Hiring managers and recruiters often need to go above and beyond when trying to find their ideal technical candidate, especially if that candidate is not actively searching for a new job. Developers aren’t hanging out on LinkedIn 24/7, so those traditional, run-of-the-mill recruiting strategies quite often fail. Recruiters need to craft creative and personal strategies to find their next hire – some may even call these unconventional strategies a bit “crazy.”
We previously asked a few developers to share how they got their first development job, and now we’re looking at the other side of the story. We talked to technical recruiters and engineering managers to hear about the craziest way they've hired a developer.
Jordan Warzecha, CEO and Co-founder of backstitch, hired the first developer for his startup thanks to the power of the Internet (but not in the way you’re thinking).
“I was a guest on a web show, and it turns out one of the people watching was a childhood friend that I hadn't seen in over 15 years. He shot me an email to reconnect and as it turns out one of his good friends was a developer looking for a new position. He was leaps and bounds the best candidate we had interviewed. Fast forward to today -- he has been with us for over a year and a half.”
Levent Gurses, President of Movel, hired a Ruby developer for his company while attempting to enjoy the outdoors.
“It was a beautiful day on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. My race bike was cruising at a moderate pace of 15-18 mph. Suddenly, I ran into a group of slower bikes and the next thing I see is a bike coming straight at me. I tried to avoid the collision, but there wasn’t enough time. Luckily, the damage was limited to the paint. At the same time, I noticed tech stickers on the other rider’s bike. I asked what he did and as it turned out, he was a Ruby on Rails developer. After a short conversation, we exchanged numbers and in less than a week he was coding for us.”
Sometimes the best candidates are right under your nose. Doug Karr, CEO of DK New Media, kept in touch with a former mentee and helped him grow into a developer role at his company.
“I hired a 17-year-old that had a Senior Project in high school where he had to work with a business and learn a skill. He selected programming and asked if he could work with me for a year. He had no experience outside of playing a little bit online. He became so proficient that I hired him immediately after he graduated and he stayed with me for several years. He now is a successful developer working for a mobile application development company, and we’re still great friends.”
Nick Espinosa, CIO of BSSi2 LLC, ended up hiring a SQL developer for a few projects after losing to him in a game of pool (and no, the hire wasn't part of a bet).
Espinosa says, “I was impressed with how he could not only line up shots but also explain the method and geometry to me. I had no idea what he did for a living as we were playing, but when I found out I told him I had a database project I could use him on. I figured if he put this much attention to detail into playing a game then he would be phenomenal at programming. I wasn’t wrong. It’s been over a decade now and we still work together on larger and larger projects. One of the best hires I’ve ever had. One of these days I’ll probably get around to looking at his resume.”
When you hear the words “hire” and “Craigslist” together, the connotation likely isn’t positive. While some companies do regularly post job openings on Craigslist, the site can have a sketchy reputation. Luckily for Mark Michael, CEO and co-founder of DevHub, and Kate Fleming, a Solutions Architect Engineer at Pointmarc, the online encounter worked out in their favor.
Fleming met a stranger on Craigslist that was going to sell her a new iPhone (this stranger turned out to be Michael). They ended up talking and Michael offered her an internship, which she later accepted. DevHub would eventually send Fleming to Code Fellows to be formally trained as a software engineer, which is when her career took off.
The following example does a great job of illustrating how a little research and background information can greatly help a recruiter get the attention of a potential candidate. Shayleen Stuto, Talent Development Manager for TechnologyAdvice, describes the out-of-the-box way they hired a developer.
“We wanted to express our strong interest in a particular software engineering candidate. He was a fun and energetic guy who we learned is part of a pretty competitive ultimate Frisbee league. After we interviewed him, we express mailed a Frisbee (no box, just the disc) with a note from the team taped to the back. This out of the box idea was an unconventional, but meaningful way that echoed our desire to have him on the team”, says Stuto.
While a few of the examples we covered may be a bit unconventional, they do illustrate a good point. Boring hiring and recruiting strategies don’t always work, so use your creativity and always be networking. You never know when you’ll meet your next future technical hire.