Recruitment is all about relationships and trust, whichever way you look at it common recruitment practices support neither. While there are countless articles focusing on how hard it is to hire good developers little is said about how to find good companies. Trust work both ways and in order to ‘fix’ recruitment both sides of trust equation must be balanced. Examining each in turn:-
Employer-> Candidate trust
Employers have low trust in external recruiters, low trust in CVs, and low trust that candidates can complete a Fizz Buzz question. This means that it’s not possible to invest sufficient time in individual applications, which in turn makes it less likely they’ll ever attract really good people.
Services like LinkedIn and Stack Overflow have made some gains in solving the employer-> candidate trust problem. In LinkedIn’s case they have scaled the ability to ‘ask around’ for recommendations and Stack Overflow provides a feel for someone’s knowledge. Neither is perfect and in truth the best they can do is give me confidence that the candidate is not a total waste of time.
Candidate -> Employer trust
The Candidate -> Employer problem is more interesting not least because it’s generally ignored. Unless you happen to be Google or Facebook candidate->employer trust is a major stumbling block. How can a candidate be sure that they are dealing with a good company? They can’t trust their agent to have a clue (or care) and they themselves will not be aware of a host of interesting companies. As such applications tend towards the bland and generic since candidates cannot afford to spend days tailoring individual introductions, this in turn fuels the employer perception that passionate interested candidates do not exist.
As an example, I work for a small B2B Telecoms company, our work is on the public eye, but our brand is not. Most developers will not be aware of us. Once hired, developers tend to want to stay with us, with working environment and the freedom to ‘get things done’ playing a big part in that. However as a company I have no easy way to express this. It’s not even a case of saying ‘Isn’t my company great!’ it’s much more about about describing the trade offs. Not everyone will appreciate the chaos, pace and variety of working at a small company, some will prefer the promise of a well defined career path, security and greater opportunity to specialise typicallly afforded by a larger organisation. It’s down to personal opinion.
Individual companies can solve this problem by publishing an engineering blog, sponsoring community events, getting people speaking at conferences and generally exposing their culture and values. It could be argued that companies willing to go to these lengths clearly value recruitment more highly than others and deserve the rewards. However, if there was someway that candidates could pull that information rather than have it pushed then that would be hugely valuable.
The closest example I can see is the Joel Test. To me the Joel Test is starting to show it’s age and could benefit from an update, the best it can say is ‘this company is less likely to be a horrific place to work’. Glass Door also addresses this in part, though practically speaking companies must be a of certain size before it becomes useful.
I’m not sure what the solution might be. Perhaps a curated job board/job fair is the way to go, the curator finds a way to characterise companies and makes sure it only backs good companies. This builds trust with candidates, and should mean that it attracts the top people, especially those for whom money is not the top driver. Companies are happy to pay decent rates because they know how good the candidate pool is, further more there is prestige in being associated with the agency.
So, world, here is my challenge to you. How can I, as a company, express my culture and values in a meaningful and standard way so that candidates can approach me with confidence.