Hiring great talent (continued)

As you know, talent is the lifeblood of any company.  Given that, I have written a number of posts on hiring (see here and here).  I recently saw Joel Sposky’s (Joel on Software) post on hiring great developers and thought that I would share it with you.  He makes a number of great points and I have extracted a few pearls of wisdom for you:

  1. "The great software developers, indeed, the best people in every field, are quite simply never on the market."
  2. "Numerically, great people are pretty rare, and they’re never on the job market, while incompetent people, even though they are just as rare, apply to thousands of jobs throughout their career."

Like any important process, hiring great people means that you and your company need to make it a priority and stay incredibly focused.  In fact, hiring great people reminds me alot of finding great deals as a VC.  At the end of the day, being proactive is key and leveraging your network to generate targeted and filtered deals or resumes will always create a higher yield than sitting back and waiting for the masses to come to you.

Published by Ed Sim

founder boldstart ventures, over 20 years experience seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise startups, @boldstartvc, googlization of IT, SaaS 3.0, security, smart data; cherish family time + enjoy lacrosse + hockey

3 comments on “Hiring great talent (continued)”

  1. The majority of great software developers are almost always “on the market”. There are no developers who will respond to your offer of a 25% raise with an immediate dismissal. None.

    They aren’t on Monster, Dice, etc. because 100% of jobs listed on such places want them to do exactly the same thing they’ve been doing for the last three to five years.

    “Let’s see, we’re in industry X and we need programmers to work on our project, which is in Y language on Z systems. Let’s make the minimum requirement three years of Y experience on Z systems, and list X industry experience as a major plus.”

    Thus the basic industry disconnect: we are looking for people who want to change jobs for some reason, but we want them to do exactly the same thing they’ve been doing in their last job. In effect, we want their previous employer to have chosen that language and platform several years before we have chosen it.

  2. I’d say your assertions depend on the situation of the “great people”.
    I consider myself to be in the top 2% of software developers.
    However, I relocated from my native Sweden to the UK because I thought my career prospects here would be better.
    That meant whatever “reputation” I might have had in the local Swedish market was null and void: I had to start building a network and reputation all over again, including hounding less than competent recruiters for jobs.
    Two years on however, it is different: I have built a decent network, so I don’t have to be out of work more than I want, and I have a steady inflow of new contracts.

    The point being: great people are definitely “on the market” if they choose to change their environment, and lack a network and reputation in their new environment.

  3. Wille makes (or at least implies) an important point about the core flaw in Joel’s argument…it assumes that all great people either already live in one of four places (Boston, Seattle, Manhattan, or California) or desperately want to move there. Great people, in the real world, do in fact live in other places, and sometimes they move from one “other” place to a different one, which means putting themselves on the market.

    But he’s right about the critical role that network-building plays, not just for workers hunting for work, but for employers hunting for talent.

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