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This question was inspired by this closed one. Please only answer if you have experience of recruiting developers, and stick to broad issues, not Daily WTF style stories.

Basically, what are the main issues that make it hard to find good developers - either making it hard to get people to apply in the first place, or leading to large numbers of applicants being rejected or refusing an offer.

General technical ability, specific technical skills, interpersonal skills, salary demands vs. budget constraints, work too dull, whatever - what are the top development recruitment problems?

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closed as too broad by Ixrec, MichaelT, durron597, GlenH7, gnat Jul 4 at 12:51

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Many refusing your offers? That is a bit alarming. Have you asked them for honest feedback? Self-promotion: they do not apply/join for the smae reasons why they quit. programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/49806/… –  Job Oct 15 '11 at 4:15
@Job - these were just thought-up-on-a-whim examples to give an idea of what I meant. I'm not and have never been an employer, or responsible for recruiting anyone. –  Steve314 Oct 15 '11 at 4:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 17 down vote accepted
  1. There are a lot of "developers" out there.
  2. There are not a lot of good developers looking for work at a given time.
  3. You don't have time to interview (face-to-face) all the developers who will apply.
  4. CVs are mostly useless as a filter.
  5. Trivia questions are mostly useless as a filter.
  6. Salary demanded is the worst filter ever.
  7. There is very little you can ask someone to code in one hour that will tell you anything about their talents.
  8. If you ask them to do something before the interview, it is possible that they won't have done it themselves.
  9. The big names like Google and Microsoft can put you through a whole day of interviews, but most of us can't.

Nobody has the magic bullet that solves all of these problems. If they did, they'd be rich.

I've done pretty well by discounting any CVs that raise concerns, having a simple phone interview to screen out the no-hopes, a first interview for team fit (mostly just discussing soft-skills, processes, etc), and if we like them then we ask them for a code sample which we talk through at a final interview. I believe, but cannot prove, that if point 8 should arise and they can talk their way past 2-3 developers then they're probably good enough anyway.

My attitude is that you hire based on team fit and pay based on the final interview.

I haven't yet had a false positive using this approach (I have when the final interview was a problem-solving-whiteboard interview), but who knows how many false negatives I've had? And who knows what will happen in future?

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+1 for "code written in an hour tells very little about their talents". I don't care for the whiteboard interview either, but honestly it's a hard job to gauge skill in. –  Ben Brocka Oct 15 '11 at 0:53
Any suggestions for applicants trying to get ahead of the crowd? For example, would providing a link to an easily verifiable open-source project in the CV be useful? –  Steve314 Oct 15 '11 at 1:12
@Steve314: Personally, I can't resist a look around people's blogs, SE profiles, open source contributions, if links are provided in a CV. SE points won't help you here, but opinions might. Best thing you can do though is make your CV good (clue: talk about what you bring to the table, not what your teams have done) and then blow me away at the first interview (clue: engage me in an interesting debate and hold your own). –  pdr Oct 15 '11 at 1:22
@pdr YES, absolutely talk about what you CAN DO and what YOU DID not team accomplishments. Saying we a little too much sounds like you are too humble or you mostly sat on the sidelines. –  maple_shaft Oct 15 '11 at 1:26
@maple_shaft - I agree, but if you're trying to land a job it's rolling the dice - a lot of people like to hear "we". I don't mind it, but I do follow up with "and what did you PERSONALLY do?" –  psr Oct 17 '11 at 18:28

How about this:

The really good developers are already working. What makes you think you are worth the PITA of interviewing for you? What are you offering that I don't already have?

  • More money? I make enough.
  • More interesting projects? You have my attention. Are you saying your projects are run more carefully, professionally, and on time and budget than the ones I'm already used to? Prove it.
  • Your company values developers more. Really? No death marches? No > 40 hour weeks? No management-directed "ship it regardless of bugs" directives? I'm listening.
  • World-class tools, offices, equipment, co-workers? I likey.

Otherwise, save the angst, I've heard it before.

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+1, out of interest: how long have you been in development? –  Marjan Venema Oct 15 '11 at 7:22
+1 for actually using real project management terms like "death march". This answer has a good point. There are FAR TOO MANY dysfunctional software sweatshops out there, it makes us nervous. –  maple_shaft Oct 15 '11 at 13:21

At my office there are a number of localized concerns for the area we are in as I am sure other areas have their own challenges.

I think most companies that are hiring are like an extremely picky, indecisive casual shopper strolling around a book store. The potential applicants are all of the different books that they pick up and briefly look up.

Like most book shoppers the cover and the title are the first thing that is going to catch your interest, even if it is just for a few seconds, if the title, subtitle and cover are unappealing it will likely get put back on the shelf, because even though that famous old saying goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover." we all do subconsciously whether we think we are or not.

Of course we don't have enough time either to look at every book, so we pick a section relevant to our interests, I was hoping for a good non-fiction book. Nothing I looked at in non-fiction caught my eye, but then I took a chance with one I saw in the Biography section, it was a book on John Adams. I actually read the first few pages and considered it but then thought I should try that sci-fi book my friend told me about.

In the end my gut instinct led me back to the John Adams book and I LOVED IT. Couldn't put it down and I certainly don't regret my purchase.

The POINT is that when I interview I look for something special in an unlikely place, somewhere I didn't expect, maybe a guy I met at a neighborhood cookout. Or maybe somebody highly unlikely, a guy who majored in English Lit but had a passion for coding. They may be a little rough around the edges, but they never ceased to amaze me with how when it came to working on a software development team they GOT IT.

You can stay up at night pondering why finding good talent is hard, well fundamentally when you are blind with no contacts going in you are just perusing a giant bookstore looking for the next War and Peace, and you could be wasting a lot of time.

My advice, avoid recruiters unless you know them very well and they have a good history with you or your company. Call in contacts, old work buddies, your friend who has a friend who is looking. Don't get hung up on the specifics of their skills or the formality of their experience and education. Just talk to them, figure out their personality, the way they think, their work ethic, their opinions. Argue with them, debate with them. Try to learn something new from them.

In the end your gut instinct will lead you to the right choice, not the amount of time it took them to write a linked list implementation or how long it took them to do the fizzbuzz.

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Actually, I'm not in a position to recruit anyone - I'm mostly just curious about the issues, but partly interested in what good developers can do to get noticed. On the second part, I'm guessing your answer would be "make a good first impression"? –  Steve314 Oct 15 '11 at 1:18
@Steve314 I addressed this more to people who are in the hiring dilemma not necessarily people who are trying to look more appealing to those hiring. But you could also take away from my answer that making a good impression and just getting to know a LOT of people is a big help. –  maple_shaft Oct 15 '11 at 1:24

From a developer with 16+ years experience:

  1. if your from out of state and the contract is near where I live guess what I've heard this pitch from other recruiters
  2. and if #1 is true they're being picky
  3. if #2 then its not worth my time to think about your management problems...
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