Sunday, October 31, 2010

Do coding interviews work?

I hear a lot of talk that coding interviews are a waste of time and don’t really tell a potential employer anything. Well, I disagree and here’s why:

It’s like role playing, but different – Every interview I’ve had has asked some variant of “Close me on a job w/ XYZ company” Which asks me to go through who I “close” an offer. Isn’t a coding interview the same thing? I mean, if I can’t close than I can’t recruit right? If you can’t code up some simple problem on the fly…, well, yeah…exactly.

Thought process – It’s not about coming up with the master solution…although it helps. What people are trying to assess is your thought process. Did this person attack the problem in a thoughtful manner? Did they use the right algorithm? Data structure ok? Sloppy code is forgivable if you’re solving the problem the right way.

Bugs Kill – The old saying is that your average engineer produces zero lines of code a day b/c of the amount of bugs created. So, um if this is true why even build software? Well, if this is true then you have to try and find the engineers that don’t break the code. How? Coding interviews. Ask them how to improve performance, complexity, testing philosophy etc etc and try to reduce the odds of hiring the engineer who breaks your code.

Hiring engineers is hard, I mean really hard. Take a look at a few resumes. They are all covered in buzzwords and everyone claims to be an expert in Java, C++ and a few other things I’ m not even sure exist. In my opinion, the only way to truly figure out who knows their stuff and who doesn’t is to get them on the whiteboard and ask them to code up a solution.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Refer a friend?

Everyone knows that referrals are the best source for great hires. Makes sense right?

So why do so many companies drop the ball here? Because you want to treat your referrals REALLY well so the employee is happy w/ the experience and the potential new hire is encouraged to refer their friends too and that is hard to do. What makes this hard is that one bad experience does more damage than 10 good experiences. Hire 100 people, ten of them are bound to have had a glitch, or something go wrong….negating the good experiences of the other 90. So, how do you do a bang-up job with your referrals and have a great referral program?

First, the execution must be flawless by the staffing team. Staffing teams are made of people, people are not perfect and here lies the problem. Now, the occasional mistake is not a big deal but continually botch up good referrals and people stop referring their friends regardless of how much they love their job they don’t want to punish their buddies.

Second, most people refer friends in their first 6 months and then never refer anyone again. Why? Because they THINK they don’t know anyone….when they really probably do. A good recruiting team will work w/ employees to help generate good quality referrals…..and as you may have guessed is REALLY hard to do without overextending yourself and falling into pitfall #1.

Third, referrals are a reflection on the person who refers them (say that three times fast!). When someone you really respect sends you a referral who’s a total jerk and make the whole process miserable you start to rethink how much you really like that other person too. The old “If you’re friends w/ that jerk than you must be a jerk too” disease. I’m here to say, don’t worry about it, referrals come in all shapes and sizes. Hire the good ones, treat the bad ones really well so they will say nice things about you and the organization and everyone wins.

Finally, set your incentives properly. Remember the 90’s when people would give away cars? 10K? Well, crazy times meant crazy incentives. Figure out what works with your team and implement it aggressively. Cash? Prizes? Pats on the back? Doesn’t matter as long as the team responds and helps you find great people.

Hiring great people is about doing what it takes to build a great team, referrals absolutely have to be central to any plan you’re developing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How recruiting has changed...

People always say they want change; but the truth is most people are afraid of change and struggle to embrace it. Why? Who knows but try floating some new ideas around your office and see what happens.

I’ve been recruiting for over a decade and I can tell you without a doubt…if you don’t like change don’t get into recruiting. Here are just a few ways things have changed since the pre-internet days (and yes, I’m dating myself):

1) Rolodex, what the hell is that? Right, anyone have a hard copy rolodex anymore filled with cards? I doubt it. But that was THE tool back in the day and if you didn’t have a good one you were clueless. (I still have “most” of mine, in a stack of nasty cards on my desk, I call that Old School). Nowadays we use LinkedIn (you’re welcome Janice) or Plaxo or Facebook or something to track our leads……..paper rolodex on the desk? Not so much.

2) Cold calls – I love cold calls and frankly miss them but they just don’t work like they used to back in the day. Why? Most people don’t answer their desk phones or even have them anymore! I know a TON of great engineers who never answer the phone and only respond things via email. Ten years ago, you had to make your 100 calls a day (minimum)….now, you need to keep making contact via email, “In-Mails”, Chat or Facebook……cold calls are for dinosaurs.

3) Research – Ten years ago, research was the holy grail of recruiting. Hit the library for some data; cold call the after-hours night security guy for some names, read the paper for articles on a company etc. etc. Now? Um, “Google it”. Post a question on a “Linked In Group”, we’ve literally got hundreds of sources to do research, all of them at the tip of our finger, free and produce results in seconds. Amazing.

4) HR Generalists who recruit – This may be the biggest change of all. When I started, HR Generalists did 90% of the recruiting and outsourced the work to agencies…than in the late 90’s or so companies started hiring “recruiters” to do the staffing. HUGE HUGE HUGE change! Why? Because you now had companies building teams of people that could fill any job, in any industry without paying an external fee to find the person.

There is more change coming. Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc are all changing the face of recruiting again. Social networks, video resumes, tweets, blogs etc etc make recruiting a never ending game of innovation, creativity and competition to find the best people you can for your organization.