Innovative Recruiting

The technology role at any company can be a tough one. It is truly one of the most demanding roles within many organizations regardless of the company’s size. This blog post is for the people not in the technology group looking to understand tech teams better or for technology folk seeking some innovative ways to address an age old problem…recruiting.

There are issues common to all teams/groups within a company. However there are some distinct differences that make technology more challenging than most roles within an organization. Some quick points.

  1. While the training, rules and knowledge that most positions in a company require to be successful are fairly standard, technology is a totally different beast. For example: a sales team is pretty much a sales team. Basic skills are transferable, and you’re either good or you aren’t. The same can be said of customer support, accounting and host of other positions common to business.
  2. When hiring for one of these positions, good people can still be difficult to find. However, a sizeable pool of good people usually exists to pull from since basic training and qualifications are standard.
  3. Technology requirements in organizations are always changing. While the basics usually apply across the board, each company has its unique application of technology for its business needs, executive quirks, funding and dozens of other factors. The tech professional must navigate all of these.

Serving basic technology needs for a small company is relatively easy since most company usually have common requirements to function when they are small. As the company grows, it gets much more interesting.

In the beginning, “generalist” skills are needed. This usually means the company hires “jack of all trades” people. A jack of all trades is very versatile and serves the company well early on since they are usually able to handle a multitude of varying requirements with an knack for learning different skills. Basic technology needs are met.

As the company grows, it begins to see the need for “specialists” meaning personnel that have a specific skillset and 80% of the time they are focused job functions that level that skillset. The strength of the specialist is they normally have a drive for excellence and a higher capacity in their specialty than a generalist. The drawback of a specialist is that while they have a high capacity for accomplishment within their field, they generally lack the ability to bridge the gap with other required skillsets to accomplish the company’s goals. Hence the need for a generalist or project manager.

For example
Generalist duties: Programming, server management, ecommerce, email marketing, graphics.

Specialist 1: graphic/creatives
Specialist 2: programmers
Specialist 3: pay per click marketing
Specialist 4: analytics
etc.

This brings us to the the real challenge and the purpose of the post. Recruiting.

Good tech generalists and specialists can be difficult to find. Many companies follow a “butts in seat rule” and it amazes me how many people get hired after just one interview. I believe the number of interviews someone goes through before they are hired is reflective of the importance the company places on finding quality people and how protective they are of their company’s culture. This model usually results in constant turnover caused by poor leadership lacking clear vision for how technology benefits the business. It is quite common for the executives in this setting to see technology as a “necessary evil” thereby ensuring that the company’s technology needs and funding are never adequately met.

Company’s that place a high value on protecting their company’s culture leverage a heavy investment on finding and screening the best people into their organization. Here’s a brief rundown of our interview process minus a few steps for length.

  1. Application questionnaire (questions about basic company familiarty, basic culture, skillset overview)
  2. Skillset survey
  3. Code/portfolio submission
  4. Phone interview – describe your typical week on a personal and professional level
  5. In person interview with direct supervisor (includes meeting with co-workers/team)
  6. Personality profile / budget (relative to our culture)
  7. HR interview
  8. VP/Department Leader Interview
  9. References called
  10. Executive VP Interview

Here’s a quick overview of some of things we are doing to recruit.

  • Employment listing on our website (primary driver of applications)
  • Posting on various specialty websites…mixed results (authenticjobs.com, joelonsoftware.com, dice.com)
  • Posting on common sites (monster.com, careerbuilder.com)
  • Posting on craigslist.com (best results of websites)
  • Listing in local special classifieds
  • College/university relationships with department heads
  • Specialty bi-fold business cards that contains: technology overview, company culture, free product offer to introduce people to our brand
  • $250 referral bonus for employee

In addition to the above, we’ve implemented a few things to introduce the industry to our team.

  • for the designers, a team portfolio of the work they’ve done including web, print, video media
  • for the programmers: a team video with interviews from our team
  • for the programmers: a team blog maintained by several of our programmers/tech leader
  • make contacts with other industry professionals and arrange speaking opportunities for our internet leadership team

Upcoming things we will be trying

  • Presence at large technology events like Adobe Max
  • Open sourcing some of our code to build a reputation in the industry

Recruiting for a technology team is no easy task. Finding top talent is difficult. Finding top talent that fits your company’s culture is even more challenging.