Software Engibeering: Recruiting Revisted
One of my many responsibilities at ShowClix is to recruit software engineer folk for the team. It's one of my favorite and yet most frustrating tasks. If your name isn't Google or Facebook, if you aren't located in "the valley", if your pockets aren't infinitely deep, recruiting talented engineers can be a challenge.
Even in a down economy software engineering remains a "recession-proof" job. The good software engineers are working. This is most evident by the fact that the applicant list for our Software Engineer position is only a fraction of the size of the 800 or so new applicants competing for our recent Customer Care Representative opening.
The Usual Approach
There are two common options when it comes to hiring a software engineer:
- Throw a listing out on Craigslist/Monster/Dice/Stack Overflow Careers/Reddit Jobs and wait for the fish to bite
- Hire a recruiting agency to do the head hunting for you
While the latter option may work great for some companies, I personally find the business model behind recruiting agencies fundamentally flawed (but that's for another blog article). For this and other reasons I tend to stay away from them.
As a result, we've historically went with the route of posting on various free and paid job boards. Résumés would trickle in – with most of the candidates being what I like to call "extra mediocre". We'd sift through the candidates, send out a "code puzzle" or setup a phone screen with the folks we thought looked promising, and eventually bring a couple of people in for an on-site.
The process was long, ineffective, and costly. Hiring should be an exciting time for a small company but with this approach it became monotonous. For this reason, when it came time to hire another software engineer, we decided to try something a bit different.
Instead of shelling out the $300 to $400 per job listing, we decided we'd take that money and invest it in something that was a little more fun: beer. We would throw a free event for like minded tech folk in the area to meet the ShowClix team, see the offices, and drink some delicious local craft brew. Seeing as we're in the business of helping people throw successful events, we figured if anyone could pull it off, it should be us.
- Spend no more than the cost of a job listing (~$300)
- Attract 50 local people from the Industry
- Turn it around in one week
- Come away with 5 to 10 really solid recruiting leads
- Promote ShowClix as a "tech contender" in the city of Pittsburgh
- Leverage what we've got: Let people see our awesome office packed with fun perks and a great view of the city and let them meet our young, fun, and bright team.
- Get delicious local craft beer: There seems to be a correlation between software engineers and drinkers of quality beer.
- Use our own platform to ticket it: Let them experience our product first hand. Turn on mobile ticketing and let them see why our product is different than what they may be accustomed to.
- Don't make it seem too much like a recruiting event: We wanted to attract a mixed crowd of people from the tech world, including those that weren't looking for a job.
- Reach out to local groups: We got in touch with the local schools (CMU and University of Pittsburgh), contacted various language specific "Meetup" groups, sent personalized emails to a handful of local active github users, and posted on the local subreddit.
We came up just short of our goal of 50 people but were quite pleased with the turnout. A few of the takeaways from our engibeering event:
- Informal Speed Interviewing: Having all the candidates in one spot let us conduct informal preliminary interviews and cut out the need for phone screening.
- Relaxed Atmosphere: Interviews can be intimidating. I can recall at least one horrible interview experience with a larger tech company where I felt so out of my element and flustered that I completely flubbed the interview. Getting some food and a beer or two in your candidates should help them cool the nerves a bit.
- Turn Around Time: Going the job posting route takes a lot of time (wait for the resumes to trickle in, review, schedule screens, etc.). On that night alone we were able to "screen" many qualified candidates and walk away with several very promising leads.
- Street Cred: As we had hoped, we got a decent mix of people actively looking for employment, people happily employed in the industry, graduate students, and those that were just curious about ShowClix. As a result, we were able to further promote ShowClix as a contender in the local tech space.
- A Group Thing: The existing software team had the chance to meet with the candidates and play a part in deciding which candidates we would pursue. This is something that is usually done very late in the interview process or sometimes not even done until the new hire walks in on day one. Getting the gang involved early on was a major benefit.
All in all, we chalked it up as a win. We met a lot of bright, talented locals and found some quality candidates for our job opening. Best of all, the whole team had a ton of fun doing it. I'm hoping that this can become a regular occurrence.
UPDATE We just finished our most competitive round of hiring and we're happy to announce @tomschlick will be joining the ShowClix team. Pleased with our Engibeering experiment. My only regret is that I couldn't hire a few more of this round's candidates. Cheers!