I’ve been a longtime reader and occasional contributor on Hacker News, YCombinator’s news aggregator, which focuses primarily on startup-friendly technical and business-oriented conversations, with occasionally-interesting diversions, and regular broadsides against horrific recruiting practices. (Here’s my profile, 778 days old as of today.) Most notably, I created a Google Spreadsheet of HN freelancers, which still has some life to it more than a year later.
Since we started in 2008, we’ve been a fully virtual company – every engineer and recruiter has either worked onsite for a client or from their homes/coffee shops/etc. This has worked fairly well, for the most part – engineers built dark caves to work in at their basements, recruiters camped out at the Panera that didn’t enforce the wifi limits, etc.
Yesterday (?), Steve Buckley, aka peroni on Hacker News, aka the guy who keeps taking the bullets for recruiters on Hacker News (thanks, buddy), wrote a nice post on how Hackers can Find a Job. I agree with most of what he wrote, but I wanted to add some color and talk about a few things. But first, go read his piece. I’ll wait.
I spoke with an entrepreneur last week, and we talked about a smart hiring trick.
He runs a buy-low-sell-high e-commerce business, picking up distressed inventory and selling it at market prices through Amazon. He wants to get out of the way as much as possible, and hire people or companies to just take care of details so he can think big, and leave early to play with his kids.
… but it’s more important to be nice.
The life of a working freelance consultant swings the pendulum of too-much-work to wondering-where-the-next-project-will-come-from (often both at the same time). When you’re busy, it’s easy to skip answering incoming invites to chat. I get it.
We’re having a good year, thank goodness, and one of our best recruiters is sadly going to reduce her hours as she goes back to graduate school. (I’m happy for her, of course, but also – boo, hiss, etc.) So I’m looking to add to the team.
(Note that while this is being posted today, treat it as a forever post – i.e. I’m always interested in talking to someone great. Also note that while the need right now is pretty senior, I’m always happy to talk to someone newer in his/her career.)
In my last post, I talked about how to hire a recruiting firm – in particular, the kinds of questions you should ask, and how you can evaluate the answers.
Staffing firms are terrible.
This is what I hear from my entrepreneur friends, anyway. From a recent thread with some of them:
I have had ZERO success with the staffing agencies. They all promise the moon, but their candidates are never that great.
I’ll echo on the staffing agency thing. Absolutely no good candidates came from those agencies.
The economic structure of recruiting firms does not incentivize them to differentiate between B+ and A+ players. Further, the people who staff such agencies generally could not spot a rockstar developer if s/he smacked them over the head with a linux box.
The problem is simply that staffing agencies are ineffective for startups or small dev shops because these need only A+ players…we simply cannot afford the opportunity cost of a sub-optimal hire. As a result the hiring model of a startup and the business model of a staffing agency are not a good fit.
Smart folks, clear and convincing evidence (and rhetoric), and let’s just say I squirmed a bit through this largely one-sided conversation.
When I started Rooster Park in 2008, I was just planning a one-person shop – basically a legal entity around my plans to act as an interim VP of Engineering for companies that needed short-term help. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stick with this business, or if consulting was just a way station until I found the next thing to do. I certainly didn’t know that it would like the company it is today, and I often tell candidates that I accidentally fell into this business.