Recruiting a developer in France [SERIES 3/4] – Getting your Job in Front of the right People


The previous articles in this series discussed the creation of a job profile and performing a job interview. In this article, we’ll talk about getting your job posting to your target audience – the job seekers.

First Option: Use a Recruiter

Now here’s a tough question. Recruiters are expensive. They will ask 10-15% of the year salary of the position they recruit. Think: one month salary. Ouch. What on earth do they do for that money? Because if they just post on the job sites, I can do that myself and save myself a bunch of money!
That’s usually the first response when someone first finds out how expensive recruiters are. So what do they really do? They do, indeed post on the job sites. But since they post in bulk, they get much better deals, such as free high profile placement, lower pricing, etc.
But they do much more than that. They’ve probably recruited for the position before (read: for your competition). They never throw away a CV they get their hands on. Instead, they build this gigantic database with it. So what they do? They will just start searching through that, and spam everyone that mentions the relevant terms in their CV.
A perfect example: I did some Oracle work in the dot com days. So that’s fifteen years ago now. Why? At the time if you wanted to run a website, you need to buy Sun hardware, SunOS, Oracle as the database, and use Perl to do web apps. Anyway, it was a long time ago and I didn’t do it that much. However, it’s on my CV. I’ve done a lot of freelance work, and you get freelance work through recruiters often, and so I’m in all the databases. So I get tons of mails about Oracle jobs, even though I haven’t touched it in thirteen years or so. So what they do, is they text search each CV in their possession, and email the person that has a match. My Oracle thing demonstrates that they’re not trying to be smart about it – they don’t try to figure out if it’s recent experience, or how much. But apparently it works, so annoying as it may be for the developers on the receiving end, as a recruiter client, you benefit from it.
They have another trick up their sleeve, but I’ll talk about that in a moment.

The Other option: Do It Yourself

So you’ve decided that recruiters are too expensive! You can post to a couple of job sites yourself and save a bunch of money. For instance, when we recruit in Romania, we only post on two job sites – easy enough!
Sure, that’s easy. But then the CV’s start coming in. Hundreds of them. Most of them worthless. Say you put “five years of software development experience required.”. You’d think that would stop students and store clerks from applying, right? Wrong! They practice a scorched earth tactic, and no job posting shall be spared their brilliant CV. I can’t tell you if it ever works or not. I manually go through each and immediately discard them.
Then there are those who do their homework – really well. They make the effort to google your company, read what’s on your website, and find your and mail you that way. Clever, because it works – they go directly to my mailbox, and as such get my immediate attention. But that only works if you impress in the first five milliseconds. Otherwise, you’re the obnoxious prick that’s wasting my time and you get deleted. So that trick only works if you either have an impressive CV or are somehow impressive yourself – your IQ is something absurd, or you can juggle five laptops while coding.
Sometimes you need a rare skill. A few years back, Flash ActionScript developers were worth their weight in gold. In Romania, as anywhere else, they abused this mercilessly by job-hopping all the time and charging absurd freelance rates. At the time, we’d agree to the salary raises, and passed on the extra cost to the client, but that wasn’t enough, they were still leaving faster than we’d recruit them. So we started looking for Romanian-language forums where ActionScript developers talked about technical stuff and post on those. That way, we were able to tap into the community that weren’t gold-diggers, but honest-to-god developers that wanted to work on great coding projects, not just chase the highest salary. This strategy worked but cost us massive amounts of energy – my Romanian is not very good to say the least and finding those forums, figuring out how to post on them, sign up, etc, was extremely time consuming. In hindsight, if there was a recruiter that could’ve done that for me (no clue if they do), I would’ve been happy to pay for that.

Another (expensive) option….

The job sites also offer another service: unlimited access for a month to their entire CV database. It’s incredibly expensive, usually. But sometimes, it turns out, it’s the only way to hire, though. So you can choose to pay that, and get CV’s that way. They are usually CV’s of people that are happy in their job, so when you contact them, they rarely agree to an interview. But they can be the cream of the crop. You’ll have to seduce them away from their comfort zone, which is hard. For a lot of people, it’s not all about money. They love their job for other reasons: great colleagues, great location, some weird freedom, etc. You’ll have to match or exceed that, for those people to even consider leaving their current job. For the recruiters, this is one of their hidden assets: they have access to ALL the jobsite databases – because they have special deals with all of them usually. Hard for you to match that kind of access.

CV selection

So now you’ve posted your job profile, and the CV’s are streaming in. Weed out the bad ones early, otherwise you’ll just waste your time. Each jobsite has its own admin site where you can log in to view the applications, but if you have multiple sources, you want to combine them all together – then you want to review them, rate them, and ask colleagues to rate them too. To this day, I’ve still never found a convenient way to do this. I’m sure some startup has figured this out and I just don’t know about out. But until today, we still print out the CV’s, and write on them, and pass them around the office. So here’s the process, in broad strokes:

  1. Weed Out the ones that don’t meet the hard requirements: less than five years experience? In the trash! (Don’t actually trash them. Build your own CV database)
  2. Create a Rating Scale: With everything that’s left over, use the most basic metric you can find (‘number of years of PHP experience’) and rate each one on that scale. So now you can order them in the order of highest relevance.
  3. Make piles: Seven, six and five years experience. Anything below has already been thrown out.
  4. Determine the total amount. Is it below a hundred? Probably worth it to read them all. The “five-year” pile can have a gem in it (only five years experience but was the main contributor to the PHP engine for a year), and if you only looked at the seven year pile, you would’ve missed it.
  5. Compile your top ten, and rate those in more detail.
  6. Rinse and Repeat: Pass on the piles to your colleagues who will do the same thing.

Now it’s time to sit down together, and decide on favorites. Interviewing five people? Decide which seven you invite. Why seven? Because two will decline.
I’ve already talked about how to do interviewing.

To recruiter or not to recruiter?

So what I’ve tried to demonstrate is that hiring without a recruiter is perfectly possible, but it takes up a whole lot of your time. You see, if you use the recruiter, you never see more than ten CV’s. They will check references, do initial tech skill checking, and handle appointments. So they are expensive, but it turns out they do a lot of work for that money. Or at least, they save you a lot of work. Ostensibly, their methods are better than ours.
For me, the key question is, can they pick out the hidden gems? I imagine they can’t – they’ve never handed me one, but that’s circumstantial evidence of course. These days, we use a recruiter for almost all our hiring. So I may be missing out on the odd brilliant hire, but at least each hire doesn’t cost me 30-50 hours, as it did before.
This is the third in a four part series of articles about the recruitment process with developer positions. Feel free to follow up with the rest of the series: