I’ve been mercilessly “recruited” for the last 25 years. I’ve interviewed recruiter-supplied candidates for the last 10 — with a various degree of success. And now I finally tried recruiting somebody. Why I did it?

We do need a couple of skilled devs right now. My co-founder has a recruiting background, albeit in the medical and automotive fields. He called my recruiting efforts “cute”. Could I task Jason with it instead of taking the whole week out of my impossible schedule? Not really. We decided to recruit in Belarus, where I spent the first 25 years of my life. Therefore we need someone Russian-speaking. I also foolishly believe that a technical sourcer beats a non-technical one.

I know it was wrong to spend three days on sifting through 2K of candidates (jobs.tut.by and LinkedIn combined) to select about 300. Reading poorly written profiles, looking for traces of contact info (by following GitHub and other links), and copy-pasting it into a spreadsheet, since LinkedIn has no export function. No one does it like this. No recruiter goes through that agonizing experience.

That is perhaps one of my weaknesses (from the classic “weaknesses” interview question) — my engineer’s drive to be precise and eliminate the false negative (missing the right candidate) error. Does recruiting need to be precise like that? Or it should remain approximate and statistical — taking longer to find the right candidate? I, as an engineer, failed to find (invent) an easier way to connect the rare talent with the right employers. I did it the hard way. In any case I have my list of 300+ hand-picked candidates.

Skilled Developers Don’t Want to Be Found by Recruiters

The problem is rather simple in theory. There should be thorough vetting and may I say, segregation, on both sides — reducing the pool of candidates and good employers.

We all know that the traditional resume-recruiter-interview system only works for junior developers in need of any job, placed at the worst indiscriminate employers who need bodies to spend IT budgets. I don’t want to stir the debate about IT incompetence vs. fraud. The bottomline is, corporate IT, that is IT departments of non-technical companies, doesn’t need brains. It needs the cheapest bodies, the middlemen can charge maximum commissions on. And it needs a lot of them. It’s a volume business. The whole Great IT Consulting Food Chain lives off man-hour revenue, not the key individuals’ inventions.

The only reason I brought this up was to explain, why the recruiting system stopped working for senior developers — resulting in them hiding from recruiters. No recruiter can offer a skilled software engineer even a decent lateral move: that is the same or slightly better salary at a slightly better (culture- or work-wise) company.

Whatever side of the outsourcing fence you are on, your engineering skills are simply not needed — to value them financially. Because the project is going to fail anyway. Or barely succeed after dumbing it down to accommodate the most junior workforce hired for cheap to maximize the middlemen commissions. Then come secondary factors: the beginners create five bugs by fixing one which requires more beginners to patch those holes and keep the system afloat. There aren’t enough programmers on Earth, let alone senior ones to support that vicious cycle.

All that horribly inefficient money-churning commotion created a huge empty space. There are thousands of hungry customers in need of robust automation no bodyshop can provide within an SMB budget. The good thing (for startups like mine) is the near-zero competition. Bodyshops are happy with “enterprise sales”, while the Silicon Valley is busy, as always, hyping vaporware. The bad thing is there are no recruiting channels to find the experts we need. The current system only serves bodyshops and vaporware funded startups looking for bodies.

Why Traditional Recruiting Stopped Working?

Recruiting has been a passion of mine for quite some time. Presented with the hiring challenge I decided to try sourcing — to see what actually works and what doesn’t within the current system I despise. It was painful and I am not going to do it again. We, engineers, can’t spare any time for recruiting. Our brains are busy running if statements and loops — trying to debug a tough issue. Not to mention my clients are currently paying me for that. Programming is intense. It consumes 100% of one’s “CPU”. Multi-tasking is nearly impossible in our field. We have no time for office politics fueled “career” and many other non-programming activities.

Non-technical recruiters are here to stay. However just like there should be 100 times less programmers on Earth — replaced by automation, there also should be 100x less recruiters: only the top headhunters connecting the rare talent with the right employers.

I don’t think any hiring manager, let alone a technical one, has ever sourced candidates. If you are curious how your online (LinkedIn or hh.by) profile looks to a fellow engineer with the hiring power, keep reading.

If you think only connections drive one’s career, since it’s been like that “forever”, there is nothing in my article for you. Why the Internet works for all other kinds of networking: finding like-minded people in forums and social networks, dating, researching/rating local services e.g. auto repair or plumbing, and many more? Why it can’t work for one of the most important professional activity: employment? In our specific field.

It’s a technical problem, isn’t it? What’s stopping us, engineers, from taking the “executive search” to the next level — through technology? Why it needs to be a search in the first place — of someone, who doesn’t want to be found? And why all developers only “search” for their next job after being fired?

Don’t search. Present yourself. Be visible to people and companies in need of your expertise. Provided those are segregated from the rest of bleak, cheap, and dysfunctional mass employers, just like you are segregated from the millions of mediocre “bodies”.

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