny.  Chickens with lips face a lot of ridicule and ostracism from all of the lipless chickens.

You really should be more sensitive.

Jim Rankin
Monday, June 23, 2003

I think Jim here would fit in just fine. :)

Marc
Monday, June 23, 2003

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