On Hiring – 06Sep06

22 Oct

This post has been lying half-written in for the past 6 weeks, and then something triggered it off again. I’ll tell you what that was at the end of the post. For now, apologies for the delay!

2 great articles by two of the best writers on the Business of Software…on the same day! And on the same subject, something I have given a lot of thought to, and will continue to spend mulling, Hiring Great People, And Retaining Them!

ands continues his typology of hires with the Russian Lit Major & the Historian. As he says of the Russian Lit Major (someone who’s blundered into technology without knowing anything about it):

Trust them. See, in the struggle to get from wherever they started to their eventual engineering gig, the Russian Lit Major networked with a good portion of the company. They learned how different groups worked and they learned how to speak a variety of organizational dialects. Whether they eventually land in an engineering group inside their first company or at your start-up, an experienced Russian Lit Major has developed a complex communication toolkit to relate to the rest of an organization and that’s what your engineering team desperately needs.

And as he says of the Historian:

As a manager, when you’re standing in front of your co-workers, waving your hands, and possibly lying, there are two types of folks in the audience. Those who will let you lie and those who will raise their hands and explain how you are lying. More often that not, that’s your Historian.

And what about those times when the Historian is also a Russian Lit Major? I’d say you’ve hit paydirt. Take him out to lunch every month, and just continue till dinner. Although if you’re like most managers, handling an “outspoken, organisationally savvy non-techie who spends most of his time talking to people” is a pain in the arse, and something you’d rather do without. 😉
Joel Spolsky talks about recruiting those elusive great developers. First you’ve gotta find them, for the catch is:

The great software developers, indeed, the best people in every field, are quite simply never on the market.

I don’t entirely agree with that premise. After all, in these turbulent times, there are stupid, misguided bosses trying to deal with fickle markets, and un-recognised talent is almost a cliche. However, I would say he is correct in large part, because despite all the above factors, the best guys will usually apply to, or be picked up by, great companies referred to them by people they trust. This is the same point that Joel makes, when he says:

Instead of thinking as recruiting as a “gather resumes, filter resumes” procedure, you’re going to have to think of it as a “track down the winners and make them talk to you” procedure.

And as he says, there are three basic ways to go about this:

1. Go to the mountain
2. Internships
3. Build your own community

I’m sure there are other ideas, and i’d be interested in hearing them, but for the moment I think Joel’s pretty much hit the nail on the head!

Of course, this does not take away from the fact that you’ve gotta retain the (insanely great) people you recruit (if you’re lucky, that is!). And it starts with the first day at work. The Dilbert toon for today tells you how to go about doing that 😉


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Posted by on October 22, 2006 in Biz/Tech, Career


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