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We Don't Have a Talent Shortage. We Have a Sucker Shortage (resumeskills.us)
1289 points by sixtypoundhound 56 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 774 comments



I feel like a broken record, but I'm going to say it anyways.

There is NOT a shortage of software developers. That myth was developed by big tech, and pushed all the way up the ladder, to the top of government. The goal? Reduce labor costs.

Big tech has always been 1 step ahead of the employee, just like coal, and metal working was. They saw the huge need for developers and realized their costs would increase unless they actively pursued ways to prevent that from happening.

And that's how you get organizations like code.org. That's how you get President Obama on the big screen, telling everyone to learn to code. That's how you get a GREAT job, and make it BLUE COLLAR.


I’m so tired of feeling constantly at war with the industry to justify my own existence. The business people desperately need you but they hate you for what they have to pay. They’re always thinking what if?

What if we could outsource this to some magic 3rd world slave mine? What if we could hire some recent graduates or interns instead? What if we could get someone on an H1B and chain them to the desk?

It’s the natural result of being labor. Don’t like it? Be an owner.

The only alternative I can think of is for software to become a true profession with licensing and standards. This makes a lot of sense in a world fraught with security risks and ethics concerns about the usage of data.

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to hang up the keyboard. All the dynamism and potential has been ground out of this career path. What’s left is crushing demands and compensation that just doesn’t cut it anymore.


I've been at a Fortune 50 firm that thought they could do this. They went through two rounds of offshore firms, got burnt each time (large contractors delivered nothing, L1 workers cycled through every 4 months as they job hopped, etc., slick talkers did the sales and left the company holding a bag full of barely-legible-English workers actually trying to deliver the promised work)

After two cycles, they started treating their local employees well. This was a big firm with much momentum. A small firm could be ruined by this. Sometimes the firm just needs to see the grass isnt necessarily greener on the other side. I got paid well and my business counterparts always know that when I said 3mo, I meant 3mo.


Wow I thought I was the only one. I dont know how many years experience you have, but with 5 years experience my sentiments are the same. When I interview now it feels like "Dance monkey Dance", or dealing with a gatekeeper. Had plenty of interviews that were a waste of time, or I personally felt I was just invited to interview just for the Hiring Manager to deny and say they couldn't find the right "Talent"


I agree every interview I’ve had has just been a variation of a coder wars puzzle with no help and asking for help renders you an inferior programmer not worth their time.


Unions are the immediate solution. We need an industry wide union so it's hard to hire scabs and easy for us to refer each other after layoffs.

The longer term, better solution is to be owners. Worker owned tech companies only don't exist because they're not our currently accepted default. If people stop defaulting to the venture backed capital model we can turn this industry around.


Or you could fight for a strong socialist state and recognize that this whole article supports the labour theory of value. Especially when the other option aside becoming an oppressor is to build stronger walls around your slightly nicer gated community.


Trying to teach “everyone” to code is like teaching everyone to draw in high school art classes. It gives a lot of people exposure to what it means to code/draw, the fundamental steps of coding/drawing but doesn’t increase the supply of coders/artists in the world to the point where the skilled artists/programmers become commonplace.


What you say is true, but it's also true that the bar is lower than it was 20 years ago and it continues to move that direction, at least when we talk about simple "apps" as opposed to bleeding edge technologies now.

For example, "Chart.js" makes it really easy to create beautiful charts in a web app. Because of tools like that it's much easier to learn how to build a feature rich app now than 20 years ago.

Still, the guy who can create "Chart.js" (an artist) should be getting paid a lot more than a guy who can only use it (a craftsmen).


> Still, the guy who can create "Chart.js" (an artist) should be getting paid a lot more than a guy who can only use it (a craftsmen).

Why? One without the other is pretty pointless. I can accept the roles are different but not that either is particularly harder.


Because there is one of him vs thousands of the other


Some people can do both, but choose the second (using a library) because of all the reasons reusing existing libraries instead of rolling your own. From this point of view, I'd rather hire someone who doesn't suffer from the "not invented here" syndrome.


I did a coding boot camp and oh man half the class was IMO unemployable as far as a job coding goes.

It's one thing to code what you see in front of you, another to think about problems and solve them thoughtfully, research, debug, and etc. Troubleshooting(debugging) in particular is a hard thing to learn.


I think you are making the mistake that enterprises who employ thousands of developers are looking for quality over butts in seats.


Yup. And they're missing the point that this isn't 1985 anymore. A high school student with a week of JavaScript and HTML could write AirBnB. Or at least, JavaScript and similar languages make programming much, much easier (and hence the barrier to entry much easier).

As coding difficulty drops, and supply increases, the net effect will be a much higher demand for jobs than supply. And that's exactly where big tech wants it to be.

edit: here comes the javascript developer downvotes.


> A high school student with a week of JavaScript and HTML could write AirBnB

I actually love it when a developer says something like this, because it tells me way more than even 2 full days of pairing or interviewing could: They know absolutely nothing about software at scale, and are probably extremely arrogant to boot.


I actually love it when I get a response just like yours.

It informs me that you're probably a JQuery developer, personally offended because you believe that your work is incredibly advanced and challenging. In reality, what you do is probably some of the easiest "coding" to have ever come to fruition. Yet, you toss out the "at scale" comment ad nauseam because you think it'll make you sound important.

Just by the fact that you denounce anyone who recognizes the simplicity of it modern development tools shows me you probably fail to recognize the simplicity yourself. Or you don't want to admit the simple fact that programming has gotten much easier. That's been intent of so many modern languages, yet we're always going to have someone like you who claims we all don't know what we're talking about because we've never built anything "at scale".

Your 10,000 hits / day blog isn't "scale" buddy.


Yeah all those useless frontend engineers (sorry, "jQuery developers") at Facebook and Google, being paid $500k+ / year to work on their 10k hits / day blog.

Edit: Also, I'm not your buddy, pal.


I don't know - I still think that you can replace twitter in a weekend. You just need a couple of markov chain outrage bots shouting at each other, porn scraping bot and a bare metal web server that can process couple of million requests per second.

Jokes aside - the biggest error this software developer makes is not realizing that software is not the crtitcal part of AirBNB success. It is the thousand manyears of boots in streets promoting the app and getting people onboard.


Great software has never cause a company to succeed. Bad enough software will always cause a company to fail.


Wow, looks like "here cometh the downvotes" homeboy couldn't take the criticism and flagged every comment he disagreed with.


You can't downvote a direct sub-comment.


I see this hyperbole a lot, any kid within a week can copy an online tutorial on how to make a static site, but it takes a long time to begin to think in a way that let's you do interesting/useful things on your own.


I fall victim to it myself at times.

It's classic expert talk, "oh, that's easy." Perhaps to you :)


>Yup. And they're missing the point that this isn't 1985 anymore. A high school student with a week of JavaScript and HTML could write AirBnB.

Sorry is this a joke? Because I'm missing it.


I dont think this is a joke -- because sellers (workers) believe it and because buyers (employers) believe it...until they realize the project

- crashes under load,

- cannot scale to even 5% the traffic,

- doesnt have all the myriad required compliance and transnational side systems

- has underinvested in accounting and all support systems

- is un-maintainable, etc. etc.

And that is when serious businesses realize you get what you pay for and that you need to pay for real experience to real systems.


> A high school student with a week of JavaScript and HTML could write AirBnB.

Yeah, that could definitely happen. /s


All I can say is LOL.. good luck with that. Maybe if they were Little Man Tate. Knowing where to start, the permutations of frameworks & libraries & algorithmic knowledge & design patterns etc.. That's like the whole.. I know how to build a blog when all you did was click a button on digital ocean to deploy wordpress and now you think you know how to deploy it. Then client says they need it to be on GCE or AWS. Yes you can always use PAAS products, but experience plays a role.


These kids would be competing with incredibly prolific web developers who not only output an insane amount of code themselves but manage OSS at massive scales. One example is Jordan Harband, responsible for:

1. Enzyme, the current top used React testing library 2. NVM, kind of the only game in town for managing node versions 3. qs, a tool for converting search to json objects and back 4. tc39 proposals, the committee that determines new JS features

This is all in addition to his developer work at Airbnb. I would like to see a high schooler have that kind of maturity, drive, and focus.


I disagree with the direction gp is taking, big projects involving money and people are not easy. On the other hand your example might support his argument.

You've drawn attention to an Airbnb engineer with a bunch of other interests that don't seem directly related to the infrastructure behind the company. I'm sure they use these things, but they aren't going to be critical to the success or failure of the site. That suggests the technical challenges of Airbnb aren't enough to keep someone with a large amount of maturity, drive and focus busy and interested.


That's totally possible but if you're the CTO of Airbnb would you want the high schooler for cheap (who may be unreliable when it comes to managing schedules, following protocols, having the maturity to deal with failing systems) or do you want the guy who's been managing all of these OS products for years? It's a person issue, not really a competency issue.


nit: `n` is way better than `nvm`


+1 to n for the homebrew installation. nvm team is notoriously hardheaded about not wanting to maintain availability through different tools.


You're exaggerating, but it's basically true that on the technical side everything from AirBnB to Zillow are just CRUD apps, with varying degrees of nice UI stuff on the front-end. Once you've built one, you could kind of build any of them. (Not sure a high-schooler with a week of JS would be up to it though, LOL.)

Anyway it's important to note that coming up with the business idea and then executing it well is kinda where the money comes from, not from the app itself per se. A business may have a website; it might even use a web app to deliver its core business value; but having a website or web app doesn't necessarily mean you have a business.


You honestly sounds like a broken record, looking at the cynicism from your comment history. If someone coming from just trainings on "code.org" is threatening your job safety, or god forbid making you "blue collar" like "those people", perhaps you should rethink whether your skill sets are adequate.

Stop blaming other people.


I don't think it's that cynical. It's a known fact that Google and Apple created an agreement not to poach each other's talent to keep salaries low.


Maybe it would be a good time to unionize more to have bigger hammer to fight with..


Remember that time that the FAANGs admitted they stole a few hundred billion dollars from employees by forming a cartel?

Start blaming other people, because they are out to get you.


It's an inherently high-paying field with room for both huge advancement and a lot of specificity/niches, not to mention that by its nature software engineering creates more software engineering jobs.

God forbid we open that up to people who should be resigned to whatever you think "blue collar" means?


When you increase supply, wages decrease. Wages will decline if you open the field up to everyone. Understandably, not everyone in tech wants wages to decline. If you want your wage to decline in the name of opportunity, that is your choice to make, but it is not your choice to have someone else's wages decline. What you're saying is, "God forbid you care about your quality of life so much you're not willing to keep running harder, faster on a treadmill until you lose your job and are no longer able to find another one due to so many candidates applying per job". No thanks.

There's nothing wrong with trades and blue collar work. There's a reason you can't outsource plumbers, electricians, and other technicians who must be on site to practice their craft. But there's also a reason that work is so expensive: the skills required take time to acquire, and there's a limited pool of talent with those skills.

Disclaimer: My personal stance is I want the labor market as tight as possible, for as long as possible, to push wages up for as many people as possible, while using government policy to put backstops in place that are progressively ratcheted forward.


>If you want your wage to decline in the name of opportunity, that is your choice to make, but it is not your choice to have someone else's wages decline.

Why is it your choice to make? Shouldn't it be the new people trying to get into the computer science industry who get to make that choice?

It feels like what you're saying is "God forbid someone else tries to join your industry and tries to make a better life for themselves, and god forbid others for trying to help them."


> Why is it your choice to make?

It's not my choice. It's the technology industry's collective choice to decide how welcoming the technology industry is to newcomers. I hope you have a more compelling argument than, "It's not fair." Life ain't fair; people have mortgage payments to make, kids to feed, and aren't likely to be willing to support emotional appeals that are going to decrease their quality of life, without any benefit to them.


Your argument is "I got mine fuck everyone else" which I think is about as uncompelling as an argument gets.

My argument is that getting more people into tech increases opportunities and raises the standards of living for everyone. When entire industries are disappearing due to automation I think it is rather ridiculous to try to restrict people from becoming programmers.

You are right, it is not your choice, and thankfully society is making a very different choice.


We restrict immigrants to the US so we don’t flood the country with low skilled labor. Most first world countries do this. We’re reducing H1Bs, as they were used to depress wages. This is no different, and it saddens me that you think this is “I got mine fuck you”. Is that what you think of the GM workers losing their jobs in Ohio? I desire high wages for as many workers as possible.


Good point.


> it is not your choice to have someone else's wages decline

By your own logic, every time I help someone learn something to do with coding - for free - I undermine the wages of everybody else in the market whose job that person is going to be able to "steal" now.

And yet it is my choice to do so.


It is your choice, and I fully support you having that choice. I speak of doing so at scale. You alone aren’t going to cause industry wide wage depression.


1000X yes. It’s the result of a PR campaign to increase the H1B Visa allotment. Love H1B employees, they are just delicious! Low wages and zero bargaining power otherwise it’s out of the country with you.

It’s also funny because this creates a problem where wages have been driven down to a point where skilled workers can barely afford to support a family in tech zones. So because of these depressed wages in software engineering, there are fewer skilled workers living in these regions. Make no mistake this is software engineering specific. Otherwise show me roles in tech where there are lots of H1B visa employees.


I keep hearing this 'H1B low wages'. Here's my startup idea.

You create a website with a list of job skills that 'slave wage companies (SWC)' are claiming to need to fill.

You collect resumes from unemployed U.S.candidates with these skills and send them to the SWCs. If the candidate gets hired you keep a recruiters fee.

If the candidate is rejected your startup lawyers sue the pants of the SWC for violating U.S H1B law. You pass on the settlement money to the rejected U.S. candidate keeping a percentage for your lawyer and your retirement fund.

US H1B law is clearly explained online [0], there are searchable databases [1] and most recruiting/HR people will gladly spill the loophole secrets that they have (posting jobs in obscure local newspapers, tailoring job description to an existing known foreign candidate etc).

[0] https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-worker... [1] https://h1bdata.info/index.php

You will be protecting American jobs and making money in the process.


> If the candidate is rejected your startup lawyers sue the pants of the SWC for violating U.S H1B law.

Is this an easily winnable lawsuit? Can't the company just show that the candidate failed their interview process suggesting they lacked the actual job skills required?


Wonder what would happen if we:

- Set high minimum wage for H1B ($150,000+ annual salary, set to increase in response to inflation in technology salaries)

- Incorporated an automatic green card "path to citizen" into the process, which will be portable between employers (with a decent provision for unemployment or family leaves).

Seems like:

- Dramatic improvement in living conditions for higher end H1B roles (less beholden to employer, more career mobility)

- Immediately eliminates abusive lower-tier H1B roles (you could grandfather existing arrangements for the duration)

- Opens up entry level tech roles to native-born trainees

- Opens up unencumbered path to citizenship for top talent

I'm sure there's a way for politicians to screw this up... but seems like this might be a good first step towards ending the current abuses within this system...


It wouldn't be implemented. There's also demand for cheap labour.

Talent shortage, also known as cheap labour shortage.

Did you know that in Australia, overseas people are hired to deliver mail?

https://www.smh.com.au/national/post-turning-blind-eye-to-45...


Capitalist: I firmly believe in demand and supply economics. That is why I raise my prices all the time!

Also capitalists: I refuse to raise my wages in response to a low supply labour market for my labour demands. I will instead lobby the government to let me hire wage slaves that I can abuse from overseas labour markets where living costs are much lower.


This "H1B causes low wages" meme need to stop. It is such lazy thinking it is amazing. On this very thread people are commenting about outrageous salaries in the valley and peanuts pay in Europe and Canada. Guess which place is full of H1Bs.


H1B is a response to the high salaries and is a mitigation strategy, cause goes a bit too too far.


There is so much to disagree with here, but #1 is the disparaging attitude towards manual labor.


I can’t agree with this enough.

The field of software is growing. It will change. That change may be for the better or worse.

But I feel it’s unethical for those of us privileged to be in this field to act as gatekeepers and prevent others from having the same opportunities I (and I suspect many others had) when I entered it.

If you want to keep making the big bucks, continue to provide meaningful value and skills that justify it.


Which is ironic, given what the plumber quoted us this week.


>There is NOT a shortage of software developers.

What would have to be true for you to agree that there is a shortage of software developers? Big tech cos have total comp of ~$600k/engineer. Would you think there is a shortage if they had to pay $6m/engineer? $60m? How do you define "shortage"?


Those aren’t market wages. Those are compensation packages awarded to long tenured employees at cash cow companies as a form of golden handcuff to keep experts on specific in-house systems. They are paid out to keep employees from taking company secrets to competitors. They work because these compensation packages are so far off market that these employees would suffer a huge pay drop if they moved. So in no way do these rates reflect the market. However it is great food for this skill shortage narrative BS.


I'd argue that this is closer to a market rate than it seems because, as you mention, on the open market they can go somewhere else and paying them this much is needed for them to not do that.

How are you defining market rate if not by how much someone thinks they need to pay an employee to stay?


Even after paying $600,000 per employee, Facebook still makes $600,000 profit per employee.

So it is currently at a 50/50 split of the value created between the employee and the company.

I would expect, in a skills shortage, that the employee would be able to demand a much greater share, something closer to -- or even temporarily above -- 100%.

The absolute number, $60,000 or $600,000 or $6,000,000 doesn't seem relevant.


> I would expect, in a skills shortage, that the employee would be able to demand a much greater share, something closer to -- or even temporarily above -- 100%.

It would be really interesting to compare salary/profit ratio of the tech industry to recognized labor shortages in other industries.


I think much of what people are trying to say here is that there is no such thing as a labor shortage in any industry (assuming no artificial wage controls). Also, in the USA you often hear about insufficient supply of workers in certain work categories: software engineer, nurse, teacher. Are those the very highest paid work categories? If not, why aren't the highest paid categories said to be suffering from insufficient supply?

You are of course right that the ratio of profit per employee and salary is irrelevant.


> That myth was developed by big tech, and pushed all the way up the ladder, to the top of government. The goal? Reduce labor costs.

Normally supply shortage --> higher costs.

Let's be absolutely clear the goal was simply to bring in foreign workers to reduce salary costs.


Do you have anything to back this up? The OP article is a lot of complaining but almost no data except what seems like to be one lousy anecdote. I actually had been a hiring manager desperately needing people to fill open positions I had. I'm not saying I got zero resumes. The problem was that most resumes were sort of "I learned JavaScript and HTML 3 month ago" or "I'm a founder of my own company with 3 funky iOS apps". Nothing wrong with that but the folks I needed for my jobs had to have some experience with distributed computing, solid CS background with high performance algorithms design skills (yes, we actually used those complicated graph algorithms you only find in CS textbooks). These stuff you can't learn by going in to code school for a month. These skills requires years to master and possibly CS education. I would probably come across may be 1 candidate with anywhere close to this kind of background per month total. It would take me 3-6 months to fill one position - if I'm lucky. Often such candidates will have multiple offers and the probability that they would actually come onboard is less than 50%. Think about that for a bit and you should feel the frustration you might have if you actually were hiring manager for such positions.


Sounds like you are looking at junior resumes for some reason, when what you need are experienced folks. You know, older people. If they need a refresher on an algorithm or two, well then you hand them a book or teach them. Like in the old days.

Industry today wants a solution on a silver platter but the universe doesn’t work that way.


150% - devs are slowly waking up to this fact. Behind the efforts to teach everybody to code are more sinister motives: lowering the salaries for engineers.


However,the reality is that most people simply can't do it. Take an average office and try to teach everyone how to code. after a month, 99% will know how to output text to console, 10% would probably be able to write a loop or two and maybe 1 or 2 guys will realise that development is their real calling. Those 2 guys will spend the next 5-7 years just to get to the point where people would start taking them serious and some senior engineer may even listen to what they have to say about system design. Writing a simple web based calculator is easy, however doing a proper enterprise level solution isn't something any bootcamp student gets anywhere near without 10 years of experience..


Companies are long-term thinking. Who gives a shit if it takes 10 years, they can wait.


Also, don't forget that development is pretty difficult job on its own,so as soon as it becomes a commodity,people will stop training and applying for these jobs,as there are plenty other jobs that are easier to do and pay the same.


A lot of the major tech companies are just barely ten years old themselves.


Depends on the dev; most higher level coding roles require proficiency in many domains and a certain level of polish. Frequently to cover the tail of the person hiring them.

I've been paid quite a bit for coding... but the premium was due to the projects requiring: a) statistical expertise, b) finance & pricing knowledge, c) transaction system design, d) discretion to deal with HR / restructuring information, e) quality assurance required for contentious BOD projects, and f) willingness to accept a fair amount of uncertainty, screwed up schedules, and outright abuse from senior level leaders without snapping back or ripping their heads off.

Good luck finding that at boot camp!


and yet the exact opposite is happening to software engineer salaries, their growth is outpacing tons of other fields.


That mitigation strategies are not entirely effective immediately does not fundamentally change their nature.


This is just market at work. If it becomes cheaper to invest into teaching and grooming more engineers than it is to pay exorbitant salaries to the existing limited supply, then companies will do so.


I don’t think it works this way. Sure, you can hire cattle for almost nothing, but don’t expect them to produce much more than shit.


I'll say the same thing about security people. There's an executive who's been whining on LinkedIn about the major skills shortage in this area. Here's an ad his company put up. I've had it confirmed every individual line is non-negotiable.

https://imgur.com/a/UX5wPDB


Good you wouldn't want to work for someone with that level of missing neurons anyway.


all he has to do is go to defcon, and not care about certs. You'll find great security folks.


On the contrary. He could go to Defcon and find it just validates his views. After all, it's a huge security gathering and noone meets his requirements.


>There is NOT a shortage of software developers. That myth was developed by big tech, and pushed all the way up the ladder, to the top of government. The goal? Reduce labor costs.

What is the line of reasoning than goes from 'there is a shortage of developers' to 'therefore, we need to pay less.'?


They don’t want to pay market rates, so promote a story to slow or reverse wage inflation.

But “don’t wanna pay” (when companies and 1%ers are hoarding like never before) doesn’t equal a shortage.


If there is a shortage, by supply and demand, wages should go up.

If they want to pay less, they should be out saying that there is an over supply and they can get workers for whatever wage they actually want.

You haven't explained how a shortage can lead to paying less on the part of companies... I still don't understand this logic.


> You haven't explained how a shortage can lead to paying less on the part of companies.

There is no shortage. They promote the story of the shortage to pressure government to let in more indentured foreigners, with the slower goal of encouraging more locals to pursue those careers.

You'll notice that "paying more" (the classical/rational economic solution) doesn't seem to be an option.


But nurse practitioners... God forbid they prescribe you antibiotics.


Uhhh, they can prescribe antibiotics just like prescribing any other non-controlled drug.


I know, the fight was prolonged to even get to that point. These days you still only have nurse practitioners in hospitals, at least where I live.


Oh I get you. Credentialism is another level in health care.


The best coders are always going to be paid like the best lawyers and doctors, even if there are a billion JavaScript developers out there.


Made my first ever HN throwaway account to respond to this.

I have been running a successful business, but it's not "tech". I want to get back into the software industry. I didn't have a software business idea, so I explored some tech company jobs.

I am well-qualified at the VP/Director level for startups and even larger companies.

I did go so far as to do an on-site interview for one company. I have verifiable proof that I can generate huge returns in their exact industry.

They didn't want to give away any equity, even though hiring someone at this high of a level would generate huge returns for their business.

They had a completely undefined budget not only for this role, but for the 4-6 people who would be underneath this role starting out.

They weren't even sure they wanted to hire someone full-time, but they knew this position was a clear gap in skillsets of their current executive team.

And the kicker to all of this was that they were already doing 8 figures a year in revenue. This wasn't a broke startup.

I rapidly came to the same conclusion as the post's author. There are so many companies that want to hire a "VP of X", but they really don't understand what that means or how to pay someone who doesn't just want a 6-figure a year salary for the rest of their lives.

I'm now starting a software company.


You have to admit there are loads of unscrupulous people out there who will take the compensation you're referring to, deliver nothing and leave. I've seen it myself at one start up I was at. The founders recieved a generous investment (on the order of $40m) to grow the business. They hired sr vp of sales and a sr vp of marketing who did exactly zero to move the business forward after 12 months. Both left having accomplished nothing, but were very well compensated (going from rumors and a few off the cuff comments from one of the founders son, I never saw concrete numbers). Granted their lack of production was probably just as well attributed to the owning cabals lack of agreeing on any damn thing rather than malice, but my point stands.

So ok, you have proven track record, how are you proving that again? I mean just coming in off he street and promising rainbows and money to fall out of the sky is easy.


I was working at a company that went public. They hired a CTO that produced negative value. He decided we need to rewrite the software in .Net and left...


There is a difference between promising a unicorn and having a proven track record. That you are too lazy to verify the background your potential hire is providing you is 100% your problem. Bite me.


How would that background verification work exactly? Your groomed references are providing objective evaluations? Bite you indeed.


This seems to be a common theme on HN where folk who purport to be senior level profess their ignorance as to how one goes about performing one of the very basic tasks their role would require of them.

If you don't know how to do background verification on people then you have far bigger problems than your fears of being gamed.


Back channels would be one way, but then how to verify the back channel? Sibling "I know and your dumb" response not very illuminating here.


My ongoing experience is that this question is never asked in good faith so please don't misunderstand me.

What I am saying is: I think you know and you have an agenda.

If you truly don't know then this is really something you should know if you are doing the job you are saying you are doing.

To use an analogy: I would not waste my time explaining how type systems work to someone who is arguing rabidly against them in an online forum.

If they care then it's something that is so important they should actually go out and educate themselves before getting into conversations about it.


Specially at VP level...


>>I'm now starting a software company.

So are you going to

a) hire the best developer you know and pay them whatever they ask, or

b) hire the best developer who falls within your budget (which, I presume, cannot be very high when you are starting)

If you answered b), then I guess you already know the problem. No matter how qualified you personally think you are (and you are, I am not doubting that) - the only thing that matters is whether you fit into the plans of your employer, which includes whatever nebulous salary range they have in mind.

I suppose you will say that you are already running a successful business. But IMO that doesn't actually amount to much when you are creating a software business. Why? Because you are now competing with the FAANGs of the market. And there is already a lot of talk that FAANGs are actively hiring to take the best labor off the talent pool even if they don't need the services of those hires. So suddenly you have just lost almost all opportunity you had to create arbitrage - that wonderful and probably mythical situation where you buy labor low and sell the output high and take home a handsome profit.

So you recalibrate your expectations and go one rung lower. And you do grow your company quite successfully, because, lets be honest, if you can "do things which do not scale" at first to grow companies, it pretty much follows that you can make plenty of money despite hiring ordinary talent in the beginning stages if you have a good business background - which you do. And at some point, because you grew so fast, you will face a similar shortage for some kind of skillset, only to find that you suddenly cannot really afford to pay what the very well qualified person wants because that isn't even a part of your culture anymore.

And ironically, said person then goes and writes a post about how your company completely lowballed them :-)


Huh? No, I'm writing the software myself.


If no equity was available, but profit sharing was? i.e if you brought in X million you get a % of that. Would you have taken the position?

I'm starting a company, but want to retain 100% ownership. I don't want to give equity as I don't want to lose control. Been there, done that. I'd much rather go down the road of profit sharing based on the results.


Revenue, maybe. Profit? I don't have any control over how you define profit, and you have an enormous amount of control over how you manage your revenue. Additionally, even a unicorn is going to stay in the red for years. Unless you have some financing structure that is radically different from typical startups and don't plan to reinvest in the business, profit sharing makes no sense.


Not to mention revenue sharing should count as an additional cost in the profit calculation. So they should be doing that regardless.


Personally, no, for a variety of reasons. A founder who is a control freak is a massive red flag on it's own. Profit sharing is also easy to game either for or against someone as the movie industry proves constantly. So I don't personally feel like playing under-handed games constantly (and if I don't, other will so we're back to square one) to maximize how much revenue is attributed to me. If I wanted to play politics I'd have joined a larger company and gotten paid a lot more than any startup.

edit: Also, incentives people to think short term and pump us revenue at all costs (then find another job when it comes crashing down) which is not a great environment to work in.


Equity and control are two different things. Board seats, voting rights, stock classes etc are all tools at your disposal to create the corporate structure. Furthermore, with control you can allocate yourself options as part of your compensation, which undo some of the dilution.

You certainly don't want to retain 100% ownership. You need partners who treat this business as their own and share your burden. I think cofounders are vastly overrated, while hiring key personnel and granting them significant options is not emphasised enough.


I might have been interested, depending on the startup.

One way to solve for both preferences, in tech, is to create an option pool. I broached this with an executive. He said they were looking into it, but it wouldn't be available until next year at the earliest. My interest in working full-time for them declined to 0 at that point.


Sounds like one of jobs I had. They treated options/warrant as something really really special, like awards/gift.

I couldn’t make them realize it was part of my compensation expectations and for that I wanted to know company valuation and dilution, even if a ballpark.


Explain to me again why I want to make you rich at my own expense? Really?


The problem with this is defining what profits are when you're reinvesting them or take VC and burning. At the end of the day you can't control how the CEO intends to spend the profits.


There’s a huge difference between losing control and giving equity. Namely, 50% (and that’s assuming equal voting eight per share). Why do you not want to give equity at all then?


Personally I'd see that as much more attractive for any not already pretty much 'made it' startup. It's a nearer term reward, and a more direct incentive (not just because it's nearer, but because `profit => reward` vs. `profit => ceteris paribus 'worth more' => might IPO/sell => reward`).


How many new companies are profitable, and if they are, why would you want to work for a new company that isn't plowing all of its profits back into research, product development, and growth?


Because I get a share of their profits? If they plow all of its profits back into R&D, assuming I got no equity, what do i get as a reward? A potential chance to say i worked for a company that IPO’d? More coworkers?

Profit sharing means money in the pocket for me. Actual hard, green cash.


That's exactly my point. Ideally, you should take a competitive salary. If you have to take some kind of alternative compensation because you believe in the mission or whatever, most startups aren't profitable even at IPO/aquihire stage, and in the case of Amazon, could have been profitable years earlier but reinvested everything and then some. I just can't see a scenario where it makes sense to take profit sharing at a new, growing, unproven company.


Doesn't all of that apply to equity too?

I'm only saying that profit sharing sounds better than equity, of an unknown unproven startup; not that it'sa guaranteed key to making you rich.


Profit sharing no, revenue sharing yes.


I'm starting to suspect that the best way to interject utter panic into a mid-level corporate interview is to mention an independent business venture.

While this may earn respect at the very top of the company from another founder or former founder, there more typically a lovely process of watching an insecure middle manager do the math about what you did and freak out....


…and this is the rational response to a sucker offer. Go into business for yourself because competition like that is going to be an absolute pushover!


I want to hear more of these experiences, and to learn how to manage my career this way. I care about my client's satisfaction and get tired of corporate mentality. I hope someday you can share your experiences without fear of anonymity.


As a former "VP of X" at a startup, titles don't mean shit at startups. If a startup can hire a janitor for less if they call him a "VP of Janitorial Services", they will offer that title to a janitor. I'm exaggerating, of course, but not by very much.

The corrolary of this is: not everyone knows this, so _after_ you're done negotiating salary, equity and benefits, it might be a good idea to inquire about a grandiose title to go with all of that. "Head of Javascript" if you're junior, or "VP of Backend" if you're senior, stuff like that. :-)


And as result of title inflation, a lot of titles are losing meaning even in big companies.

I know people becoming principal eng at FAANG who are just playing their cards right.


Becoming principal engineers is usually just playing the cards right in general. Very rarely does anyone get this far on technical merit alone. I know several people at Google who easily deserve the title based on quality and volume of their contributions, and several "principal" engineers who do not. Life isn't fair, what can I say. In addition to being good, you have to be at the right time at the right place, please the right set of people, and "play your cards" in other ways. In fact, if you do the "soft" things right, "being good" at technical stuff matters very little, beyond a certain basic threshold.


Very true, I see that the higher one goes with the increasing requirement of greater influence radius turns into politics.

However what I have noticed recently is that title inflation has arrived to big companies too; mostly to increase retention. So, when I mention played their cards right, I wasn’t referring on how they leverage the soft skills, etc. It was more on individual ability to do salary negotiation each perf review, bluffing/threatening to leave, etc.

At the end of the day I guess it is good for them and everyone who is in those markets. But again, my main point was around title inflation is not exclusive to startups, although director level and above seems still to be hard to get in FAANG (at least in the companies I worked for those require board approval) while in startups they are given more freely.


Threatening to leave is not the best strategy at Google BTW. You never know (by design) if a counter-offer will be extended, and you're very likely to be taken up on your bluff. :-)


Playing your cards right is a prerequisite for becoming principal.


I mean, it is not even wise politics. It is just hold on to their seats and let management know they know HR knows the attrition rate...


> 8 figures a year in revenue. This wasn't a broke startup

These statements don't exactly follow. Revenue is not a profit. It's possible they are broke with a great revenue.


I really want to understand your situation here.

When u say equity - do u mean they wouldnt offer u a standard options package ? Or was it too low ?

Or do u expect to get couple of % of a $10M ARR company?

I am curious because HR is hard and broken for everyone. But expectations are also very high.


But HR isn't the only problem. In my experience having worked for a company that hired heavily for several years, it was the engineers who lacked the talent necessary to conduct proper interviews. Great candidates were being rejected by the truck load. Us engineers, we're great at engineering but many of the junior and mid-level ones don't have much experience interviewing people and usually no training whatsoever. So interviewers tend to ask different questions with every candidate (whatever they feel like it that day), then make some decision based on a random feeling they get. There's not much objectivity. There's not much thought that goes into the questions. Most engineers think intervewing is a game of "how to stump the candidate".

As an inteviewer, you're job is not to stump the candidate. Your job is to figure out how well they can do the job. The questions you come up with should reflect the actual job, and the actual tasks that will be assigned (that's where you should draw your questions/inspiration from), rather than some random data structures question you remember from college or some random questions you found on a google search.


I worked at a non-tech company in the southeast before my current job at a FANG company, and the lead data scientist at this company wrote up the most ridiculous interview questions I've ever seen. WAYY harder than FANG questions, and this company honestly needed business analysts far more than it needed ML researchers. The salary was like $100k for a junior data scientist position. Some of the questions were things like describing forward mode vs reverse mode differentiation, describing Hamiltonian Monte Carlo, and explaining Judea Pearl's concept of causality. Considering there were like 30 data scientists in the whole city, I'm not sure what the point was other than to make potential candidates feel stupid.


I would have told the interviewer to go become a professor and teach his highfalutin causality mumbo jumbo at some university and stop wasting everyone's time.


We switched from a random set of questions to a take home coding assignment (that we compensate for) and a discussion of said coding assignment.

It's pretty clear what kind of work someone will do when you can look at work they've done.


One of my best interviewing experiences (as a candidate) was very much the same.


What would you do if a candidate turned down your home coding assignment, but gave you one of the coding assignments he completed for a different job interview?


(I'm not OP) My concern would be that the candidate might have memorized the explanation for his code, and would be able to discuss it despite not having written it.

I agree with the DRY intuition though: making coders repeat code challenges/assignments is stupid. Some sort of verification or credentialing after completion of assignment, signed by a 3rd party, would be really cool.


Hmm. We had one candidate who had an exceptional resume and walked us through an open source project that he wrote. It was an adequate substitute. We wouldn't compensate for a project like you mentioned but the real goal of the exercise is to gain an understanding of how you approach a problem and use your tools.


Just took a look at Culture Foundry, seems great, will apply! :)


Excellent, looking forward to hearing from you!


The question is when do you give the assignment? I'm starting to hear of a lot of candidates that get it before they even hit a phone screen.


We give it after the initial screen and after we mutually decide that fte is a good path (as opposed to contract to hire). We don't pay until after the code review.


Great! Have you encountered any abuse of the compensation aspect?

I typically want to see how people use resources and deliver with real IDEs and collaborative tools like git


I'm not sure what kind of abuse of the compensation you are thinking of?

I agree that the most valuable thing is not seeing how the solution was implemented (we want to keep the total hours expended to less than 20 for the senior engineer challenge and less than 5 for the junior challenge) but seeing how someone navigates their environment and how they talk through how they arrived at the solution. It's especially interesting to ask about alternatives, areas for extension and tradeoffs.


Like too many unqualified candidates trying for it?

Candidates arguing about the amount?

Comp for a take home interview assignment isnt common yet so the social more doesnt exist.


Maybe you’re on to something. Maybe there should be a “recruiting engineer” role who focuses on doing nothing but hiring, and also keeps track of their candidates performance after they’ve started and adjusts their approach accordingly. There could be an element of career coaching/mentoring as a full time part of the job.


Interviews in their traditional form hardly need to exist at this point. There's no good reason that members of a team can't pair in person or remotely with a candidate on a realistic coding task(even completing an actual ticket) to assess their aptitude and ability to work with others. Instead, engineers are still subject to "where do you see yourself in 5 years" bullshit, yet it the reason companies are struggling to find talent continues to go right over their heads.


One time after I was hired I learned that one of the engineers didn't want to hire me because I didn't wear a tie to the interview. This was a few years ago.


I ask candidates to tell me about something they created they are proud of, and why.

All you have to do after that is listen.


> I ask candidates to tell me about something they created they are proud of, and why.

Never be proud of anything that you created - since it probably is not of "top of the world quality". Even in the rare case that it is - it is very likely that even "top of the world" can still be improved.


No offense, but that's pretty sad. I hope you find more rewarding work before you retire. We're only on this Earth once.


I love my current work (in research). But it is nothing that I would ever claim to be proud of. Doing work on top of the world level is not something to be proud of, but a minimum qualification to be even suitable for research.


Believe you’ve just learned how culture specific this question is.


I've always assumed that the so-called "talent shortage" was an excuse to get cheap labor from abroad. They make job ads such that it's improbable that a local will meet the highly specific requirements, after which they complain of a skills shortage, and then they have their excuse to import cheap labor.


That's most of it.

The rest of it is suggesting to the population at large there's such a high demand for these positions they should enter the market and pursue that career. The idea is to flood the market with labor to drive labor costs down by pretending there aren't people qualified to do the work.


I actually recently spoke to somebody who said his job was to exactly this. He said they'd find a remote candidate, with random skills X, Y, Z, and his company would then craft a very specific job opening that could only ever match this particular employee.

After enough people couldn't be found locally they'd have a legal justification for a work visa.


That’s clearly not illegal but should be.


Did you ever imagine if both ends of the spectrum are true? Maybe there is a talent shortage and maybe there are companies trying to get cheap labor from abroad. We are a reasonable sized company trying to recruit people with advanced skills. Finding talent that includes large number of H1B's is hard on its own. Forget finding talent that excludes 95% of the world (aka H1B's). Most of the candidates I get to interview are usually immigrants. Why? I don't know. We have zero motivation to hire immigrants specifically. We pay way higher than an average company and are more interested in talented candidates than saving money. It's just that immigrants are the ones with the skills that we need.

Also, the notion that H1b's are cheap is not always true. With the added costs of filing H1b visa and green card, the true costs are much higher, especially in a cutting edge industry.


Yes, reality is typically more complex than we’d like.

My question is why not spend that money developing smart local folks.


This isn't specific to justifying a visa. This same method is sometimes used when the obvious choice non-cheap-labor hire has already been picked by the hiring manager, but they're required (for any of a variety of reasons outside the manager's control) to post the job.

When it's not used for visa indentured servant games, it's arguably a relatively decent way to to do things (don't put applicants through a charade of being considered, and you're already certain who you want to hire), but better would be to not post the job at all in that situation.


Nailed it :)


This is very relevant in software these days

> Super Narrow Selection Criteria

e.g. "We need nodejs, mongo, grpc, golang, etc - decades of experience in software is not what we need. We need exactly those things - and we are going to give you an online code challenge to solve an irrelevant puzzle while a 27 year old sits there watching you." And then when you get the job its nothing more than spending hours upon hours updating a web front end, tweaking a database, and watching logs.

> Outright Age & Lifestyle Discrimination

I'm only 36 and I feel old sometimes. I apply for jobs where I have to talk to a panel. It looks like everyone on the panel is less than 30. You can feel the lack of experience exuding from their pores. Everything this panel says sounds like some misconceptions I had sever years ago when I was their age and only had experience working on small projects. Where are the older more experienced workers? I mean are people over 30 not applying for jobs?

> What Are Your Salary Requirements?

Someone tried to hire me for 85K after decades of experience for a very early stage startup. They were offering equity but equity doesn't mean anything if the company folds in 2 years. I need more than that.

> Stop wasting people's time and make experienced candidates a real offer.

When I was a new developer many moons ago, I worked with many old guys and gals who would always let me know how green I was (no matter how much I studied and tried to impress them). Now, if I was to look for a job, I would be working with very young guys and gals who think experience == 2 weeks of reading a book on Facebook's React framework. Hey times have changed.


>I mean are people over 30 not applying for jobs?

They apply to different jobs. Larger companies and so on. Some move into management or consulting. Startups in general make little economical sense and the downsides are rather high if you have a family.


I'll never understand why these companies are letting inexperienced employees take any part in interviewing people with significantly more experience.

If I owned a company I would never let some inexperienced fresh grad interview a senior engineer. They are letting some kid take part in one of the most important parts of their business.

It's yet another area of software development hiring where all logic and reason have gone out the window.


I find perceptive junior employees extremely useful in judging candidates. The way people act with someone they perceive as inferior is very telling about their personality and how they'll work with others. People are in my experience a lot more likely to drop their guard and show their true selves when they think no one important is watching. Soft skills matter and someone senior is both capable of providing great value and doing great harm to a team.


That belief can be true, but its not enough to make me want to have a guy 2 years in interviewing candidates. I wouldn't want experienced developers walking away.


In general, I prefer to lose potential candidates than hire someone bad since bad hires tend to become expensive. Moreover, if an experienced engineer walks because they got interviewed by someone junior then I view that as a bullet dodged. Assuming the junior engineer has been coached in the questions to ask and so on. It should be an easy win interview that will teach you a lot about the company since junior engineers tend to be worse at knowing what not to talk about.


I find it hard to believe that anyone with any real experience would advocate having a Jr. interview for experience candidates. Are you sure you are not self-righteous Jr. yourself.

No disrespect, but what you are saying borders on unreasonable. You would trust a Jr. developer to interview a more senior developer? That is laughable. Think about that in the context of a law firm, or a federal agency, or the military, or basically any other context.


I started interviewing candidates (including senior level) about 3 years after starting there. Despite being one of the youngest people on the team, the management knew that I had a good grasp on what the people we are interviewing should know to be successful at the company. I'm never the only person interviewing them, but I do have a strong say about whether someone moves to the next round.


I also did my first interviews around 3 years into my career (almost 2 decades long so far).

It was too early - I didn't have the technical expertise yet to judge someone else, but much more than that, I didn't have the soft skills or indeed any idea how the hell to interview another dev. I shouldn't have been doing it, but at the time I was the only dev at the company. I look back now and cringe at my naivety.


Its all context dependent of course. If you are at a place for three years doesn't mean you can't interview. Three years at an organization is a long time. I've seen people interview after 6 months at an organization. Depends on the organization. Having a person start interviewing people after three years development experience total is probably not a good idea - depending on what you are interviewing for.


> Someone tried to hire me for 85K after decades of experience for a very early stage startup. They were offering equity but equity doesn't mean anything if the company folds in 2 years. I need more than that.

Wow. That's how much someone ought to make after a few years. You ought to have straight up told them why their company is going to be dysfunctional in a few short years.


I broadly agree with the basic point this guy is making, we have an issue where the HR gatekeepers (who don't have the knowledge to make accurate technical assessments) are effectively searching for a perfect match, rather than someone who could do the job well.

Don't put box tickers in charge of a critical function unless you want every thing they touch to be turned into an exercise in box ticking.


> HR gatekeepers (who don't have the knowledge to make accurate technical assessments) are effectively searching for a perfect match, rather than someone who could do the job well.

IMO, that's just a symptom. The real problem is that the hiring managers/engineers find the job of "recruitment" beneath them.

All of us know the recruiter might not really understand the difference between "java", "scripting" and "javascript". But then, why should that role exist? That role exists because the engineers/managers/leads/architects (generally, the tech folks) just don't want to do the grunt work (search and source candidates, co-ordinate and schedule interviews etc). The actual folks in need of teammates/additional people want a piece of the action alright, nobody wants to miss being an interviewer where one gets to go on a power trip asking the poor candidate to balance B+ trees or some such thing, while letting out tch-tch noises like a lizard watching the poor candidate struggle on the whiteboard.

All that needs to be around is a tool/system that can make the job of searching/sourcing/co-ordination easier for the actual hiring managers/leads who are looking to add people to their teams and have got the necessary budgetary stuff covered already.


One of the best interview experiences I had was with a firm where nearly everyone participates in the hiring process. I don’t know any details beyond what I experienced as a candidate, but they interview tons of people, and everyone who makes it all the way through ends up interacting with at least a handful of would-be peers, managers, and a C-level officer.

I imagine that everyone is expected to dedicate a significant chunk of their time to the recruiting process. I don’t see how else they could pull it off. I suspect the arrangement is something like “everyone must dedicate one day every (other?) week to recruitment efforts.”

Moreover, they had a fixed set of well-thought-out questions and exercises. For programmers, you write code in an actual IDE with one of their programmers sitting beside you. You can bounce ideas off them, you can consult the interwebs (as you might in real life), etc. The questions and programming challenges were relevant, and reasonable.

It was an extremely well oiled machine, and it showed.


Where is this utopia? I want to work there.


Two Sigma in Manhattan.


Really that sounds terrible. Let the managers hire I need to finish my sprint.


If you want to be a static low level cog, that's fine, but don't expect go-getter leadership compensation.


Have you ever had to sift through 300 resumes for an open position? Did you ever have to do it multiple times in a quarter?

If you have time to do that, and do it well, and still hit your numbers, congrats.


I've done that, and during peak hiring periods it does get a bit intense, but I think it's essential it's done by a coder, not an HR person. It's also something to give your day a bit of variety. And the big plus is you get to decide who you want to work with.


Do you think Resumes made in LaTeX get screwed by the HR robot screening programs that scan documents for keywords? I mean, if your document has some weird formatting going on, I could see the program miss some crucial keywords buried inside a nested table or something


And if this screwing is happening, would that make you more or less likely to use LaTeX to create your resume? It would make me more likely to use it...


Sure, if you enjoy being unemployed because you only want to work at a mythical company that tailors their HR processes to your obscure formatting preferences, or is so undesirable that they have time to read all resumes that come in.


I don't know if enjoy is the right word, but prefer is certainly correct. Sending someone a resume as a PDF file generated from LaTeX is far from an obscure format.


Now a days, pretty much everyone uses an automated resume parser.


Why should you get a say in who works with you? As a team lead I'm trying to find the right balance. If we hire only people the current devs like we endup having too many similiar developers with the same mindset and shortcomings. Trying to have a more diverse, balanced team means you don't get a say.


Actually, doing that means everyone getting a balanced say.

Two way street.

If you make it one way, it is all on you, and when that team says that, you get all the credit. Good or bad, and the team knows it. Will definitely throw you under a bus, given cause.

If you make it a balanced discussion, everyone taking shared ownership, then it is on everyone.

The difference shows up in two places:

One, bad call. The team can come together, own it, and letting the bad call go is not so rough. The follow on discussion is rational and productive.

The other one is getting that different point of view. Having that discussion sets great expectations. Being challenged, getting better, all that is welcome. A team that does this successfully tends to congeal and do extremely well.

Play it how you want to play it, but I definitely prefer to have it all on the table, open, team discussion, frank, high value.

Mix in a reluctance to blame and shame, favor choices outcomes and data and you get a team that can weather the good and bad, everyone helping everyone too.

The lead is responsible for cultivating that culture, empowering people, resolving conflicts, etc. Also owns team business meetings, data, all that.

Just saying.


I've been in both situations and places inbetween.

If the team lead owns it they should take the blame and give credit to the team. If the team kind of owns it then everyone is off the hook or on. It also invites the owner/vp to talk directly with the programmers which undermines the lead.

No one mentions this but the lead in development is one of the rockier jobs. You rarely have power to hire/fire without a manager, all development problems come your way, credit goes to developers. You have very little power compared to other industries.


> Why should you get a say in who works with you?

The feeling of autonomy is quite important for a lot of modern knowledge workers. There's more than one lever, but if you force enough of them, it becomes a crap place to work.


I would like some evidence that balanced teams are good.

Given that in higher dimensional finite spaces all the points are close to the edges of the space you would expect the most unbalanced teams to be the most successful ones because they can explore the parts of the solution space where you have the highest chance of finding a profitable solution.

Unix was not build by well rounded people. Xanadu was.


The Unix team didn't interview each other the Xanadu team probably did.

Non-well rounded people would do less well if the decision was up to peers.


Why do you think your good people don't want to work with people that complement them? Why do you think you are so much better than them at balancing a team? I pity the team that has to work with such an egostistical openly hostile lead, but I imagine it must give you plenty of experience with recruiting and hiring.


You want someone as equally as good as you who complements your skillset. I want someone different than you who renforces areas where you are weak so the product is stronger overall. Getting along is good overall but being able to debate from different perspectives is important.

What you think of the hire shouldn't matter because you are looking to perserve your place on the team and that taints your judgement. You shouldn't hire your own boss for similiar reasons. You should never hire your peer.


On the flip side, I had the pleasure of working with a fantastic HR recruiter at my previous company. He would do a ton of legwork to ensure applicants had the basic level of skills and, frankly, common sense. For one position we were hiring, every single applicant he forwarded to us we interviewed and wanted to hire. There is a common thread here that great tech skills are under appreciated or often missed by HR, but I think great HR skills are also under appreciated by tech sometimes. If you find someone in HR recruiting who really is a “partner”, they are worth every penny.


> every single applicant he forwarded to us we interviewed and wanted to hire

But doesn't that support what the article says? It suggests he applies a filter with very few false positives, which generally can only be done at the expense of a lot of false negatives.


No, because there is no shortage. If he is forwarding them multiple candidates they want to hire, there's no problem.


Yeah right! This is not a problem of the HR, this is a problem of the upper management. HR is only doing what they are paid to do, and if there is no oversight how they do it the it's an issue with the leadership. But I don't buy that. I think they are trying to buy "suckers" and only shell out for "experts" when they really need to. Unfortunately I think they are hurting themselves, but hey, it's a free world...


The theory is that the market adjusts to compensate so in theory, competitors will offer reasonable opportunities.

The practice is that a culture had been subscribed to across the board and there's no shortage or urgency because if there was, these positions would loosen or employers would be more aggressive and even offer training instead of leaving needed positions unfilled.


Its if you let HR be the sole gatekeeper where the problem stems however


1000% agree. Drives me nuts when they demand experience in xyz. Xyz = some SaaS or library that no one uses but would literally take anyone with a pulse an afternoon to become competent.


> are effectively searching for a perfect match, rather than someone who could do the job well.

Maybe they actually aren't doing either. Perhaps they are simply building a log of candidates for a position that does not exist currently but may exist or another future hypothetical position related or unrelated. In other words doing the legwork way in advance and figuring if they dangle a large enough offer (at that time) someone will leave what they are doing and join the company.


There are usually 2 reasons why a company/individual hires someone else (1) expertise & (2) time.

(1) An HR employee is hired to cover certain areas (recruiting in this case) of expertise that the individual manager may not have or may be biased towards.

(2) Manager(s) may look to outsource a segment of their work.

In most cases, it is a combination of the two that leads to HR being the gatekeeper. I would argue that if there was no HR, society would simply blame the next person in charge of the hiring segment.


Conway’s Law strikes again?


Easy to blame it all on HR. I've witnessed many engineers draft reqs that included all kinds of unnecessary "musts".


HR is the cause of this issue, either the ossified silo, or the general company policy to HR, which results in too big of asks for too low of wage from folks that have to use that policy.


You can keep saying this but it's just not true. In the number of companies in which I've been involved, engineering managers are solely responsible for writing the reqs.

HR is just an easy scapegoat. I'm sure that often HR is primarily responsible, but often HR just works with what they're given.


Tell me about the approval process, training, and underlying incentives the engineering managers have to go through to get their requisition approved and posted. A priori, I'm confident it is a bad HR process.


It's tautological to say that bad HR policies are the cause of bad HR policies.


Right.

HR professionals (and the c-suite) are the cause of bad HR policies.

Bad HR policies perpetuate bad HR policies after that.


It does not surprise me that this is out of Atlanta. One of the former Atlanta Business Chronicle writers that covered tech rightfully calls it the Bangalore of the South. https://twitter.com/Urvaksh/status/1092948535627137024 https://twitter.com/Urvaksh/status/893087188451196928 Tech in ATL is a second class citizen and the salaries reflect that, plus there is a glut of marketing and business people. The other issue with Atlanta is that from an IT/corporate headquarters perspective (which is a significant driver for the job market) Suntrust just merged with BB&T and is moving the headquarters out of Atlanta along with Turner combining with AT&T. Layoffs will ensue at some point. Most tech companies located in high cost areas such as New York, San Fran etc. that open up a location in ATL do it to reduce costs.

That said, in general, all of these efforts to "learn to code" etc. are all just trying to increase the supply and lower wages. The challenge is that there often is a difference between the developers what will accept the lower offers and the ones who will hold out for more. Many still believe the a larger number of cheaper people is better than a few top devs... Despite the fact that this was proven be a bad strategy over 30 years ago in "The Mythical Man Month".


I would have loved to stay near Atlanta since it's near my family, but you're right. It was difficult to find tech jobs there, despite Georgia Tech having a world class CS program. So I moved to the Bay Area.


Great place to run a business though... cost of living is low.

(Granted, you get funding / talent lift from the Bay Area)


There is a good pool of talent in ATL and the cost of living is low compared to SF. Kabbage, Cardlytics, and a couple others operate a model of high turnover and low pay. It costs more than the mythical man month method overall, but the output of the product group is more predicable and there is less risk of a small group of 10x engineers leaving and gutting the product team.


> Kabbage, Cardlytics

Is there a name-and-shame list of these kinds of companies some where?


One of the things that always surprised me at a previous company was seeing the H1B hiring notices posted for easily-trainable positions.

I have nothing against people coming to work in the United States, but I thought those visas were specifically for roles where the skills weren’t available.

In this case, by making the skills super specific, like that Home Depot sales portal in this article, they made them rare.


That's the whole point of the nit-picky requirements: they often don't want to fill the positions with locals. They really want a more malleable, and often cheaper, workforce using H-1B's etc. but can't go that route until they can document that there is no locally available talent.


The other possibility is that they are going to hire internally, but for some legal reasons they have to make a public job post. Requiring some super specific thing like "Home Depot sales portal" sounds like a tipoff that this is going to be an internal hire. The place I currently work is like that. The decision makers already know who they want to give the job to before it's even posted, but they still make three other poor bastards come in and go through the interview process even though they have no chance. The interviewees will no doubt end up second guessing every answer, handshake, etc. when really it was just never going to happen. To be extra obnoxious the job listing is left up for months after it's filled.


Yep, I’ve certainly seen the same for big companies, but some of them are kind enough to list a requirement that is a dead giveaway, like:

“Candidates for Solutions Architect 4 at X Corp preferably have three or more years of experience as a Corp X Solutions Architect 3”


I've been that person so I can attest.

The "opening" was essentially a copy of my resume. The more specific requirements (details from my resume) the better.

Either way, if listings are that specific, I ignore them for both reasons.


I knew someone who used to work for a company where they had a policy to only hire developers on work visas. The management treated them as indentured servants rather than employees, using the threat of losing their visas and making them pay ‘legal fees’ as tools for coercion.

The guy I knew only got out because my then employer promised to endorse his visa and deal with any legal stuff.


The super specific skill requirements is usually a sign its being posted either for Green Card application or H1B. Both require "recruiting attempts".


H1B doesn't require any recruitment nor does it require any specific skill. So the OP has no idea what he is talking about. H1 only requires bachelor degree and a job in the same field. The PERM process in green card requires the recruitment process, but that has been around since forever and it is for someone internal whose greencard is being filed


When filing an H-1B, the employer only has to promise that the hiring won't have an adverse effect on employees already employed at the firm, NOT that they made a good faith effort to hire anyone locally, much less train someone into it.


Making a throwaway to share my anecdote.

What I find interesting is that if you point all of this out to HR/management, sometimes they don't believe you!

I just left a company for which I was the random unicorn (perfect intersection of 3 different skillsets and relevant past experience) after one year. I was referred because someone at the company knew I had the exact skillset they needed, and ended up joining right as they were planning to expand to several other states.

Two months in, I brought up the rarity of finding someone with such an intersection of skills. Looking for an exact match would not be realistic. Especially when trying to expand to states with a much more competitive job market that requires a higher salary than what they offered me. Of course, my concerns were shot down with such confidence that I thought, "maybe they already have the perfect set of candidates lined up."

One year later, expansion plans have completely 180ed because they simply cannot find the personnel that they need. They cannot even entice those who are capable of learning and performing in the role because they aren't willing to pay market rates. And now I left because they weren't willing to give me a reasonable raise or additional benefits like more equity.

This experience has made me wonder if cognitive dissonance plays a larger role in blinding HR/companies.


Earlier in my career I saw exactly this situation come up with a manager of mine, had the perfect overlap of a few skills that don't frequently come up together but this was completely taken for granted. As a result there was an amazingly bad plan for expansion/handover/etc as it was taken for granted that it would be easy to hire a replacement.

> This experience has made me wonder if cognitive dissonance plays a larger role in blinding HR/companies.

I think cognitive dissonance was also at play in the case I'm referring to. There's probably a lot of biases at play when people are trying to estimate what skills someone has. Also its easier to delude yourself into thinking the Bayesian priors are different when you have someone who has the rare combination of skills on staff, I remember hearing a few versions of: "how rare could it be when we already have this manager on staff?".


Can you expand on how cognitive dissonance would play a role here?


The role it plays is in how people may respond to evidence that runs counter to their perception of reality. The blinding happens when HR/management decides that rejecting feedback and evidence is the best route to resolving the contradiction of reality vs belief. If they ignore it, then no such conflict exists.

Obviously this isn't the ideal way to handle cognitive dissonance. However, it is a way of handling and one that you often see. Another bad way of handling it is when you see people "explaining things away" without ever really addressing anything of substance.

In my case, I saw it manifest in the sheer confidence they displayed all year despite our rollout plans failing. It did not matter how many market signals they received either. There was always another excuse as to why things will eventually go smoothly.


"Why Are You Reposting Jobs With Over 1000 applications?"

Because over 95% of them are completely random and do not meet even one single criteria of the job. Or, are fake resumes from H1B consulting shops.

Post a senior software developer job in New York? Get ready for over half of the applications to be from a Burger King employee in South Carolina, a security guard in Florida, a mechanic in Idaho, etc. They spam their resume to every open job in America. The next 25% will be from grad students desperate to get an H1B sponsorship before their OPT runs out. They will, yes, spam their resume to every open job in America. The final 24% will be fake C2C resumes from H1B consulting shops. "Yes, he is my consultant, how can you pay on the corp to corp for this job?" They, yes, spam their resume to every open job in America.

Out of those 1000, I bet you over 95% do no match one single qualification posted


That's still over 50 qualified applicants..


I said 95% don't meet any qualifications. Those remaining 50 are at best a partial match


As is common, Joel said it all back in 2000:

Whaddaya Mean, You Can't Find Programmers? https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/06/15/whaddaya-mean-you-...

(Repost from five years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6454140#6455545 and 7 months ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17946388#17948113)


After moving to California in 2011, I decided I missed the office banter and started looking for a job. I found a listing on a large, tech-based recruiting firm (cybercoders) and the job was perfect for my skills. I applied but heard nothing back.

After a week I reached out to the recruiter, and she replied with a curt, "You're not qualified for this role so we're looking elsewhere." I was a bit surprised as the reqs they described in the job listing were exactly what I had been doing for the last 3 years. But it got me thinking whether the company (HR, Hiring Manager, etc) had made the decision or if the recruiter had?

In addition, there was no additional offer from the recruiter to work with me? It was literally that one line. It got me thinking that maybe my experience(s) wasn't valued by the recruiter as someone worth pursuing, as I may be more "work" to land a job than she would want to invest?

Anyway, with my pride slightly dinged, I immediately wrote off the recruiter (and cybercoders as a whole) as someone I wouldn't want to work with in the future. I got a job at a larger company and a few years later, enjoyed responding to the SAME recruiter asking if I was interested in some jobs she had to offer (nothing bridge-burning worthy, but it felt great saying "NO THANKS")


I've found the recruiting community to be very self-serving and manipulative. Recent example - someone who I had spoken with (shared the stage) at a conference indicated one of her clients needed someone with the my background. Naturally, a resume was on her desk before the end of the afternoon...

A few weeks later, I get a call from a retained recruiter I had worked with previously, after having had my resume sent to her by the company. She basically proceeds to "force me" out of the running for the position by talking it down. She clearly had some firm favorite sitting in the wings...

[in reality, I was out as soon as they asked me to relo my family for a lower total comp package than I was currently receiving. Yeah right.... not that hungry yet...]


Best one a recruiter pulled on me was putting me (a freelancer) in an interview for a full-time position, without me knowing.

They initially contacted me and indicated that they just raised a funding round and now have to staff the position ASAP, potentially with a freelancer for some time. So I thought: "Great, I'll freelance for them for a few months and they can kick me out once the found someone to employ!" This is unironically one of my favourite scenarios, so I went for it, and let the recruiter set up a meeting.

I was a bit surprised that HR was also invited for the meeting, as I usually haven't seen that done when bringing freelancers on in other companies, but tried to not interpret to much into it. So the meeting rolls around, and voilà, it is a full blown job interview! I went with it, acing the interview, but when they asked "Why are you looking to switch away from freelance?", I had to tell them that I don't, and it turned out that the recruiter told them something completely different.

WTF WOULD A RECRUITER THINK THAT THIS WOULD EVER WORK??? Do they think that 1 in 10 freelancers just resigns to his new fate during the interview and accept to work as an employee now? Truly one of my strangest recruiter experiences.


Interesting... "unironically one of my favourite scenarios"

Why? Pricing Leverage? (which makes sense - you can set a shorter term price and most of surprises should be upside)


Pricing leverage is a factor, but the major thing for me is that I usually don't like working with a client for more than 3-4 months. If you go beyond that time frame (in my experience) you usually see dependencies between the freelancer and the company cropping up, which I want to avoid as much as possible, as that often leads to the expectations of either party to be hurt sooner or later. This also puts me in a position where I can transition to a more interesting/lucrative client very quickly, with the old client still being happy.


I had so many similar experiences. People writing me off right after the recession and then work picked back up around 2013. Got tons of offers and job opportunities only to have the same previous recruiters pinging me. "yeah, no thanks, got a job already".


Cybercoders is particularly dysfunctional. Avoid at all costs.


Completely agree. I'm still getting emails from them for positions that have the word "designer" in them. Turns out that there's a lot of positions not in the tech world that have the word "designer" in the job title.


It's a strange hiring world out there.

I changed careers and was inundated with recruiters contacting me..... a total n00b. Nice huh?

Not really, every one of them just seemed to be sweeping up resumes and names and faces and not paying attention.

I'd talk to them on the phone "no I don't have 5 years experience, just like it shows on my resume"...

One after another, total waste of time.

Then I'd get a bite, or even interview and ... some would just go radio silence. Man how hard is it even to send a cookie cutter "we went in another direction" email?

I wish I could have only talked to people who actually looked at my resume first and wanted to talk to that guy. Maybe it wouldn't be many but it would save a lot of time, looking for a job is hard enough as it is.

Meanwhile every job does require 5 years experience but I'm pretty sure they don't. I'd hear the actual job and no man a n00b could do that just fine.

Meanwhile my last job now requires a CS degree where really a high school grad who is mildly capable with a CCNA could do just fine, but they're still looking to fill my position a year later... They could have brought on two people for like 6 months to just try them out and but they'd rather not.

I'm fairly sure there's just a lot of busy work being made by HR and head hunters who have no clue anyway.


I had an interview with a company working in the ML space. There is a semi-difficult problem that their particular industry needs a solution for so I spent a couple hours in the hotel the night before writing up a solution for it.

I was doing an interview with their head of ML and brought this subject up in general without mentioning that I had already solved it. His immediate response was: "that's impossible." And it was totally concrete, not some sort of challenge. He had no interest in discussing the topic at all.

Those kinds of people are out there. Best to detect them early and move on.


At some point I was working for a shop that did smartcard-based payment systems. I was patching some smaller bug when I noticed a call that was suspiciously close to an assert() that was accidentally left in. Merely commenting it out made the payment handshake complete 50% faster. Being an eager junior as I was I went to the principal dude who wrote this part (and pretty much the rest of the core) and he dismissed me with exactly that - that's impossible. I decided to push it a bit and went to PM with my demo, he was equally awed and summoned the dude... to which the dude said, and I'm paraphrasing to soften, "this fucking bonehead just commented out the RSA sig verification for the handshake."

That is, sometimes the claimed "impossible" is indeed just that and the speed of response comes from the experience rather than ignorance or arrogance.


Thank you for documenting exactly how some of the more absurd bugs we encounter in the wild might actually happen. :)

E.g. https://www.talospace.com/2019/04/broadcom-bcm5719-libre-fir...


Is it possible that this could have been prevented with some unit testing?


Please tell me you went to work for a competitor and ate their lunch. That would be so satisfying.


What was the problem?


I had a ludicrous experience with an AR startup in Toronto last year where I was offered $35 an hour - worked a week, and then was told they could only afford to pay $20/hr.

They made me work 60-80 hour weeks and didn’t pay me overtime.

When I criticized them, they fired me after a month.

I’d love to expose them here, but I’ll be the better person than them.


Please share. As a community knowing about scams can be very helpful.

I saw the same thing happen in the same city to another developer. In the fitness space though but didn't get paid at all.


How does not reporting them to the labor board make you a better person? There’s more to this story than you’re telling us or it’s made up. This story doesn’t add up.


Who said he didn't? Him not going through that process doesn't make him a liar either. The fear of being blackballed or being a shy person or the experience of knowing what a waste of time it is are all valid reasons not to.


First off, I’m a she. :P

Second off - I am the type of individual who believes karma will come back to people. I have a very very comfortable position at the moment somewhere else and I personally just don’t want to stir up any trouble.

I’ve been through enough in the past year, from sexual assault to the passing of my mother, to add the trauma of lawyers chasing after me for an HN comment to boot.


It sounds like you've been through a lot.

The lawyer chasing you for a HN comment sounds like a movie. Somehow it would be fitting if it was over spaces vs tabs.


Covering for them doesn't make you a better person.


Neither does identifying the company and potentially identifying yourself


Sure, there's perfectly good reasons not to share the name. "being a better person" isn't one of them, IMHO.


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