As someone with a LinkedIn profile, I often come across job postings. There's a game going on. While LinkedIn is a very lucrative place for headhunters, IT professionals find shelter in the groups unrelated to job search, as they want some recruiter-free space. This whole affair of seeing headhunters hunt, and group moderators hunt the headhunters makes me want to share an overview of how top talents are hired in software development.
The Old-School Hiring
The traditional way of hiring is to list job requirements, post an ad and wait for the candidates to send in their CVs. This approach might work in some locations, but it's getting less and less effective. I've already touched upon the subject of attracting best of breed people in the Project Manager or Tech Leader? post. What do recruiters usually do when they see that job postings don't work? They start behaving as vendors at an Oriental bazaar as they push you annoyingly to buy their stuff. Our natural reaction to being chased is to run, obviously. I guess these out-of-date hiring methods can only be used by a company running business in a location where IT talents crave jobs and can be picked up in the street.
Yes, that was an intended absurd statement. I just want to emphasize the point that this annoying hiring does not work.
There's an absolute must that needs to be in place if one wants to hire talents. The company has to be a really attractive place for the like-minded people. This goes beyond salaries and crazy perks, and we are moving on to a very friendly way of hiring.
This one works great. Unfortunately, there's only so much personal connections that employees have, and might be they are simply not enough, no matter how great this company is. What if this great company has used up the potential of personal connections? The CVs coming in response to job offerings do not comply with the talent quality that this company requires, and all the cool friends of friends have already been hired. Hmm.. looks grave. What comes next, then?
This is another great strategy. Nurturing is about taking young interns on board and training them at work. It might take several years for such people to grow into good professionals. There are some downsides in this strategy, though. One needs to have a buffer of those several years (which often is not the case, because normally new people are needed right now), making sure that the nurtured folks want to stay in the company.
Locking them in with multi-year contracts would hardly be a solution, so the company should be able to spark a strong personal commitment to keep people. Some companies seem to be nurturing talents and seeing them mature to professionals, but then at some point those freshly-raised engineering rock stars go elsewhere.
I consider this a brilliant strategy for companies of the Yahoo or Google caliber. Promising young start-ups that excel at engineering but lack the operational management qualities, or need more financial influx to get their ideas going, are acquired by giants that either ingrain them in their business, or have them work on other projects that would equally be interesting to them. But acqui-hiring only works if a company is located in one of technological hubs, and if there are enough funds to buy out such start-ups. Besides, it depends on how the very fact of acqui-hire is perceived by the talents in this young start-up. It seems to have some stigma.
What if a company has tried old-school hiring, personal connections, nurturing and is not yet ready for acqui-hiring? What else needs to be taken into account?
Here we approach the deep-lying things that go beyond the narrow subject of IT hiring. It's about what people want to do with their lives, and this goes all the way back to educating our kids. Which culture is prevailing in this society: the culture of co-creativity, inspiration and pursuing some higher goals in life, or dragging along with the consumerist lifestyle? Do we have many IT professionals, in general, who see their work as something larger than a machine that produces paychecks? I'm not even talking about extra passion or motivation. If we lack such people in general, something must be wrong at a deeper level, and there might come a time that even acqui-hires will not work any longer.
Besides, it all very much depends on the location where a company runs business. As a long-term strategy, it would help to keep an eye on how demographics, education and business dynamics evolve in different nations. This is very nation-specific, as countries (and states in the USA) have various social and economical conditions. Some technological hubs are emerging, some are declining. It looks like the global shortage of IT talents might bring us to a point where a business would move to a place where talents flock, not the other way around.