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    Entries in Recruiting (140)

    Tuesday
    May122015

    A different view of 'Top' talent, namely that it is mostly a myth

    Caught this piece, The programming talent myth', over the weekend and if you are in the technology space at all (as a techie yourself, someone who has to attract and recruit tech talent, or simply just someone who is concerned/interested with the 'state' of technology today (particularly when it comes to issues of diversity and inclusion)), then you should carve out 15 or so minutes today or soon and give the piece a read.

    It is essentially a summary of a recent keynote speech at a developer's event called PyCon given by Jacob Kaplan-Moss, a well-known contributor to the programming language Django and the director of security at Heroku.

    In the speech Kaplan-Ross took square aim at the concept of 'Top' technical talent, (although I would argue his logic would apply to other disciplines as well), and how the dangerous myth of the 'Rock Star' programmer and the terrible programmer (with nothing really in between these extremes), is detrimental on all kinds of levels. It drives people out of technical careers and studies - if you are not a 'Rock Star' you might as well not even bother. It continues to foster and support less-than-healthy norms and lifestyles - 'Rock Star' programmers work 80+ hours a week and don't think of anything other than programming. And finally, it feeds in to what can easily develop into that 'Bro culture' that is common in many smaller startups and tech companies.

    Here is a little piece from the talk:

    Programmers like to think they work in a field that is logical and analytical, but the truth is that there is no way to even talk about programming ability in a systematic way. When humans don't have any data, they make up stories, but those stories are simplistic and stereotyped. So, we say that people "suck at programming" or that they "rock at programming", without leaving any room for those in between. Everyone is either an amazing programmer or "a worthless use of a seat".

    But that would mean that programming skill is somehow distributed on a U-shaped curve. Most people are at one end or the other, which doesn't make much sense. Presumably, people learn throughout their careers, so how would they go from absolutely terrible to wonderful without traversing the middle ground? Since there are only two narratives possible, that is why most people would place him in the "amazing programmer" bucket. He is associated with Django, which makes the crappy programmer label unlikely, so people naturally choose the other.

    But, if you could measure programming ability somehow, its curve would look like the normal distribution. Most people are average at most things.

    It makes sense if you think of programming as not some mystical endeavor that somehow one is innately born with the talent for or is not. If you see programming and other technical occupations as just ones consisting of a set of skills and capabilities that can be learned over time, (like just about every other skill), then the idea of programming talent and programmers existing on a more normal distribution curve seems the most likely outcome.

    One last quote from the piece:

    The tech industry is rife with sexism, racism, homophobia, and discrimination. It is a multi-faceted problem, and there isn't a single cause, but the talent myth is part of the problem. In our industry, we recast the talent myth as "the myth of the brilliant asshole", he said. This is the "10x programmer" who is so good at his job that people have to work with him even though his behavior is toxic. In reality, given the normal distribution, it's likely that these people aren't actually exceptional, but even if you grant that they are, how many developers does a 10x programmer have to drive away before it is a wash?

    How much does the 'Rock Star' mentality and assumption play in to toxic workplaces, less inclusive workforces, and unfulfilled 'Good, but not a Rock Star' people?

    It is a really interesting piece, and Kaplan-Ross' speech is also on YouTube here, and I recommend checking it out.

    Friday
    Apr102015

    By the time you catch Google as a 'Top Place to Work', it may already be too late

    Here's a quick note of caution for any employers chasing 'Top' of 'Best' of 'Most Amazingly Fantastic' organizations to work for lists - the kinds of lists that are almost always topped by legendary companies like Google, courtesy of a recent piece on Business Insider titled In terms of 'prestige', Google is now a 'tier-two' employer, says recent Comp-Sci grad.

    A quick excerpt from the piece, then some comments from yours truly, (it is my blog after all):

    When Google offered a recent grad from a top CS program a job, the new grad said no.

    That despite monthly compensation of $9,000, including a housing stipend.

    Why?

    In an email, the engineer gave us four reasons:

    • "Lower pay after tax. Housing stipend is taxed more, and several places pay more than Google. That being said, Google is still very competitive. Google's full time offer is very average (105k starting salary) and the best startups pay more."
    • "Less interesting work. It's a large tech company. The impact I'd have is minimal."
    • "Lower prestige. Outside of tech, and maybe within average CS students, Google is the place to go if you're one of the smartest engineers. However, within top CS students, it's not considered that great. Probably tier two in terms of prestige and difficulty to get an internship. I have lots of friends barely passing their CS courses that are interning there. Saying you intern at Google just doesn't get you that much respect."
    • "Less upside. For full time specifically, you get equity at a startup. If it IPOs, you make millions if you're one of the first 100-1000 employees.

    Lots to take in there but the gist is pretty clear - at least according to this Comp-Sci grad, even one of the most highly lauded top companies in the world isn't immune to being 'topped' by competitors for the best, most sought after kinds of talent. If Google, with it's history, success, mythos, and bucketfuls of cash is getting beat out (at least in the perceptions) of top recruits, it reminds everyone that while chasing companies like Google might seem like a great strategy, it eventually is a failing one, since Google can't even keep up with Google, if that makes sense.

    But there is also one other nugget in that quote worth teasing out a little and that is the way this Comp-Sci grad talks about how he and his peers think about and talk about companies and workplaces. From the quote, there definitely seems to be an odd kind of peer pressure and one-upmanship going on with these recent grads. The desire not just to get a great offer and work on great tech and projects but to be able to brag to the other kids in Comp-Sci is pretty high on the list of desires for this group.

    Interesting stuff it seems to me, and a great reminder that no one, not even Google, is immune to competition, changing values, and the need to constantly be moving forward and re-inventing their value proposition in order to keep their lofty status on whichever 'Wonderful' Place to Work list you subscribe to.

    Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday
    Apr012015

    In Soviet Russia, (and America), Job Finds You

    For a 'don't believe anything you read on the internet' April Fool's Day, I submit for your consideration a really interesting, (and totally not made up), conclusion about how people in the United States find jobs courtesy of a recently published Economic Letter from our pals at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

    Let's start with the researcher's money line first, then we will try and unpack it a little bit:

    More than three-quarters of workers who switched employers did not report active job search in the previous three months.

    Did you take a second to process that statistic? 

    Of all the 'new hires' that the researchers examined, 77.6% of them had not reported being in an active job search in the previous three months. And we are not talking about internal job transfer types of moves here, these are employer-to-employer job shifts. So the vast majority of job-to-job transitions do not follow the standard interpretation of a labor market that matches workers who are actively seeking out job openings with the positions that are posted by employers.

    So essentially, according to this research, over three-quarters of hiring is coming from direct recruiting/poaching, referrals, and informal networks.

    Probably not a great surprise/finding for experienced HR/Talent pros, but a good reminder for folks who are still out there beating down doors in an active job search. Here's a summary of the data from the research, then one last point before we sign off.


    The researcher's data shows that while 77.6% of hires are coming from employed folks who were not searching for a new job, that still only constitutes about 2% of all employed people. Translated - your recruiting/poaching/referral processes are still only nabbing less than 2% of folks out there, underscoring how hard it can be to identify, engage, convince, and finally hire people out of existing jobs into new ones at your company.

    Net-net: At least according to this research, most jobs find people, not the other way around.

    Have a great April Fool's!

    Tuesday
    Mar312015

    Candidate Advice You Should Not Share With Your Candidates

    Back in the 1970s and early 1980s after a spate of run-ins with the law and arrests and general bad behavior amongst members of his Oklahoma University football team, then-coach Barry Switzer was asked by a reporter what he planned to do about better controlling player's off-field conduct. Switzer, probably out of frustration, and the fact that that morning another player had been arrested for assault, is said to have replied "Frankly I am not sure what else I can do, short of putting up a sign in the locker room that says "Committing a felony is against team policy"."

    Switzer's point was that he should not have to remind the players of really obvious things - things every decent person just knows to be true, regardless of who they are or how experienced they might be. I thought of that old story when I saw another version of the endlessly repeated 'Advice to job candidates' tips pieces, that includes, among other nuggets, a recommendation to 'Be nice to the receptionist' when showing up for a job interview.

    That advice is terrible. Not because candidates shouldn't be nice to the receptionist, rather because no decent person, yet alone candidate, should have to be reminded to be nice to the receptionist, or anyone else. In fact, as an employer you would not want to artificially inject fake 'niceness' into a candidate who otherwise would not be nice. It would be better to catch them being an ass and reject them up front, rather than get duped by some fake interview day charm and learn only later how much of a jerk they really are.

    So with that said, here are my Top 3 pieces of candidate advice you should not share with candidates:

    1. Be nice to the receptionist/security guard/limo driver - sort of covered above, but worth repeating. No one, once they are older than about 9, should have to be reminded to be 'nice.' In fact, 'nice', needs to be the default setting. You should expect more than 'nice' from people that you really want to be around for more than 3 minutes at a time. Translated - I can accept 'nice' from the Starbucks barista, people I am going to work closely with for 40 hours a week had better be damn nice, if you get my meaning.

    2. Show up on time, be dressed appropriately, take a shower before the interview - Everything that falls into the category of 'Basic rules of conduct in a civilized society' should not be repeated under the mantle of candidate advice. The only exception possibly being when advising students preparing for their first experience in an interview setting, where some coaching on dress/conduct might be warranted. For everyone else though, if a candidate needs to be reminded to skip the flip-flops for the interview, then you should just let that candidate flip-flop on out of your office.

    3. Research the company/industry prior to the interview - 'Normal' people will read 27 reviews on Yelp before choosing a lunch restaurant and scour page after page of Amazon ratings while considering which pair of earbuds to buy. So we have to remind candidates to know something about the company they are about to interview with? If a candidate turned up for an interview less informed about your company than they were about the last season of The Walking Dead, then again, you want to catch that lack of intellectual curiosity and conscientiousness up front.

    I am sure if we really wanted to we could dredge up several more pieces of 'Candidate Advice' that are really just 'How to behave like a decent human being' tips, but you get the idea. Not taking a cell phone call in the middle of the interview probably deserves a mention too, but I think you get the idea.

    You don't want to coach your candidates to be decent human beings, you want your process to allow those 'not decent' folks to reveal themselves before you make the mistake of hiring them.

    Otherwise, you could find yourself tacking a 'Committing a felony is against company policy' sign on the break room wall.

    Monday
    Feb232015

    WEBINAR: Six Ways to Make Your Recruiting/Talent Metrics More Strategic

    Your friends and mine over at Fistful of Talent are back with the 2015 debut of the often-imitated but never surpassed FOT Webinar - this one titled Six Ways to Make Your Recruiting/Talent Metrics More Strategic – And Make Managers Own Their New Hires - sponsored by Chequed.com, set for Thursday, February 26th at 2pm EST.

    Why should you take time out of a busy Thursday to hang out with the FOT crew for an hour?

    Let's face it---the recruiting metrics you use at your company are either non-existent or stale.  Sure, you tried to roll out the basics---time to hire, cost per hire---but all that did was put the focus on your HR/Recruiting function, not the people who actually make the final hiring decision.  Flash forward 12 months since the launch of those basic recruiting metrics, and you're bored... heck, everyone's bored.

    Not to fear! The FREE FOT webinar, Six Ways to Make Your Recruiting/Talent Metrics More Strategic – And Make Managers Own Their New Hires, was made to help (and to make you look like a superstar).

    What will the FOT gang cover?

    1. A review of the traditional talent selection/recruiting metrics.  We'll give you a rundown of those metrics like Time To Fill and Cost Per Hire, what the standard benchmarks are for each and then explain why only using these traditional metrics is a lost cause/suckers play.

    2. An explanation of the Holy Grail of reporting Recruiting Effectiveness and why it changes the conversation from "Did we fill the position?" to "Did we make the right hire and what happened once we filled the position?". We call this metric Hiring Manager Batting Average (HMBA for those of you that need an acronym), and it's the cleanest, most all-encompassing metric you can have to make your internal recruiting conversation strategic---not transactional---and actually make it tie in to your overall talent strategy, not just Talent Acquisition.

    3. How to change the dialog of organizational turnover from being an HR problem to being everyone's problem. Admit it, you report on turnover all the time. We'll show you how to link turnover to your selection process in a way that spreads the wealth related to turnover responsibility---and actually sets you up to be more consultative and less reactive related to employee churn.

    4. We'll give you 5 additional metrics to show how your recruiting/staffing process actually reduces risk of bad hires and prepares for future searches.  You need to get out of the trap of only reporting cost and time.  We've got the metrics to show you how to do that.

    Convinced yet?

    Things that are hard:  Riding a bike on a freeway. Getting your kids to eat peas. Getting managers to own the bad hires they make and be interested in getting better at selection.  Join for Six Ways to Make Your Recruiting/Talent Metrics More Strategic – And Make Managers Own Their New Hires on Thursday, February 26th at 2pm EST, and we'll show you how to create recruiting/talent metrics that get the attention of your organization.  You're on your own with the other two.

    REGISTER HERE: