IT Recruitment is F**ked

We get inundated with job specs in our inbox. Each email is filled with buzzwords in order to try and entice us to take the new role. I have not, nor will not, take a job spec filled with buzzwords. I join a company because of a culture. Having recently read Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, I really started to see how recruitment in IT is f**ked broken. The book talks about manipulations in modern society. This sounds bad and that it’s not something we are used to. It’s something we are very used to. We see it everyday. Supermarkets offering ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ on products. Car companies offering us ‘£500 cashback’ when buying a new car. This is all manipulation to get us to buy things. How many of us have bought a second item at the supermarket as it is buy 1 get 1 half price?

IT recruitment also has a lot of manipulation in it. In the past, I applied for a job by giving my details to a recruiter. I have turned up for that specific interview to find I was interviewing for a job I didn’t know about. A job I had no experience for. My CV had been changed to fit the spec the company had asked for. The recruiter was manipulating the company to get someone in the door. These types of things happen every day. I get emails in my inbox offering me ‘John Smith’ at £250 a day. I am not a recruitment manager and I have never spoken to these companies. They are effectively fishing. Would you be happy knowing you are being used as a carrott for a recruitment company to get into a company?

It is because of this that I have a mistrust in most recruiters. Not all are bad. It feels as thought they manipulate us (companies) into working with them. I understand they are just trying to do their job. I just try not to use them. I would rather hire someone based on a referral from someone else. But even that can have manipulations to it though. How many of you get a referral bonus for bringing someone to your company? Are we doing it for the right reasons? I like to think I am and not for money

Consider the following, fake, job spec:

Job Description:
Do you have strong experience in X and Y technologies? Are you interested in joining a strong team who do A, B and C?

Skills & Requirements:
* 5 years experience in X
* Deep understanding of Agile
* 3 years experience in a technology only released this year
* Buzzword 1
* Buzzword 2
* etc.

If interested, then please contact,

This doesn’t interest me in the slightest. I have no feel about what type of work I’d be doing or who I’d be working with. It stipulates the technologies I’d be using to try and eliminate people up front.It doesn’t tell me anything about the company or what they are trying to achieve. This type of advert is never going to entice me to join this company. I mentioned above that I would only join companies now because of culture. Culture is very important to me. I need to be working with smart people who challenge me or I get bored. I don’t want to be bored.

In the book Start With Why, Simon Sinek continually reiterates ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. The example advert, above, would be from a company who can’t sell why they do something. Maybe there don’t understand it themselves. Not many companies can sell their ‘Why’. A few companies I know can do this are Etsy, Tretton37 and Github. The structure of a job spec from Etsy starts as follows:

We build tools that enable our engineering team to safely deploy code to the Etsy website. These include the Continuous Integration (CI) system, xUnit frameworks, and functional testing suites. Everyone in the Product and Engineering teams can deploy code into production, on their own. We do this over 30 times every day. Release management is a role in which everyone on the team plays an active part, starting on their first day of work

Straight away, before I read more than 1 paragraph, I understand what the values of their engineering team is. They then go on to talk about the team:

The technical staff at Etsy believes that code is craft, good software and systems designs are works of art, and that the work we do is part of larger creative culture represented by the hundreds of thousands of inspired makers who make Etsy such a wondrous marketplace

This helps solidify the culture they are telling me about and the engineers they hire to make this happen. They go on to say the following:

Our current systems run PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, Solr/Lucene, Postgres, MySQL, and more.

I could go on with the advert. It summed up the perfect job advertisement for me. This is the type of advert that would really get me interested in a job. I would join them for that culture. It isn’t a job spec, it is an introduction to life at Etsy.

Are skills / technologies the most important thing to me when I hire someone? I used to think so. But now, it really isn’t. If someone doesnt have passion or buy into the same values my company does then all the skills in the world may not help me fit in and work well. Skills can be taught. Communications, culture and passion can’t (in my opinion).

It is important to say that not 100% of blame sits with recruiters. Companies, themselves, need to be much better towards their employees. After reading Remote, the 37 signals book, I really started to see how somethings are being missed by companies themselves. Remote working is definitely 1 of them. I was never a fan of remote working. I would not want a remote worker in my team, until I started travelling a lot for work. Being remote from my team has really get better at communication and focus. I often will go to a conference and work remotely now. I am actually quite productive. I am writing this blog post on an 11 hour flight :).

To me, I don’t think we, as compnaies, should care where you are based. We should allow our team members to work where they are most productive - if that happens to be in their home in the Swiss Alps then so be it. I understand there are legal hurdles when hiring remote workers. These are not insurmountable. It’s important to say that companies like Github and Etsy have staff all over the world. American companies with staff in UK, Australia, New Zealand etc. Nothing is impossible.

Staff benefits are another piece of the puzzle required to help recruit people. Too many job specs say things like ‘subsidised gym membership’ or ‘healthcare’ included. What if I have my own gym membership or my own private healtcare? Can’t I choose something else to help me during my time at that company? Again, the Remote book helped me to see that this is important. At 37 signals, staff are offered a family holiday or cooking school experience etc. This becomes part of their benefits package. That is much more useful to someone who has healthcare and gym membership already. It also helps the employee feel really valued

Everything I write about here is the result of creating a good culture and a sense of understanding of Why we do things rather than what we do. Culture is a tough thing to breed but when you do get there it seems as though it’s really worth it. We need to keep hiring people to vreed that culture, people who buy into it. It’s 2014, we should be better at hiring people. There are a lot of skilled people out there - it’s time to tap into that resource pool. It can help you create truly special products. Look to companies like Etsy, Github, Netflix, Puppetlabs etc. for inspiration on what we can do better in this space.