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Ask HN: Hiring Ethics of a Fringe Tech Stack?
7 points by neilv 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 3 comments
The small startup where I now lead engineering is planning more engineering hiring, as well as picking stack for some major new development. And our stack might be a key factor in being able to hire high-powered people -- despite not having FAANG money and prestige, and despite no unicorn strategy lottery ticket.

One of our stack options, to be nimble, and to be very attractive to hiring candidates, is to use one of those tools that's not popular, yet is beloved disproportionately by engineering-as-a-passion developers. I'm thinking, in languages for example, things like CL, Scheme, Haskell, OCaml, Smalltalk, Erlang (though that's more popular), etc.

The biggest question on my mind at the moment is -- given the current industry emphasis on always keeping the latest most popular stack buzzwords on one's resume -- the ethics of hiring people to put a few years of a fringe stack on their resume. Would it be doing the hires a disservice, in a way that recent grad developers might not realize?

In addition the fact that they probably won't be able to get a job with that stack if they move, there also seems to be a lot of sterotyping and stigmatizing in hiring interviews right now. Like one article of clothing in an otherwise fashionable wardrobe, at a mean-kids school, is, "like, so 2019, loser."

Though I think an aspiration to provide potentially lifetime great working situation and career opportunity to everyone is a helpful guide, we shouldn't plan that we'll be able to do that forever, for everyone. And the norm is for developers to move every couple/few years, so we should also be guided by that reality, and how we can be good for people's careers if they do move in a few/several years.

Summary: Can we attract some of the best developers using the fringe tools they really want to use, without doing them a disservice? I hope the answer is yes, and want to pick HN's brains on this.

Are people really stigmatizing certain stacks in interviews (especially modern stacks)? I can see some skepticism over a candidate who only has experience writing BASIC and is trying to join a front end team. But I’ve never seen anyone care about the languages you know as long as they think you can pick up a new one easily.

I’ve only worked at and applied to 500+ person companies, so I am curious if that is different at smaller companies, or if I’ve just been lucky.

> But I’ve never seen anyone care about the languages you know as long as they think you can pick up a new one easily.

Is that true for the beginning of the hiring pipeline? While my experience is limited to healthcare developer recruitment in the UK the recruiters and agencies seem very focussed on keywords - and without passing that barrier you aren’t even getting an interview with software professionals.

Good point. On my last job search, as a principal-ish IC, I was looking mostly at startups, where there turned out to be heavy emphasis on stack keywords.

Now that you mention it, I don't think Google, for example, hires based on stack keywords.

Maybe ending up focusing on startups myself skewed my perception of industry overall.

If we could characterize what categories of employers would respond negatively to a candidate with an unusual stack on their resume, and their prevalence, maybe we could get a better sense of how much a few years with an unusual stack could hurt someone's employment prospects.

Maybe one difference is that established companies, for example, will tend not to feel desperate urgency to "hit the ground running" with a particular tool, at max speed, the very first week... and/or know that there's a lot of other components that go into running towards a successful project/organizational outcome, than just the tool?

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