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The real reason you can't hire developers....
324 points by up_and_up on Dec 14, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 266 comments
TL;DR version: When developer talent sends you an email, you fail to reply!!!


Full Version:

To all the startups and companies whining about lack of developer talent, I call your bluff.

I ran a little experiment over the last 60 days. I sent emails to ~50 different companies (some well-known, others unknown) that were looking for "Sr. Developers", particularly Ruby devs, as found on the major developer job sites (stackoverflow, Dice, Indeed, 37signals etc). I mainly targeted companies that were potentially/maybe/sorta/kinda/probably/possibly able to accomodate some form of telecommuting/remoting. I also picked companies that most closely matched my skillset. In my email I introduced myself and included my resume. Here is how I am represented in the email (paraphrased from actual text, ):

Given: X > 7 & Y > 4,

"Sr. Level Developer, with X years exp. Y years of prof exp with Ruby. Main expertise is in Ruby, API's, MySQL and a bunch of other stuff. Previously worked for 'ABC' startup ($X Millions angel backed) for two years and helped build out the entire app/platform etc. Later served as CTO for several side projects. I attended Top Tier University , ... blah blah blah"

More stats:

Salary expectations: $115K

Areas of interest: API's, Analytics, SaaS, Telephony, Machine learning ....

Ability to relocate: Open to idea, can't right away

Telecommuter?: Pretty please

Snark level: Not nearly as high as this post ;)

Likeability: Very high

So out of ~50 companies that I tried contacting what was the result?

10/50 - sent me a reply email of some sort (confirmation, autoreply, whatever)

7/50 - tried to setup a phone screen

5/50 - actually completed the phone screen (with all phones screens going very well, I might add)

3/50 - tried to setup a technical interview

0/50 - actually completed a technical interview

0/50 - made offer!

From my 60 day simple experiment, I argue......

The top 5 reasons you are (probably) not hiring:

1. You don't read or dont respond to emails!!

How can 40/50 companies or their recruiters not even respond to an email at all? Why heavily advertise a position only to not follow through! LESSON: Check the email box for resumes

2. You allow for big time gaps in your hiring process

The hiring process at some of the companies that contacted me was just strange. One day they ask me "when can we setup an interview?", so I respond right away. 4-5 days later they get back saying "Ok how about next week?". LESSON: Long delays in communication make me lose confidence in the process/the seriousness of your interest etc.

3. Weird extra steps

Some companies like to send riddle/puzzles/challenges etc, which is fine with me. This might be a barrier to some people that think its absurd. What does it prove? That your team spends lunch break browsing trickyriddles.com? LESSON: riddle/puzzles/challenges might seem cool to you but might just seem like another hoop to me.

4. A cultural mismatch

"Xbox's PS3 Nerf guns Starcraft/Rock band competitions !!!" - Nothing against any of that, but as married father of two, I have other concerns (what no ping pong table?) like "Compensation, Opportunity for Advancement, Great Benefits, Fast Growing, Opportunities to contribute/architect etc". If you think of "Xbox's PS3 Nerf guns Starcraft/Rock band competitions !!!" is an applicant deterrent, then I agree with your strategy. LESSON: not all programmers/developers fit the fold you are presenting, many of us are unique!!!

5. You dont hire telecommuters/remotes even if you say you do

This has been talked about ad nauseum...

Other potential reasons: Administrative snafus, HR general laziness, what HR?, the site's down, I want too much money, your company has a bad reputation, others?

So after 60 days I am still looking ;) but based on my simple research project, 80% of companies claiming to need developers are either nonserious or are too busy to even start the hiring process.

I know, this research project is flawed and anecdotal but maybe it can help you rethink/iron out any bugs in your hiring process. If you can't find talent, my guess is that you are probably failing in one or more areas above.

EDIT: Formatting

This post pretty much reflects my observations back when I was job hunting a year or so ago. I had a good amount of experience, was willing to relocate, wasn't looking for a telecommuting position, and was very flexible on salary. I advertised myself to several high-profile companies, many of which have affiliations with YC. None of them were through recruiters, and a few were even direct contacts with some core developers happening to advertise the company on twitter: cough Disqus cough.

The number of responses I received even acknowledging that they got my personalized cover letter and resume? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

I ended up getting a job by being referred through a friend to a company completely outside of the whole startup/valley/YC culture. The absolute worst thing you can do is have your job search and advertisements become a black hole.

So every company reading this comment: get your shit together.

Similar experience here. Been watching HN's hiring posts for 6 months or so, replied to many, received about 3 responses. I know I'm no John Carmack, but I've had a $100K+ offer (for a telecommuting position), and have a $100K offer (again, telecommuting) on the table. All these poor companies so desperately trying to hire have never even bothered to investigate if I'm a good candidate.

I'm not too bitter as my opportunities are fine, but it really makes me wonder - are these companies insane? Do they actually want to hire? Do they really think they are amazing enough that nothing less than John Carmack himself is acceptable for them?

<sarcasm> 1998 called and they want their resume blasts back. </sarcasm>

I find work (contracts) by looking for interesting companies whose money I would like to take, then I look them up on LinkedIN to see how connected I am to them. Sometimes I ask my friends to connect me to them, sometimes I just google stalk them to find the appropriate hiring manager's twitter address or email address, then I email them, whether or not they're hiring, and whether or not they're open to contractors. I pitch my value proposition and tell (not ask, tell) them to meet me for coffee or lunch, my treat, and offer three dates that work for me. In 15 years, be it a VC, a VP of a bank, an unfunded founder, or an incredibly busy CTO at a high growth start-up, nobody has ever turned me down for a free lunch.

Then I close them.

goodweeds, has the best advice in this comment thread as far as I'm concerned.

Instead of spending countless hours blasting resumes out, why not do it the smart way, and make a personal connection with the person hiring the job.

No one responded to your form resume, so what. The system for hiring via web forms and resumes is broken, so what.

Bootleg the system and speak to the right people, and none of that will be a problem.

Good post except I don't think the OP is complaining about having problems getting hired. The companies trying to hire are the ones having problems, and it seems they're doing little to fix them.

Do you think responding to email blasts would help them solve their hiring problem?

What on earth? These are companies that are paying money advertising to find developers. The idea that it is too much trouble for them to evaluate or respond to emails from potential candidates is rather bizarre.

I think it's going to be slightly better than doing nothing.

In a normal job market that's good common sense, but in the current tech job market, where unemployment is somewhere around 3%, resume blasting ought to be more than enough. The problem is that companies -- particularly larger companies -- are still in Arrogance Mode and think that the job-seekers need them. They don't.

The problem is that companies -- particularly larger companies -- are still in Arrogance Mode and think that the job-seekers need them. They don't

That's a big dish of good old american entitlement.

If you were on the market during the last boom, the demand for engineers was far greater than it was today. Because of that, for every 1 good resume that landed in my inbox I had to wade through about 300 bullshit resumes. Most of them were from Indian spam shops, kids in the midwest who got their MCSE and decided they were senior systems architects, and fratboy ivy-league types who felt the $200k that dad spent on their education meant they should be able to ride their degree onto the next big thing.

Treat your job hunt like it's a full-time job. You can probably coast your way into some me-too start-up, but if you want a good job at a company you're excited about it, you have to prove your worth by selling yourself.

"You can probably coast your way into some me-too start-up, but if you want a good job at a company you're excited about it, you have to prove your worth by selling yourself."

Bravo! In my own experience: the worst mistake I have made in my career is not seeking out more exciting and challenging opportunities and instead taking what came easily. The best opportunities of my career have been the difficult to attain and the best challenges have been those difficult to complete.

This post proves it: email and resume blasting is not a useful method for good job hunting.

That's a big dish of good old american entitlement.

Not at all. It's a reflection on the current technology job market in the Bay Area. It doesn't last.

f you were on the market during the last boom, the demand for engineers was far greater than it was today.

I was, and my recruiter friends tell me that demand (again, mainly in the Bay Area) is about the same as it was then (late '90s). We're sitting on 3% unemployment, so finding good people is difficult.

Huh? Can you cite your 3% unemployment source? Outside of the tech industry it's pretty difficult to find temporary work, let alone full-time work. I've heard closer to 15% for the greater bay area.

I've heard closer to 15% for the greater bay area.

Not in technology, it's not.

According to the BLS, San Francisco's unemployment rate is 9.1%[1] (lower than the 15% I had misquoted earlier), California's unemployment rate 11.7%[2], and the national unemployment rate is 8.6%[3]

1 http://bls.gov/web/metro/laummtrk.htm 2 http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LASST06000003 3 http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

I meant (and said) in technology. Not in general. In technology, in the Bay Area, right now, you can make a paper airplane out of a resume and get a job.

A lot of comments here miss the point.

80% did not respond at all . They did not acknowledge his contact attempt in any way whatsoever. Not a canned response confirming contact, nothing. Nothing.

I'm willing to bet very heavily on this representing complete incompetence at the organizations contacted.

I think there's an underlying issue here. I would wager that 4/5 of job postings are for internally filled positions, especially with larger enterprises with heavy HR involvement.

Let's say MegaCorp Inc. wants to promote Billy, a great Jr. developer, into a senior role for a new project. The deal is done when the manager says "Billy, I want you to be the Sr. developer for X project." The thing is that HR gets in the way and says "well, we have to make this position available publicly so that we are complying with whatever fair labor and employment laws effect us."

Those 40 companies who didn't respond probably already had a Billy lined up for the job.

Thats a really good point in general. The issue is none of the 50 companies included MegaCorp or the like and based on my experience at startups I'm guessing HR is non-existent at most of them.

Definitely. I did a lot of applying and interviewing when I was first looking for a job out of school, and it's amazing how disorganized some companies are. I will always specifically remember the companies that may have said "no" but were timely and polite, and I'd recommend them to my colleagues. On the other hand I also remember the companies that were rude or disorganized and recommend against them when asked.

Bottom line: Candidates should always like you even if you don't like or need them, especially since you'll likely reject far more people than you hire.

I had a similar experience. The most egregious was a company that got back to me 8 months later. My answer was basically "Um, I got a job now, and why would you want to hire me if I couldn't find a job in 8 months of looking?"

"80% did not respond at all"

This is prob the biggest point. Whats the problem? Even MEGA corp knows about autoreply emails.

When I was looking for a job I got some of those autoreplies, and IMO, they are worth nothing. I already got confirmation that the form (in some giant enterprisey applicant tracking system) was submitted, sending me an email does nothing for me. If you would let me know when a human sees my resume, that would perhaps be meaningful, but there's no way they'd go for that level of transparency.

I love getting auto-replies because a lot of times the application process is to send an e-mail to jobs@example.com. Getting a reply that your resume arrived intact is always reassuring.

I don't think this is why companies can't find good developers.

To sum up your email: Hi, You've never met me before, but I like your company. I expect to get paid $115K to lead a team as a senior developer, but don't want to relocate in order to be with the team.

I feel this type of email should get a response; however, I'm not surprised no one hired you. I'm sorry none of these companies replied. If hiring is as tough as everyone says it is, they should at least be willing to followup - they might find a diamond in the rough that way.

80% of jobs are filled informally, especially senior positions. If you know someone on the team, or if the team knows of your work and respects it, you should be able to find a position faster.

Big point: Salary was not included in my initial contact email. That means only 5/50 companies even knew what I was looking for.

"I expect to get paid $115K to lead a team as a senior developer, but don't want to relocate in order to be with the team"

I forgot to add, 50% of the positions I applied to gave salary range of 80-130K. Also, I state I am willing to relocate eventually. All the positions claimed to be open to telecommuting.

I had no idea that telecommuting == less salary. I would be open to negotiating.

"lead a team" Seems like people are assuming that b/c I have exp as a CTO that I want "control". Not the case at all. I applied to a "Sr. Developer" position with the idea that I would be working under a technical leader etc

I state I am willing to relocate eventually.

Even though the positions claim to be open to telecommuting, a lot of people (like myself) may have a strong bias for local talent. It's just profoundly easier overall.

Telecommuting is a lie. It is not easier than being local or even commuting more than an hour one-way, unless the weather is too bad to make it on a particular day. The biggest reason that telecommuting doesn't work is due to being part of the team. You really can't get to know the team without being in the same office with them. Maybe after you get to know the team, and how to communicate effectively with each of the members you could do it. I believe it is just a waste otherwise.

However, if you are working as a lone developer on a project without a team, then it could work just fine. In that case, why are you hitching yourself to a single company though?

Telecommuting is a lie

That's a bit stronger than the wording that I would use. But I totally see where you're coming from. There are organizations (such as WordPress) that seem to rely heavily on telecommuters successfully.

I'm going to stand by "strong bias for local talent" :)

> I expect to get paid $115K to lead a team as a senior developer, but don't want to relocate in order to be with the team.

He targeted companies that claim to accommodate telecommuting. Not hire when being asked looks sneaky.

How often does telecommuting really jive with a senior/leadership position? If you're just coding away then sure I can see telecommuting being very viable. If part of your job is earning the respect of a team and being able to drive them and steer them in a direction, then not being physically there could very well be a huge barrier.

Not to mention only really wanting telecommuting does potentially imply less commitment to the company and/or position. That might be a turn off for a senior role.

The best management team I've ever worked with is in my current telecommuting position (entire company is distributed). Not being physically present around each other has really not had any noticeable effect on the respect/presence that any of the management has been able to make.

I know that my team's direct manager has huge respect from all of us (and the upper management as well), he keeps our projects on track, gives us the tools we need, and makes sure any obstacles in our path are quickly removed. And as with any good team, he steps out of the way and let's us work. Thinking about it, the biggest issue I've had with management in the past is not knowing when to get out of the way, I think remote work makes this easier.

The strange thing I always find about the common critiques of telecommuting is that there are many successful oss projects that are run entirely distributed and large communities, like HN for example, that probably have more social complexity than a similar sized physical group. Surely there are certain HNers who have you respect even though you've probably never even had a 1-on-1 chat with them.

Well, actually one multi-million company I was working for had chief architect on telecommute basis and it worked really well. I suppose it's more about processes and company DNA. But I have to admit, I saw such case just once :)

I've been an intercontinental telecommuter for several years now, in a senior individual contributor role, and it has worked out quite well overall.

A friend of mine for a while managed a small non-telecommuting team as a telecommuter, but went back to an individual contributor role after that.

His theory was that telecommuting for an individual works if that individual has a "telecommuting mindset" (self driven, communicative, etc). In order for telecommuting to work for a manager, all his subordinates need a "telecommuting mindset" as well.

I'm telecommuting for a very large corporation as a senior developer for over 6 months now. I've had great success in driving the team into a direction which I feel is best for specific projects and the team as a whole.

I think the telecommute aspect is really a non-issue for some people. Companies would be wise to consider it for the low overhead.

People/organizations have bought into telecommuting to varying degrees. Like you, I'm still pretty skeptical, but there are certainly teams/individuals that wouldn't work any other way and have found success.

Chances are they'd more open to telecommuting at the lower end of the salary range, as an incentive for top talent to take a lower wage.

The reason companies can't hire good people is because good people already have good jobs, and many of these companies suffer from "sticker shock" when they see how much money good developers are already making.

I recently interviewed at a major online retailer and cloud computing provider (heh). The person interviewing me said, "wow, you're the best person of the last 50 we've interviewed". They followed up by making me a shit offer. If you want me to move to a different state to work for you, I want a 25% raise and an extra week of vacation. Not a salary match and two fewer weeks of vacation. Their justification was "it wouldn't be fair if you negotiated a better offer than other people on your team".

That's why you can't hire people.


One more important thing to notice here. There is a strange assumption that goes on, its considered if you are awesome and passionate you won't care about money and will always for little.

The attitude is like - "Greed for money is for bad people, but you are not that kind right? So, here come work for peanuts while some idiot is making twice as you".

"Their justification was "it wouldn't be fair if you negotiated a better offer than other people on your team".

Translation: "We hire for mediocrity and you would skew the curve."

They also claim they have a "startup-like culture" which means that instead of getting a real desk, you get a door with some dowels holding it up. Not making this up. WTF?

Ohhh yep, Yegge has talked about this. Meanwhile, at NYU some MS students are excited to interview with them. Hope they know what they're in for...

I had a similar experience. I just left ClearChannel last month to go work at a startup, and though I went through a recruiter to find my new job, I also applied to a handful of job postings at YC-funded startups (through the jobs link at the top of HN). I believe there were 5 total, and 2 of them had puzzles that I completed correctly. I have an impressive resume, and I was willing to relocate (I live in Los Angeles, so SF isn't too big a change). Not one response, even to say we got your email, thanks for doing the puzzle. Through the recruiter, I was interviewed and hired within a week, at a 37.5% salary increase. Go figure

I have stopped doing puzzles for companies because I had the same experience everytime I solved a puzzle on a companies website. Common courtesy dictates that if you have a problem on your site that would take more than a couple of hours to solve then you should at least bother to reply personally when a candidate solves the problem (I am looking at you Quora). At first I thought it was just because my solution and resume got lost in the stack of applicants so I contacted someone at Quora on thier direct email address. Still no response.

I think it varies from company to company. A day or two ago there was a link here on the main page to a company's recruiting puzzle. Being unable to resist such coding challenges I knocked out a solution and fired off an e-mail afterwards asking a question about their expected approach. I suspect they were getting a lot of responses. Despite that I got an answer to my question (even after the disclaimer that I wasn't writing for a position) the next day.

Some companies get it right. They post a fun challenge, not a rote test, and attract skilled programmers with it. Most companies seem to just pick the most annoying thing they've ever had to do (C with non-standard pointer use, etc), obfuscate it, and call it a 'puzzle'.

I agree, through a recruiter and I have a job now :). Why the ads, why the questions if you can't take the time to let me know that you cant offer me a job. Would love to see more of that happening!

Recruiters were definitely more responsive with me, but hey thats their job right ;)

Yeah, but it should be HR's job too.

I think the best recruiters play the role of a modern-day union at this point. When I'm job hunting they are someone the company cares about maintaining a relationship with. Five years from now when I'm next looking the company probably won't even exist, but the recruiter may still be around and wants me to point my friends at them in the meantime. By the transient property of respect, HR departments actually respond to their emails.

Not to be nitpicky, but for anyone else confused: I think "transient" was meant to be "transitive."

After many years I was back in the job market earlier this year. I ended up writing to 6 carefully-chosen companies. I got responses back from 5 of them, interviewed at 4, and got job offers from all of them.

The fact that you applied at 50 places is a bit of a deceptive statistic, because first of all, there's no way you carefully crafted your initial contact to each one.

At each of the places I contacted during my job search, my initial email was very carefully worded. I spent about 3 hours writing and revising one fairly short email, to make sure it conveyed exactly what I wanted.

If you just send a generic form letter to a company, they're going to give you the same consideration you have given them: very little.

Even if you did tailor the email to each company, there's no way you as a candidate are going to appeal to more than a handful of the companies, because they all have their own quirks and cultures. NOBODY is a viable candidate for 50 different Ruby-oriented companies.

Also, no offense but I have to concur with other comments here that your writing may have had something to do with it. If what you sent them was worded at all like what you've posted here, then you probably lost a lot of potential responses because of that.

If you want to get your foot in the door at a company, the first impression you make is everything. Sending a poorly worded email is a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot.

> If you just send a generic form letter to a company, they're going to give you the same consideration you have given them: very little.

I think this may be true as I had a similar experience. Since March I have contacted many companies (both for contract work and full-time) but I only really wanted to work at 3 of them.

For the first company I spent 2 weeks crafting my job application and it took them more than a month to get back to me, and only after I directly emailed one of their HR staff.

For the second I spent about an hour or two writing an e-mail but was quite well thought out. I got a reply the next day and went through the whole process in about a week.

For the third company I sent a code sample to the senior developer and my resume to the CEO. Within two weeks I got an offer.

In all three cases I tried to make it very clear that I am choosing them, why I choose them, and what my thoughts are about their company/market. It seems that only in the third case, when I talked with the CEO, this approach worked.

People trying to hire developers through Dice/Monster are demonstrably clueless. Get introductions direct to the decisionmaker. You won't be in a pile of 200 resumes from people who list "Computers: Expert, especially with MsWord" and apply to developer positions. You'll also be dealt with in more reasonable timeframes.

Job sites are job hunting for people who enjoy unemployment.

I don't disagree, but I'd observe that the symmetrical POV on the hiring side is that if a company is screaming for talent, that implies (to a first approximation) they've already tapped out their network. There's nothing left for them but to strike out into the great unwashed, not-networked-by-them world, however unpleasant that may be. Alas, that requires effort.

Recruiter here. Going directly to the source is alweays your best option, if that's an option. I exist because the hiring manager has only so many hours in the day to review X applications, let alone interview the applicants.

If you are lucky, I get objective criteria from a hiring manager who actually knows what they are looking for and assess the fit of your application in an objective way.

If it helps it bothers me that there's a need for my role and I try to automate myself out of the picture as much as possible.

I'm curious, and maybe a bit skeptical. Why does it bother you that your role is needed?

I'm naturally frustrated by the fact that I know less about the positions I am trying to fill than both the hiring managers and the applicants. It takes a lot of work to learn where I can and can't add value.

That sounds like exactly the kind of self-awareness and humility that will make you stand out and be successful in your profession. Kudos to you.

And the flip side: As a developer, you want to work for a company whose people are smart and connected and passionate enough to attract talent through personal connections. You may not want to work for a company that has to resort to hiring by job boards, with the likely result of merely-average quality in your coworkers-to-be.

This applies recursively to another level too: you really don't want to join a company that can't even make job-board hiring work and resorts to headhunting recruiters.

Agreed. Guess I need to expand my network outside my geographical locale.

    If you want to steal some of the best talent in the
    industry, open yourself up to the idea of letting them 
    telecommute or work remotely. 

    Offer up a 3 month introductory period to ensure there's
    a mutual fit and they actually do the work as promised. 
    Don't make them shitty offers because they aren't on
    site; there is fudge room depending on their cost of

    If you're in the valley, get your head out of your ass.
    Talent is everywhere. We don't all need to move to the
    valley to prove anything. 

    We likely DO love your team and product; that's why
    we applied in the first place. Devs are a funny beast,
    most of us apply to things that interest us.

    Loving your team is not necessarily justification to 
    up and leave everything we've grown to know and love.
    We're not all recent college graduates with no ties to a

    Open yourselves up to change and boundary pushing.
    Consider opening satellite offices in different large
    cities for your remote devs to work at, together. 
::end rant::

Except telecommuting someone you don't know is a HUGE risk. Hiring is an expensive, activity that doesn't reward taking risks.

We have one telecommute worker and he is about 60% as effective as he was onsite. That's somebody we had onsite for six months before he started telecommute. YMMV, but that's why companies don't like telecommuting.

It isn't that we have our heads in our asses, we just know it is a poor substitute for having you onsite and we avoid it if we can.

Sounds like a poor fit to me. I really wish more companies would consider the whole concept of satellite offices though. You could force them to work somewhere, so long as relocation isn't required.

    Checks and balances.
That big grey area of not being able to stand over their shoulder to check productivity is tough. The least you can do to promote good work ethic is have them in a room with another team member.

Easy, have them work on something small as a contractor.

I applied to a kind-of sinking ship in Palo Alto last year. Got through a few interviews, answered all the questions right, and was gently let down. It was a stab in the dark.

My friend who worked there (and, in fact, recommended me) told me the developer doing the interviews has never actually recommended a single candidate and is no longer allowed to do interviews.

This could still mean that I'm stupid and incompetent but it seems like they missed out on a lot of talent because of the egotism of a single dev they had hiring.

Also I did a fair amount of the interview on a rooftop, trying to quietly and safely get down without a ladder. Fun times.

I recently had an interview with a company that involved 6 people interviewing me serially. That sort of thing is grueling in the best of cases. But this one went south with the third interviewer. He seemed to me be someone with something like Aspergers syndrome. He talked in a monotone, fidgeted constantly and was rocking back and forth. While I have no problem working with anyone technically competent, this person was clearly not capable of running an interview.

He asked a technical question to which I answered a more or less standard response. He told me I was wrong. Being a bit stunned (it wasn't a hard question), I asked him what he meant. He gave me a reply that was quite incorrect.

Now, in a normal interview situation if this occurs, I see it as an opportunity to have a conversation. I can explain my point and the interviewer can respond. You can find out a lot about an organization with this kind of interaction.

But in this case, the interviewer just kept saying I was wrong and never responded to my questions or gave an explanation why his answer's were correct except to say that they were. It was very troubling.

I didn't get the job. This might have been because of this interview directly but it certainly was at least partially the cause since I really didn't have much enthusiasm for the next 3 interviews. A company that would allow someone with social interaction issues run an interview is very problematic. I can't imagine who could have done well in that series of interviews given the circumstances.

"...6 people interviewing me serially. That sort of thing is grueling..."

This sort of thing is a standard process in many companies - precisely to avoid the single-person bias mentioned in other post.

Besides, the interviewers (in the properly organized case) are usually one's future coworkers - and if you did not like them maybe working there would not have been a good idea for you to begin with.

"...didn't have much enthusiasm for the next 3 interviews..." - this is your mistake. You should have treated them totally indepentently, and possibly asked the other interviewers about the incorrect question. Chances are they'd corrected that guy during the offline discussion.

"A company that would allow someone with social interaction issues run an interview is very problematic." - not at all. They gave that person a chance to learn. They gave you a chance to preview your future coworkers and make a decision.

I think multi-person interviews are a critical part of getting a good atmosphere in the team.

Well I guess if your goal is to have me not take the job but to have a "co-worker" learn then they accomplished their goal. If it wasn't that, then having a bad interviewer on his own was a complete waste of my time and of the other 5 people who I interviewed with that day.

I only wanted to speculate about possible reasons. Maybe there was something else - does not matter, really.

On the other hand, ditching your rounds with the subsequent interviewers just because you became emotional about one of them does materially decrease your chances to get a job - instead of one "bad interview" round feedback you got that one plus all the subsequent ones. This is a sub-optimal strategy. And, arguably, a waste of both your time and the remaining interviewers'.

Why do you think someone with Asperger's shouldn't conduct an interview?

I can see talking in a monotone and fidgeting as an annoyance, but was it show-stopping?

The refusal to answer why your response was (in his opinion) wrong is definitely a problem.

I'm worried about this because I've been unofficially diagnosed with Asperger's (I believe I'm not, but I'm definitely borderline / close) and I intend to run a company. I do fidget and miss some clues, but I'd have answered if someone asked me why I believed an answer is wrong.

Edit: I'm sorry if I came across in such a way to merit a downvote. I was genuinely interested in the answer. I'd also appreciate an explanation of what sounded "wrong" in my post.

Sorry, I may not have been clear in my description. I didn't notice much of anything when he came in. It was after the interview started and he asked this question that he thought I answered incorrectly that the trouble started. That's when I started noticing the somewhat odd mannerisms and the fact that I couldn't get a technical discussion about the question started.

Like I said, I'm used to working with all types of developers. I usually get along well with my colleagues. I have no trouble with any kinds of quirks--I probably have some myself. The issue was that this person was not capable of running an interview. He couldn't deal at all with a minor conflict on a technical question. This kind of thing can lead to a company not getting good results from the recruiting process which is what the OP is about.

Ok, thanks for your reply :)

My first programming job was for a boss who (we believe) had Asperger's. He was great and the job was great. I mean, he was a bit weird. But so what.

Anyway, it's a serious condition, but beneath it is a real person who may be a great person. Or not. Just like everybody else.

I think it's more likely that the guy got interviewed by an anti-social jerk.

Have you considered that maybe him telling you that you were wrong was a ruse to see how you handled disagreements? I use this technique sometimes myself.

Of course, it was my first instinct. It became clear quite quickly that this wasn't the case. He believed he was correct and was uninterested in having a conversation.

perhaps he was working from #7 on joel's interview questions: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000073.html

That's interesting because I think the interviewer was unintentionally doing this. But the problem was that I couldn't have a conversation with him. He just kept on telling me I was wrong with no discussion. I didn't give in. He never changed his answer or tone. When I say monotone, I'm not kidding.

So if he was trying to use Joel's technique, shouldn't he have at least engaged in a conversation? If he was doing it, he was doing it very badly. I'm pretty persuasive when it comes to technical issues. I'm frequently wrong and lose many a battle but I win them too at least as often as I lose. I can tell you I wasn't getting any feedback that he was interested in resolving the conflict. Just that he wanted me to acknowledge that he was right. He wasn't.

If the goal was to challenge me, it backfired. After this incident I had little interest in continuing the interview. It turned me off on the company pretty conclusively. And then I was angry because I felt my time had been wasted. Not a good outcome for me or them.

This wasn't Ning, was it?

Hey, they did that to me, too :)

I don't think I'd have taken the job anyways -- their application is kind of stupid and their employees all drink a ton of Kool Aid and think it's the best, most influential thing ever.

>Also I did a fair amount of the interview on a rooftop, trying to quietly and safely get down without a ladder. Fun times.

Wait, what? Unless this is some figure of speech I'm not familiar with, this requires some explanation.

I was enjoying the sunset when the interviewer called me. I was on the roof of one of several buildings; climbing on and off is a feat of acrobatics involving two roof tops and these slippery metal vents. Both hands are useful.

tl;dr somersaulted.

Was this a telephone interview??

Yes. iPhone 3GS is very slippery without a case, too.

If you're being paid 115K, working from home, and defining architecture, the biggest thing that sticks out to me about that is, you have a lot of control.

Are companies that post developer positions to job boards really looking for someone to delegate a lot of control to, or do they already have that person? How much room is there at the top? If you got that architect job, would you turn around and hire another architect-y person?

Many of these positions are heads-down, in the office and managed. And of course you've got to be a super coding wizard who is more concerned with nerf battles and ping-pong than dirty lucre, jeez!

Companies that hire many intelligent, mature, well-paid peers, are rare, I think. So you either have to go network and find someone who will give you that position of power, and then, how will you hire? Or, start a company. Or, become a consultant, which requires more networking than option one. Or hold out for a job with someone like Mozilla -- they seem to treat developers like adults.

Counter data:

semi-active search time span: ~4-5 weeks

where: just craigslist & python.org

what: sr. level web frontend or backend

companies: all small/startups, but none are well known in HN

emails sent: I'm quite choosy actually, only applied to ~4 positions a week, which equates to ~20 sent.

results: ~75-80% replied,

out of those replied: ~50-60% replied within a day or two, 2 took more than a week to get back to me, which strangely enough, followed thru with deeper phone interviews.

no on-site interviews (although ~25% I applied are remotes) until one of those turned out to be a recruiter.

Note: I wanted to avoid recruiters since didn't have good experience with them before. But this time it turned out pretty good, got to interview a few companies and landed a decent gig. But since this thread is about no response from direct emails, I did not include these data points from recruiter in my results.

Interesting points. Possibly a strong correlation to where you're located vs. the original poster?

It's just ordinary courtesy for a company to acknowledge your application, and then send you a "thanks, but no" letter after a human has reviewed it.

But if you want unusual arrangements like remote working, you are going to have a hard time going through the blind CV channel. What works in these cases is either personal contacts, even over several hops, and/or establishing an online reputation that creates a virtual contact network. Your github projects, blog, JS experiments, history of patches to TeX [1] will make you stand out. Even a little contribution to an Open Source project will get you a CV line and maybe a reference from someone with name recognition.

You are a grown up with kids, so you don't have time to waste. You can't hack demos all day like an undergrad. But a little time spent this way might pay dividends in career development.

The point is not to be a CV in the pile. Get noticed some other way, and don't expect your CV to glow like Charlie's Golden Ticket. The more senior you get, the more important this stuff is. A few years out of school and you should forget about CVs until someone asks you for one, so they can tell their colleagues about you.

[1] Joke.

Specifically in response to the time gaps: it's true that time gaps are bad, but keep in mind these are startups, which means they're juggling about twenty thousand different things at the same time. I think in that domain in particular, some slack may be in order as compared to a 20,000-strong corporation with a dedicated HR department.

Re: weird extra steps: the idea isn't that they're cool. The idea is that if you are willing to attempt it and solve it successfully, it says something about your problem-solving skills. It's not the be-all end-all, but it seems like a decent first-pass filter.

Re: cultural mismatch: if it's a cultural mismatch, you probably shouldn't apply anyway. The thing about a startup is, there are five or ten of you. This isn't just another job. You generally don't just come in at 9, work work work, maybe take lunch with your teammates, and trip it out at 5. You don't just attend the company Christmas party. A startup is typically very much like a family, because everything is riding on everyone. When someone quits IBM, the teammates write it off as a “whatever”. When someone quits at a startup, you spend some serious time looking around to make sure there's nothing scaring them off, because every individual counts a great deal.

In short, culture is critical, and even as a married father of two, signing up for a startup is signing up for a culture and a tight-knit group of friends as much as it is signing up for a job.

I don't know about IBM, but I have worked in several large well established companies and when someone (decent) quits everyone looks around to figure out WTF is going on.

I have lived through 2 mass exoduses, where a company started going downhill and the top 50% of developers all leave within 6 months of each other (often in groups).

There is nothing inherently special about a startup. Many established companies have make or break projects, and working on them requires the same sort of commitment.

In short, don't take shit off of potential employers. If they can't get it together enough to get back to you and treat you with whatever level of respect you expect, then that's a sign that you probably don't want to work there.

That's actually fair. After I walked away from the keyboard I realized I was probably unfair to larger corporations. That said, I feel like someone leaving a 5-person company is usually a bigger deal than someone leaving a 20-person team in a 20,000 strong company. Would you disagree?

At the company level I think you are right, at the team level if feels similar (at least in my experience). I guess I will caveat that by saying that the teams where I worked were well established units who worked closely on the same projects together. In companies where the teams are constantly rearranged I imagine there is more of a disconnect from you colleagues.

If you work as part of a twenty member team, then for most purposes that team is the company to you. Everyone else in the company is more or less outsourced services to your team.

But you're right, it is a bigger deal.

It's not the be-all end-all, but it seems like a decent first-pass filter.

It is really not, I have been round and round about this with every organization that I have been in that does these. The only thing it displays is the persons ability to answer trivia and solve puzzles. These are not the characteristics of a great developer, the characteristics of a great developer are simplicity, creativity and rapidly adaptation.

You would be better off handing them a paint brush and a canvas and using that as a measure of their creativity. If that seems like a weird concept, then you start to get a picture of how far off these trivia puzzles are, they are literally of no value, not only that they can filter out the best candidates and worse yet they make a company seem like a bunch of elitist that think they are smarter than the average bear.

Good to hear the input, actually. I haven't personally used the puzzle, I was just saying it seemed like a decent filter. Obviously I was wrong in my perception :)

Sure I was not trying to represent it as your view, just trying to highlight the deceptively simple but flawed reasoning in this hiring practice. People believe that because logic is involved having a trick logic puzzle will filter out bad candidates, but given the nature of development there are other more important qualities of a candidate such as creativity that are not tested and are not displayed in a logic puzzle. So you may filter out a guy that is not real strong on logic but is extremely creative. The creative guy is more important in 90% of the tech jobs out there, and further you only need one person strong on logic in the team because he can be consulted for tough logic, the creative guy cant be leaned on in the same manner to make the non-creative creative. The logic guy can't go to the creative guy and say hey give me a hand with being creative.

I believe Google hiring practices that favor these kind of logic puzzles is one of the reasons they have had such an issue innovating in the market place. An overwhelming focus on hiring the technically smartest guy in the room, by nature filters out the most creative guys in the room (it's a right brain, left brain thing). The trick is finding the guy that is right in the middle of the two.

Re: weird extra steps: the idea isn't that they're cool. The idea is that if you are willing to attempt it and solve it successfully, it says something about your problem-solving skills. It's not the be-all end-all, but it seems like a decent first-pass filter.

The problem is that you're asking candidates to spend 1+ hour before you've even given them a personal response. I've seen positions with well known companies who ask you to do 4+ hours of work before they even talk to you in person. Imagine if every company did that?

I've had a company give me a written hour-long (easy) test followed by a several-hour-long coding assignment without contact from anyone technical. (Both administered by a secretary/office manager - I appreciate them tons but not when I'm trying to get a sense for your technical organization.) Sorry, I don't think so.

I fought really hard to keep my hiring process from requiring a time intensive hoop for candidates to jump through. I felt that it would put off all but the most desperate. Desperate isn't what I was looking for.

Indeed. I have a blog and some code on GitHub. Admittedly neither of them have been updated in a couple of month, but they're there, and if anyone wants to know about my abilities or style, they can go look. Solve a puzzle? Don't waste my time.

The people who have time for an 8 hour coding puzzle are the people who aren't doing anything else with their time.

I'm not going to go out and solve project euler style problems for a company unless they are paying me. My time has value, and asking me to give away hours of it on the hope of an interview is not really acceptable. I'd rather find an open source project and submit patches instead... that IMO has a lot more to do with what I'd be doing at a company anyway.

"You generally don't just come in at 9, work work work, maybe take lunch with your teammates, and trip it out at 5" and "signing up for a startup is signing up for a culture"

Who said anything about 9-5? I previously worked at a fast-paced startup for 2 years, which is well represented on my resume. I have a good idea what I am in for.

Fair enough. But it seems like at that point it should be clear that a culture fit is part of the qualification when you're looking for a “qualified developer”, no?

At one company I was working the career section was listing open position and we were actually doing cost cutting layoffs. Not listing position on your company website is seen as a bad signal to send to the public and your investors. Sometimes, it's more a marketing statement than anything.

Reading some of the comments here, I think the real reason companies are having problems hiring might be that they're unwilling to pay someone with 7/4 years of experience 25% more than a bigco will pay an undergrad straight out of school.


I tend to agree with the OPs thoughts - companies often don't respond, even when, in general, the industry (and perhaps some of those same companies) publicly moan about not being able to find people.

When did having 7 years of experience make someone a sr level developer? I don't think I started using that level for myself until I had 10 years experience. I guess to each his own. Just like everyone's a "founder" these days, everyone else is a "sr level developer"???

What's a "CTO of a side project" look like? I understand it shows a lot of initiative, but depending on the types of companies applied at, it wouldn't come close to what they expect of a "sr level developer".

I guess I'm just old (sorry, senior) and grumpy this morning. :)

Senior, these days, means something like "I can create a working computer program without any auto-inserted boilerplate".

I can't tell if that's serious, or cynical, or what.

Perhaps a different thread, but what does "senior dev" mean to people these days? What did it used to mean?

I want to add something from my own experience.

One particular company I was interested in had few puzzles on their website. I once worked the whole weekend to solve them as good as I can. Spent lot of time writing a custom cover letter, resume and attached the C++ solutions to the puzzles.

Its been several months and I am still waiting for the damn reply!

If you complete phone screens on 1 out of every 10 inquiries you send, you are doing very well in my opinion.

If those phone screens do not turn into full interviews or offers, that is a statement on how they went, not on company responsiveness.

Frankly, I don't think your stats show a lack of response at all. I think they are very reasonable, as some level of non-responsiveness is natural, when you account for the fact that you gave them enough information to summarily dismiss you from consideration if you don't match their needs or culture.

But even a summarily dismissive response is better than silence (click 'reply', paste in "Sorry, your cover letter doesn't indicate a good fit", click 'send').

While I agree with the author that there does seem to be people just wasting time in the market, I did have the same reaction as you to the phone screen numbers. 8 out of 10 of my phone screens convert into an offer. There is a very human element at the point of a phone screen and maybe that has something to do with the numbers. If the author was just doing an experiment and not truly interested in the position, it may have show through in the phone screen or there could have been other issues with it. It seems weird to me to get to the phone interview and just waste time.

Yap - 80% will not even reply. When I was doing "market discovery" for my startup I sent resumes (real one - no fake things) to all these potential competitor to see how competent they are.

I narrowed down to two competitors and amazingly these two companies did end up leading the entire market.

In order words, the first contact with the company tells you much more about company than any other things. So if somebody does not answer on your email with resume you probably should assume they will not be around for long.

I'm going to say it because it seems no one else is. I apologize ahead of time for my brutal honesty.

You need to consider the possibility that you're not as competent as you believe yourself to be. Dunning-Kruger[0] is real, and your post doesn't demonstrate the self-awareness the best developers seem to possess.

Your writing is sprinkled with emoticons and rife with reduplicated punctuation, both of which (especially the exclamation points) are common signs of immaturity. Reading this diatribe--and assuming your 50 emails were written similarly--I am forced to accept one of two conclusions: either you're not aware that your writing is unprofessional, or you're aware that it's unprofessional and unconcerned. Either option does not reflect well on you. To put it bluntly, if I received an email from you in this style, I would archive it without response, assuming it was from someone who lacked the requisite introspective capability I expect from the people I want to work with.

I found it particularly telling that you claim that all five of your phone screens went "very well" but marveled that only three companies tried to set up an onsite interview with you. Unless both the two companies that stopped at the phone screen simultaneously filled the position immediately after your phone screen, you really need to recognize that at least those two phone screens did not go well. I do interviews at a large Internet company, and one of my goals--one of the goals that I've been trained to seek--is to ensure that the candidate, no matter how bad, walks away from the interview feeling good about himself/herself and the company. If you're doing really poorly in an interview, I'll toss you some easier questions than I normally give, because I have all the information I need, and I don't want you to have a negative experience with my company. You may have felt good about the phone screens, but the most likely explanation for the two companies that didn't bring you onsite is that you didn't actually do well enough to justify additional interviews. These people want to hire someone, and if you were someone they wanted to hire, they certainly would have continued to interview you.

I think your experiment was less valid than you think it was because you're less competent than you think you are.

EDIT: I should add that whatever the case, whether I'm right or wrong about you, the best response to the situation you're in is to seek to improve yourself, not to embark on a quixotic venture to change others. Read CS theory books, create and modify open source projects, solve fun programming puzzles: sharpen your skills and--no matter what your level of competency--your prospects will improve.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

While we're waxing psychological, I should also point out the Just World bias[1]. Sometimes, capable people have difficulty getting jobs they're qualified for due to reasons outside their control. And having been on both sides of the table, I can say that identifying good developers is hardly a precise science (I mean, you're judging him based on emoticons and whether you see any token modesty), and many if not most people who are genuinely great at software development are terrible at demonstrating it.

Also, you need to consider the possibility that the author doesn't show any signs of self-reflection because he/she is so frustrated. I've spent 3 months looking for a job all the while seeing people complaining about how hard it is to find developers, and it is incredibly frustrating.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis

* Sometimes, capable people have difficulty getting jobs they're qualified for due to reasons outside their control.*.

This and some people just suck at the interview process. Ive been praised in the past for the quality of teams I've built. I think I'm good at hiring. That being said a few times when ive been an interviewer (not the hiring manager) I've tried to talk people out of hiring people who ended up being rockstars. I've also had other managers try to talk me out of hiring some folks I've been sold on who ended up being rockstars themselves.

Point being that hiring is a very inexact science. Sometimes when the bar is set high qualified people slip through the cracks. It's a hiring "cost". Sometimes you just do the best you can with an inexact science.

For what it's worth, more recent studies can only reproduce Dunning-Kruger for simple tasks, for difficult tasks the unskilled have a far more realistic view of their abilities than the highly skilled: http:/www.chicagocdr.org/cdrpubs/pdf_index/cdr_560.pdf

You said you found the writing style immature, but have you considered the job ads of the companies OP might have applied to? "Xbox's PS3 Nerf guns Starcraft/Rock band competitions !!!".. How mature is that?

I am not talking about the 20% interviews where it didn't workout, but the other 80% where there was no reply, I am sure many of those job ads won't classify as "Mature" in your view. Some of the best programmers i know can't write even proper English sentences, since its not their first language. Do you think they are any less able to do the job? And does it disqualify from expecting even a reply to their application?

I completely agree with all your arguments except for one , writing proper English is really a skill that a developer need to have. On this post http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/CollegeAdvice.html the first advice that Joe gives to the college student is Learn to Communicate and he has some good arguments for it. I too am not a native English speaker by the way.

I keep writing to men, but they're not responding even though our dating ads are both significantly male!

"Dunning-Kruger" "doesn't demonstrate the self-awareness the best developers seem to possess" "requisite introspective capability" "I do interviews"

Really? Do you pay bills with your code?

"To put it bluntly" "you're less competent than you think you are"

To put it bluntly you sound like a pretentious arse.

And looking back on the posters comment history, I would tend to agree. There is tons of absolutes, argumentation and quite a lack of tact.

Maybe I'm similar, but I can say that based on comments I've seen here I'd be far more likely to email jemfinch back than up_and_up.

I think it really depends on the company you are hiring for. At my present one, personality is absolutely as important as skill, so if you sound like a pretentious snob we probably won't be interested in you. At my last company (a fortune 500), if you sounded like the OP, we definitely wouldn't get back to you.

I'm interested in which particular comments you think demonstrate a lack of tact, and how you would improve them to be more tactful, if you have the time.

This one. The tactful thing would be to first accept the possibility you may at times come off as a bit conceited before asking for evidence and advice.

So in general I totally agree with you. The issue is the communication style conveyed in the post above is no way similar to the communication style conveyed in to email and resume. My email was much more professional.

I think your tome is somewhat off base.

The demand for inconvenient truths is always lower than the demand for reassuring lies. My tone is as polite as I could make it while making the points that I believe needed to be made.

Lol. I said "tome". As in a lengthy diatribe. The "tone" of your comment seemed fine.

I thought you'd made a typo. A "tome" is a heavy book, not a lengthy diatribe. The book could be a lengthy diatribe, but it could also be an annotated edition of The Odyssey. I suppose you could have called a long comment a "tome" out of playfulness, but it wasn't the clearest choice of words.

The tone in his usage of the word tome reminds me of tl;dr, or rather, tl; did read but will not argue your points.

Although the original post does come off as ad hominem.

"ad hominem" is totally going on the HN bingo card :)

Right next to "Dunning-Kruger", I hope.

Actually, it's always "Dunning-Kruger" with a link to the wikipedia article to make it more authoritative.

So the "Full Version" is apparently not what your email said. That wasn't clear until the above comment.

In the "Full Version", if I was a hiring authority, which I am not (although I have been in past lives), there isn't enough there to warrant a second look. Did you have a cover letter? How many pages were in your resume? What projects have you done?

In what you have shared here, we see only keywords and some snark. Keywords don't cut it with real hiring managers.

If that's your natural communication style, your "more professional" style is probably drone-ish and fake. The probe most active on that first contact with an applicant is the honesty one, and it's pretty easy to trip when you're not in your natural voice.

That actually explains my interviewing experience pretty well. Every job that I've been hired for I was sure that the interview did not go all that well.

Man, I'm struggling with this at the moment. Either the places I've contacted are finding other people better than me (significantly), or I just suck. Auto-reply emails (if that) don't really tell me much unfortunately.

I do interviews at a large Internet company, and one of my goals--one of the goals that I've been trained to seek--is to ensure that the candidate, no matter how bad, walks away from the interview feeling good about himself/herself and the company. If you're doing really poorly in an interview, I'll toss you some easier questions than I normally give, because I have all the information I need, and I don't want you to have a negative experience with my company.

This may be a common attitude, but I hope you're aware that it is quite inconsiderate to the person in the long run. Yes, it is painful to tell people they suck. It may be terrible to do it during the phone interviewing process. But have you at least considered following up with a brief email telling the person that the interview actually didn't go that well?

Yes, this is a potential minefield. But if you never give people this type of feedback, how are they going to improve?

Well... It could be argued that these companies are not in the business of improving people that they don't want to hire.

It's, as you claim, painful, and the net gain for the company is close to zero. Why do it?

Other red flags include:

    "Machine learning ...." <-- too many dots, space after "learning"

Right, but this sort of informal enthusiasm is normal in the Ruby world, whereas it would grate in a Python or C++ environment.

Your company interview training included "horns and haloes", right?


It took me 2.5 months to interview start to finish with a several mil backed startup, and I had to constantly bother them to set up my interviews despite they had a person recruiting full time. Compare this with an top company in the valley I interviewed with and the process was streamlined and only 1 month. Both included on-site interviews.

I think the problem is every startup is making up their own hiring formula/process, and until it is internally figured out, anyone who tries to interview will get delayed. Product is being developed PLUS they have to figure out their perfect hiring process... That being said, luck with timing is also important in interviewing for a startup IMO.

LESSON: riddle/puzzles/challenges might seem cool to you but might just seem like another hoop to me.

I understand this sentiment, but pre-interview homework (provided that it's reasonable) is one of the best indicators of enthusiasm, attention to detail, creativity, and ballpark of coding skill. Most importantly it reveals how you will react to solving one of our problems which, if hired, is what you'll be doing most of the time.

The problem with that is that you then end up in the second pile when we sort job offers (and at present there are plenty of jobs) -- and we know it so we know that your employees are more likely to be second rate, the kind who couldn't get a job at the non-hoop companies.

And who really want to work with second-rate programmers?

Of course if you are Google, Facebook or another company as well know (or potentionally profitable) then you might have an alternative.

The problem with that is that you then end up in the second pile when we sort job offers (and at present there are plenty of jobs) -- and we know it so we know that your employees are more likely to be second rate, the kind who couldn't get a job at the non-hoop companies.

No programming interview process is perfect, and the small homework assignment should be accompanied by due diligence on both sides — technical interviewing by the company, background research of the company and/or founders by the candidate, etc. Interpreting a small, reasonable homework assignment as a sign that the company only hires second-rate programmers is a fast jump to a very pessimistic conclusion.

That said, one recent candidate wrote us very angrily that he was pursuing N other companies and didn't have time to do any "silly" homework assignment. He claimed that the very-domain-specific, open-source project he maintains should be enough of a coding example. I felt that was fine; if he didn't want to spent a small amount of time to complete a small request from us (and possibly show off a little) and return the favor the time _we_, a company of <10 people, were spending on _him_, it probably wasn't a good fit anyway.

This might be true if the assigned problem is trivial. If the assigned problem is difficult, I will be glad to know that all the other developers also did it.

Unfortunately, most companies use this as a pre-screen and assign an easy problem. There are exceptions, though. For example, ITA Software's hiring problem is the hardest part of their interview process. DeviantArt has done something similar, but I'm not sure if they are still doing it.

Ability to relocate: Open to idea, can't right away

That's why few were interested.

I don't buy it. His explanation is more plausible.

We're on-site only in Chicago, NYC, and SFBA, and have to confirm with every candidate that they're willing to work in one of those locations. "Open to relocation" is a sequence of words that gets you past that step in our hiring process. Lots of people can't honestly promise relocation without knowing what the offer is going to be.

No, I think it's a lot more likely that he's simply right, and startups suck at returning email. I base that on grim personal experience as well.

It can be hard to keep up. Lots of people you don't want to say "no" to, and instead ask a bunch of follow up questions or offer some advice to. I end up with an email folder full of those, and a couple weeks later manage to plow through them. Of course, the experience for the candidate is (sadly): mailed, they went dark.

And we care a lot about recruiting; it is probably the thing we care most about (it's the only rational reason I'm on HN, for instance). Lord knows how bad startups that haven't realized how important recruiting is are with emails. Lots of startups still see recruiting as a hazing opportunity.

I took a job at Scribd at least in part because their lead recruiter, Jack, was the only one of six recruiters / companies to whom I spoke who could be bothered to read my individualized cover letter before speaking to me on the phone. I put in 2-3 hours of research per company before applying, and my cover letters were written for the firm and position. Most people couldn't be arsed to read 3-5 paragraphs.

How do you think things would have gone differently if he had answered with a clear yes? I think, at best, he would have gotten a few more phone calls, but the rest of the story would have been the same.

Few startups are well equipped and capable of relocating a mid career developer /w a house and family, and yet they're the ones complaining loudest about not being able to hire enough.

Have YC startups done well with a founder(s) remote after the initial 3 months? For example, two stay there and one moves elsewhere but is able to continue contributing at a founder-level?

I also thought that the results were this poor maybe not because the companies were so bad at communicating with potential hires but because OPs' resumes weren't as interesting as he made them out to be.

I can imagine that things like "Telecommuter?: Pretty please" and - as you mentioned - "Ability to relocate: Open to idea, can't right away" might've turned off a couple of the companies OP contacted.

What I would've liked to have seen was a more generally formulated and well-engineered resume that would've appealed to all but the most incompetent of HR decision makers, or even better, to A/B split test the email copy.

As such I don't think the post was as meaningful as made out to be.

The resume and letter were very professional unlike the post above FYI. All the silly text/ snark was occluded.

You didn't post your full resume, but as a hiring manager I can tell you that the telecommuting preference and the previous listed experience as CTO might have disqualified you from a number of companies, even if they are presumably open to distributed development and multiple levels of talent.

On the other hand, the fact you didn't receive a response at all from so many (we typically send a note to every applicant who makes the effort to contact us) is surprising. Many companies use a tracking system of some sort to classify and manage recruiting workflow - most of these are utter tripe.

Why would the previous listed experience as CTO have disqualified him?

I'm only guessing but I can see how someone would view him as being overqualified.

Leading from that, someone who is overqualified for their current job is probably bored and looking for a new job.

in my experience, they don't bother to send a reply. The way I see it, if you apply for a job that was advertised it's good manners to reply. If you send in your CV unsolicited then it's fair enough not to hear back.

For what it's worth, I'm involved in the hiring process at chartboost.com. (Company tripled in employee size the past couple months!) When we get a resume / inquiry from somebody who wants to work remotely, it's instant rejection. Telecommuting is a long debate whose scope is outside of this discussion, but for a lot of companies that's a tough sell. Especially at 115k.

Sorry to hear that, I once read a quote that said hiring is about getting the best person available in your market at the time you are looking for them. There are two constraints there both of them hinged on time, the first being the developers timing of being on the market and the second being your timing of need for the position. Both of those conspire against you in your ability to find the best person. When I realized this, I realized that companies can actually take a few steps to stop those forces from acting against them.

First, they can stop hiring for positions and start hiring good people, if a good person becomes available, hire them. Find a position for them they will make you more money. This clear the window of their time line.

The second is the companies timing of having a need and for a company not willing to look at a global market, that need is constrained to the best available talent in their geographical region, this is a huge constraint to put on oneself given the fact that by just letting a developer who can do all of their job off-site, work from a remote location, the barrier can be removed. I am amazed that companies still conspire against themselves in such a manner.

I like the points you make. Working remotely is how product development and many other tasks that require highly skilled professionals is getting done in 2011. Working out of offices every day of the week is an archaic practice.

A bit over ten years ago I worked briefly at a company that didn't have internet access for the employees, so people had to write down things they needed to look up on paper and then look it up at home when they got back from work. The company, which had been around for decades and was an engineering shop, predictably went bankrupt because they were not able to adapt to modern conditions. You have to be able to keep up if you are going to work in the tech industry. This applies to companies even more so than employees.

Companies that can't handle working remotely in 2011 are exactly the same. They are dinosaurs and are becoming completely irrelevant. It's no wonder they can't even respond to emails, they are hopelessly confused and mired in the past.

This whole conversation will seem absurd in the post oil future where driving back and forth to work each day when it's completely unnecessary is seen as madness. Face to face interactions? What sort of argument is that anyway. We have had that for a while now through videophones. Almost everything that can be done in an office can be done in a home office. Even 3D prototype fabrication and hardware development is being done remotely.

When a company says they can't handle people working remotely the right response is stunned silence, and then the observation they sure as heck better get that fixed pronto. It's not like it's even difficult to do, it's dead simple and doesn't even cost anything extra. There is simply no excuse for such a level of backwardness in a tech company in this day and age. What's next? Eschewing electricity?

People from more than 3/4 of all the countries in the world took classes at Stanford this quarter and none of them even knew if the professor was wearing pants because everything was remote. Laptops have been around for decades. Video conferencing for several years, IM for decades, collaborative white boards and editing software. Bugtracking and version control are all on the web. What on earth is going on at these companies that they don't know about what is going on? Even hospitals are getting xrays evaluated overseas. Customer support calls from someone in Texas are routed to a customer service rep working out of his kitchen in Ireland. Idle fast food employees at the 10am slump in Idaho are taking orders for the lunch crowd rush at 12 noon for a sister restaurant in Atlanta.

Here's a prediction that is so right I'm calling it a fact. Any tech company at the cusp of 2012 that doesn't have remote employees is on life support. If they can't fix that, I absolutely guarantee you that company is not going to be around 3 years from now. They just aren't. Any skeptics about this, let's check back right here in this comment in 2015 and see who got it right. Will there be any tech companies with no remote employees (other than sole proprietorships with no employees) in 2015? I say no.

People from more than 3/4 of all the countries in the world took classes at Stanford this quarter and none of them even knew if the professor was wearing pants because everything was remote. Laptops have been around for decades. Video conferencing for several years, IM for decades, collaborative white boards and editing software. Bugtracking and version control are all on the web. What on earth is going on at these companies that they don't know about what is going on? Even hospitals are getting xrays evaluated overseas.

There is a crucial observation in this particular portion of your post. Remote development forces you to streamline processes like "put everything into the bug tracker" and "diagram everything on the whiteboard". Having remote developers can actually force you to become a more streamlined and efficient company. You are right though, with Skype, bug trackers, and SaaS there is no valid reason why someone can not consider a remote candidate, save for some serious security concerns, like top secret classified information and systems.

Can you name any drawbacks to working remotely?

I am going to go out on a limb here and say no, other may disagree and may have valid concerns but the benefits on both sides far outweigh the drawbacks. Especially for a start-up, while in product development, a start-up can significantly reduce capital expenditures by not having payable for facilities. This is a huge burden on a new company and the elimination of it, is by far one of the greatest advantages. Even in established companies it can help them to significantly reduce their footprint. The developer does not incur anymore expenses because they are already paying, housing, electricity, internet, phone, etc.

As well one of the other great benefits of having a distributed team is that you already have the process in place to on-board anyone in the world into your company with little expense. No relocation, no facilities set up, no cube build out.

The biggest concern with remote developer that managers have is "how do I know their working"? That's a red flag from micromanagement, but that is besides the point. The answer to that question should already exist in their in-house solution, all work should be done through a ticket system, and source control, if it is not then they have a lax process already and they probably have people who are not working right under their nose. The fact that a manager of development would not know how to answer the question of how to know if people are working, should be concerning to a subordinate of that manager, it may reflect that they are incompetent at their job.

To me their are no draw backs, I was actually opposed to distributed development a few years ago, I though it would isolate developers and not allow them to form a cohesive bond. It was ignorance on my part because Open Source projects have been proving the opposite for a long time now. I just finished a contract with IBM that was over 20 individuals on the team, all of which where remote. With Skype and other tools it was no different than all of us being in the same office. Those kind of successes changed my mind on the subject.

Yes, there are many disadvantages to remote work.

* Can't have lunch with coworkers. Lunch has always been a good time for socializing about non-work events and developing camaraderie.

* Can't go out drinking after work with coworkers, same benefits.

* It takes much more time to personally prepare one's own lunch than taking advantage of free healthy food now offered as standard benefit at campus by most reputable tech companies like Google.

* No employer provided on-campus child care.

* No employer provided Friday massages.

* When you don't feel like working, can't chit chat discretely about TV and sports with workers for several hours.

* Less mentorship capabilities for senior experienced engineers to be paired to train and guide freshmen. However, I haven't seen this in many companies so it's not going to be missed most places.

It's always been an advantage to work remotely if you are doing stuff where you are a sole worker who is able to work on black box projects where you get a spec or desire in and return a finished product. This works best for people that are recognized experts and is a subset of work possibilities.

The real sticking issue has always been retaining the advantages of highly collaborative group and team work. Being able to talk face to face, have all hands meetings, have access to the company source control server, be able to work on something in the same room with someone working collaboratively at the whiteboard and in a text editor. Ten years ago this was completely impractical as the infrastructure was just not in place.

All of that has changed rapidly in the last decade as tech and services have ramped up and delivered in spades. Not only is work able to be done electronically, but it is regularly being done electronically, and it works every bit as well as face to face, often even better since you have more control over distractions.

It's not only super advanced high tech companies taking advantage of technologies like video conferencing either. It's not leading edge at all anymore. Video conferencing comes built in to the ordinary inexpensive cell phones regular people have, and people with absolutely no technical ability are using it every day. It's an ordinary part of contemporary life. It is so common to do now, the idea that companies aren't doing it already or are fearful of it is quixotic and surprising that there are hold outs who are so backwards. It's like hearing about someone from the 1950s who came out of a stasis pod or emerged from a bomb shelter who isn't aware that cell phones and laptops exist. The suggestion that some of these companies are claiming to be startup high tech companies is almost completely absurd and unbelievable. You have to wonder what sort of investors are so clueless they would invest in management of a tech company of all things that simply doesn't know what it is doing and seems oblivious or hostile to the realities of the modern world.

I think you're both right. I couldn't come up with any real deal-breakers, either. I've been thinking of working from home a couple of days a week, but I thought maybe I wasn't thinking it through. I'm going to raise you 2020 though.

He clearly said that he targeted companies claiming that they accommodate telecommuting.

>Especially at 115k.

If you think $115k is a lot for a senior position in SF, you are going to have trouble finding good people.

It's a lot for a remote employee. For a good senior on-site dev I'd gladly pay that, or more.

OK, then I don't get it. Why do you want to pay a remote employee less than on-site? This is assuming that your company was amenable to the idea in the first place.

The employee off site is actually cheaper than on-site. Theoretically, you should be willing to pay more, not less.

If the employee is not manageable off-site then you have a problem but an offer can be made conditionally that the first 3 months are a trial and if it doesn't work, then you are canned.

Why is off-site worth less money?

I don't think you understand what motivates management very well. An off site employee is almost worthless to a manager's prominence and career.

And I would gladly take less if I could live somewhere cheaper. Let's say you offered $115k for me to work onsite in SF. I would take $95 to be able work from home in Los Angeles, or $75 to be able work from outside the US.

Why does their working location matter?

Are you having trouble finding developers?

Did you customize your email at all for each company?

As someone on the receiving end, I'm way more likely to send you a personal response if you've sent me a personal email, regardless of whether you seem like a good fit for the job. Even if you don't know the recipients, include a sentence about why you're interested in working on their product or space.

If it's clear you're just blasting out your resume, and you don't seem a 100% perfect fit, I'm probably not going to take the time to send you a personal response. I'd like to reply to every applicant, I just don't have time.

Am I missing out on qualified candidates? Maybe. But interviewing and hiring takes a lot of time and resources away from building product. And I've found that applicants who have done their due diligence on our company and product are way more likely to be solid candidates and get all the way through the interview process, making the time spent 100% worth it.

Yes every email was custom and nothing canned.

I agree. I have been on the interview trail for 10 months and do not get responses to either emails or phone calls. I have a masters degree, loads of experience, and a strong work ethic. I have a patent, have published cited papers, and have 4 commercial languages I co-authored. I am a lead developer on 3 open source projects, one of which contains about a million lines of code. All I see are "ninja/super/god-like" developer ads. Something is broken somewhere.


I think part of the problem you've identified is that many companies are constantly in "resume trawling mode" even if they have no intention of hiring immediately.

HR people like to keep lots of resumes on file, the fresher the better, so that when they're tasked with filling a seat immediately, they're not starting from zero.

The fact that this practice sucks for the job-seeker is of little concern; they've optimized their process according to their own needs.

Wild card: the reason is that tech companies want an excuse to hire cheap immigrants.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but H1Bs are time consuming/expensive to set up and greatly increase the risk/difficulty of hiring unless you have a process set up and in-house legal to deal with all the paperwork.

Large corporations maybe, but not small startups.

Immigrants who already have residency and a US work history work at US market rates. (Signed, an immigrant with residency, working at US market rates).

If you mean "hire cheap immigrants" to work in the US... yeah right! As soon as a hiring company reads "H1B" your application goes right in the bin. It's too much work, especially for smaller companies, but even larger ones know that it's work they don't need to do with so many applicants out there.

Indeed. To get an H1B visa for someone the job has to have been publicly advertised (ie on internet/YC job-board)... they are probably just going through the motions having already decided who they are hiring...

Yes, off shore workers, not H1B workers

I'm going to call shenanagins. I've been contacting startups recently for my job listing newsletter and have been getting excellent replies. To be fair, I'm asking if they want to be interviewed and have their job position sent to the email list, not asking to be hired.

But people are reading incoming emails and are interested in hiring. Maybe they just didn't like your email/tone?

Number 1 reason is your lack of ability to relocate right now. It's hard for companies to hire someone remotely and give them a lot of control without knowing more about them.

I do agree with some of your points though. Anytime I hear the "we have xboxes" I immediately translate that to we pay crap and hope the kids we hire don't notice in between games of CoD. The other day a guy was giving me a pitch to come work at his startup and kept talking about the xbox and the office location. Note to companies pitching to potential employees. Idea, equity cut, and salary in that order are way more important than having Aeron chairs.

Here's some news for you: the vast majority of companies don't respond, and it cuts across all economic sectors and positions (tech, non-tech). Myself, friends and colleagues have determined companies which do respond are the (rare) exceptions.

Rack this up to such a large influx of resumes for each announced position that responses just aren't feasible, to HR folks who can't be bothered to lift a finger after seizing hiring control away from the managers.

To me, this is just indicative of how a company treats its employees.

I think the most important part of your research is that there is a myth that you have to hire young people who like playing video games. You reap what you sow when those are your hiring goals. Many talented senior developers are completely turned off by that type of ad.

The statistic of 80% of companies not responding is pretty stark. I'm curious if you applied exclusively to start ups. I think the "resume black hole" complaint is a pretty common one, no matter the size of the potential employer. If you're applying online, to relatively larger companies, there might be more feedback available to you than you might think.

Here's my 2 cents:

I'm part of a start-up (StartWire) created by former HR professionals, aimed at dealing with the pain point of not hearing back from employers. We work with the resume submission platforms used by most major companies to provide feedback to applicants - from confirmation that your resume was received, to notice that you've been disqualified or that the job is no longer posted. This isn't going to make you like a potential employer who couldn't find the time to get in touch with you personally any better, but it could give you some valuable feedback as what is going on when you don't hear anything. Maybe something about your resume has gotten you frequently disqualified before a person ever sees it. Hopefully it can be a helpful idea to those who are frustrated by the current process.

3. Weird extra steps...riddle/puzzles/challenges might seem cool to you but might just seem like another hoop to me.

I can't wait until this business fad is over.

You're not trying hard enough.

www.lorenburton.com - Airbnb flew me from CHI to SF less than 24 hours after I put the site up, with absolutely no existing connections or contacts.

I certainly agree with the idea of doing a side project. Mine wasn't a resume, but it was something I was trying to turn into a startup. That alone got me lots of interviews.

I went through the "Who's Hiring" thread on HN for a couple of months and wrote custom emails to of companies at places I'd like to work and was willing to immediately relocate to. Mailing folks through the HN thread worked MUCH better than hitting the HR slush pile. The side project I developed served as a catalyst to get me into many interviews, even if it was just for a phone screen. Eventually I landed a great position at my current employer.

In summary, develop something you can show people that's the direct result of your efforts. Be willing to show them source code. Also get right through to someone who can get things done. The Who's Hiring thread is a great way to do that and works much better than HR submissions. Another source (and the one that eventually worked for me) was programming conferences. I found my current position at PyCon.

I think that if you're really keen to get a position, it's worth following up. People are busy, you get the wrong email address, there are a dozen reasons why your application may not have got to the person it needs to for the hiring process to begin.

Every job I've applied to directly has had at the very least one email and one call, potentially a follow up if they drag their heels. I've rarely failed to get an interview (though to be fair, I've only applied to 10-20 companies at a time, not the 50 the OP has).

I agree though that with all this 'lack of talent' the companies should be chasing us at the merest whiff of interest. Unfortunately people don't always act rationally in there own self interest, so we sometimes have to take the initiative.

I expect that telecommuting and/or salary are the dealbreakers here.

These auto-resume sites apply pretty dumb filters right off the bat, and you probably got kicked out of the responder queue the second you ask for a six-figure pay rate and/or the option to telecommute.

3. Weird extra steps It is not really that weird. Puzzles or math problems are just a faster and highly probable measure of one's aptitude not just for the silly puzzle but how sharp you are even in business decisions. The mind has to be sharp. Trust me this is as important as knowing if you did multi-threaded cluster based algorithm blah blah.

Puzzles as a selection criteria - there will be false positives but too few false negatives.

Recently I was hiring for an online marketing position where being sharp with math actually matters, a lot. The candidate of 2 yr experience refused to take a screening test on aptitude. Very well, rejected as we have no data points of how sharp he was.

Some things from your post are spot on! Especially the riddles. Seriously, you got to tell me how many people deal with riddles in your day to day programming jobs? Do you pick up blank sheets of paper and work on puzzles a considerable part of the day.

Even if you were, I would personally never want to work at a place which has this kind of a culture. I am out looking for a job where good business problems get solved in the most practical way. Which helps both the business and me make money.

Second kind of questions are asking the candidate arcane and rare facts that can be known only through rote memorization. Like asking him to work on some concept/data structure/algorithm from a CS text book taught in semester 3 on page 345 of a text book 2000 pages big.

There is nothing great about knowing an algorithm, inventing a new algorithm is special but not knowing one. Worse case anybody can know what you know by searching.

Asking irrelevant questions to the job, gives you a very high rate of false negatives. You are missing out on some very good and productive people.

This is exactly what happens, you ask some irrelevant questions and consider the guy useless. The same guy goes works at some php shop which is solving some business problems which get him and the company good money. And here you are searching and filtering candidate as per your requirements. Meanwhile you see, your start up failing and the average guy there winning. Suddenly you shout out 'Worse is better'.

You've got be brutally honest and practical in software engineering. If you are academics its a different game.

Remember your fantasy elitism in building a dream product and plans to hire rock stars to do it is nothing if it fails. The average guy still ends up winning even if he has 1/10 decent the product of your dreams, if he has a product to sell now.

Your salary expectations are awful high for a telecommute position. Next time you could consider letting them warm up to you before throwing that out. Also, how can you have expertise in "a bunch of other stuff"? The point of expertise is focus.

Maybe the 40/50 are reading your email. How do you know they are not deciding up front that you're not the right fit?

I don't know where this assumption is coming from, The author is a senior ROR developer, which is very hot in the market, almost as hot as JavaScript, I earned 220k last year, all remote, doing hot technologies. Given his ROR experience $115k is a bargain whether remote or on-site. I am beginning to suspect a lot of people are underselling themselves in the market given the responses to the compensation amount.

>I earned 220k last year, all remote

Are these short or long term contracts? Or a permanent position?

Long term contract, I just passed over a perm gig for $140k + benefits and options which would be close to the same in terms of total compensation. I mainly do very large JavaScript apps with Dojo and jQuery, I also do iPhone and Android development. Ruby and ROR are similar in compensation to those technologies.

kls's numbers are pretty normal compensation for these skills. The people saying it is numbers that are around half that are simply not in tune with market reality. The comments that $115 is too high are almost as bizarre as the comments that there are tech companies in 2011 incapable of dealing with remote workers, or realizing that that is what most successful companies are doing.

Why would you think that salary has to be lower for telecommuting position ? Premise is it will be same quality of work as on site so should be same and company saves on office, space equipment etc..

Cost of living. $70k in one city is the same as $100k in another.

Sorry, but cost of living makes no sense unless the company derives some benefit from being in a more expensive place (the company I work for does).

People with larger houses don't get a higher salary, do they

What this really reflects: how bad people are at hiring. Not at hiring poor performers, just the execution of a hiring process.

Hiring is not easy, and doing it well requires a lot of practice. Most people in the position of hiring for many startups are doing it for the very first time. And they usually suck at it.

Mostly, those companies get out of it what they put into it.

I have always gotten replies from job applications, but where this hits home for me, is the delay. I've had recruiters take a month to reply, at which point I've probably already accepted an offer from another company.

The companies I ended up strongly considering are those which replied the day after, they are the ones actually interested.

I applied to YC a few times ago with something to the ends of "In order to apply, you have to rate 3 other resumes for this position" Does anyone else think this is a good idea? I feel like there are too many people applying that suck, and it would be better to know where you stand/get feedback from other seekers?

You are soooo right on the money on this.. I've got 3 years of Rails experience, and had the same result when applying to several companies. I also come from a top 3 school, and have alot of degrees..

Reading through some of the comments and have come to the conclusion that A LOT of people have no sense of humor. I read this post and chuckled a few times with the understanding that this was not how you actually composed your emails. I cannot believe that someone read this seriously thinking it was similar to what was submitted to companies. Let's hope that the "pretentious arse" learns to take a joke on the future. Thank you for sharing your experiment in a humorous way.

A lot of them probably chose not to reply because there were other candidates that were a better match or you didn't meet their minimum criteria.

Generally at most companies you have to be significantly better than the other candidates to be worth considering as a remote candidate.

I don't think they chose not to respond after deciding that you were a suitable candidate.

Some take-home points/assumptions based on comments and further thoughts etc (not saying I agree with these at all):

1. Remote < In house. Remote developers should not ask for market rate.

2. Putting a CTO role on your resume (even for side project) disqualifies you from consideration for Sr. Developer positions.

3. Positions advertised as "remote friendly" probably aren't.

I have also faced the same problem with Yahoo India. An HR used to call me about the interview schedule everyday but the interviewer would not be calling on time. This happened for 2 consecutive weeks and then the HR stopped replying my emails and calls. Totally Ridiculous!!!

Most companies are going to put it right in the bin at 115K. Not sure if you understand that.

For any of the hot tech $115k is actually about $5k low. The author did state ROR which would put him in the hot tech camp and that would be the going rate for that market. I just passed on a w2 position with a pre-IPO company that was $140k. $115 is actually a bargain rate for a senior developer.

I think 115K for a quality, senior engineer is not unreasonable (even for a remote job). I received an offer for a pure-telecommute job (which I declined) for slightly above that figure a month ago.

115k is unreasonably low in the current market.

Apparently he didn't put the salary in the initial email, so, that point is meaningless.

why? That's a pretty basic level salary for a senior developer.

I would be interested in seeing your resume and the actual emails you are sending. Perhaps you should be doing some more formal A/B testing with variations on your resume/cover letter.

This could be an interesting startup opportunity :)

I wish i could agree. However, my experiences in getting jobs as a software engineer have been vastly different. I've never spent longer then a week seeking a job in the software industry. This might be some what biased because i haven't been working in the industry all that long (just 2 years now). I'm a self educated hacker/programmer that has been writing hobbyist code for myself for 8 years and have never attended a day of college in my life. My average salary for the past 2 years i've been programming has been 90k-100k and my first job was a full time employee for a multi-million dollar corporation in Pleasanton CA and now i work for a startup in San Francisco thats in the alexa top 300 sites.

When i set out to get my first job as a software engineer i was currently working as a system administrator for a conference center in Redwood City. It was the first job i landed when i got back from my first tour of duty in Iraq as a light infantryman. I was still young at the time, 20 years old, still not legally able to consume alcohol yet old enough where most of my friends were already halfway through college. Discontent with going back to college to study computer science with a bunch of people younger then me and knowing that my work as a systems administrator is not what i'd need to be doing on my path to achieve happiness in life i set out to apply to companies seeking software engineers on craigslist.

I spent maybe an entire day sending my resume out over email directly to companies seeking software engineers. I remember being somewhat selective, i'd say i had to have sent my resume out to less then 10 companies that entire day. Although i don't precisely recall the amount of responses i got, i did get a decent amount of responses and almost all of them came in the next day (yes this was 2 years ago). This shocked the crap out of me, i had no previous software experience on my resume, my only previous work experiences were as follows: a warehouse clerk, light infantry and systems administrator. Never the less, i was doing phone screens (and killing them btw) and setting up in person interviews. The very first interview i went to lasted 2 hours and was the first time in my life where i was ever asked to write code on a white board (idk, maybe this is an academia thing). It was a group of engineers interviewing me so that also spiked up the intensity a bit. However, when the interview ended and the HR person came in, she extended me an offer right then and there and said that this is something she's never had to do before. So i went back to my systems administrator gig the next day, turned in my two weeks notice and two weeks later i was officially a software engineer.

My second job seeking experience was very different and also very recent. Having put up enough with the offshore teams crappy code and a horde of rushed employment contractors that couldn't code their way through fizz buzz, it was time for me to look for a new job. So instead of doing any direct applies immediately i just put my resume up on dice.com. That same day my phone was getting barraged with voicemails from technical recruiters. This was going on during work too so i had to turn my phone off for the day. When i got home that night i did do one direct apply and that was to Yelp. I responded to one of the technical recruiters and she set me up with some options and some phone interviews. The next day i got a call from the technical recruiter at yelp to do a quick prescreen and to set me up with a more in depth phone screen with an engineer so i did that. At the same time the contacts from the recruiter were all doing the same thing, calling me and setting up phone screenings that is. The current company i work for right now was moving slightly faster then everyone else though. I did both phone screenings with Yelp and where i work and they both sent me programming challenges to complete and send in. I did them but where i work got back to me faster and set up an in person interview first. So i went and it was a 3 hour interview this time. This time i left without a job offer after the interview but the technical recruiter ensured me that things were looking good. He called me back later that day and gave me an offer over the phone. That was that.

The single biggest reason it is hard to hire is that good people most often aren't looking for work. They are embedded in other companies or starting their own.

Boilerplate applications that show now interest whatsoever in who we are as a company will be go straight to /dev/null along with all the other spam. We deliberately write our job postings so that's it's easy to check if an applicant is actually interested in working for us.

People who don't have the ability to understand and communicate with the people they will be working for (clients, users) and with (us), or who simply can't be arsed to make the effort are not what we need.

Serious applicants are usually invited within 24 hours, but we will never, ever respond to boilerplate CV-spam.

What is your nationality?

In my experience startups are terrible at operationally executing hiring processes, and developers are terrible at selling themselves.

The plural of API is APIs.


When hiring devs, I definitely look for language skill and attention to detail in syntax. A buggy cover letter or resume suggests buggy code.

mm so the Google developers who put their names to the published APIS are out of luck then :-0

No idea what you're talking about. The OP's description continually refers to "API's". The apostrophe indicates singular possessive, but the OP intended it as a plural.

    - This is one API.
    - Those are several APIs.
    - This API's REST architecture is easy to use.
    - Those APIs' REST architectures are hard to use.

I think the fundamental problem is that companies want a "Sr. Software Engineer" with >7 years of development and >4 years of development in their particular language, who also is young enough to think that "Nerf guns" and "xbox's" [sic] are an appealing "Benefit" and that aren't going to ask anywhere near $115k a year. (a totally reasonable salary, by the way, but I think you lose edge in negotiations by putting that up front. What if they think you're worth $125k? They're now going to offer $110k and let you talk them up to $115k.)

Basically, companies want the impossible, and they are driven by a culture that is very out of touch with the market.

For instance, this is also why they're not so keen on telecommuting.

There are exceptions, of course. But when they can't hire according to their plan, they're going to tell reporters "there's a shortage of good engineers!" where "Good" means "recent college graduates with 7 years industry experience 4 years ruby experience who will work for $60k and nerf bullets."

I see posts like yours and think its a damn shame. You're missing out, and at least some of those 50 companies are missing out... its a lose-lose situation.

I can do no better than to quote the inestimable David "Pardo" Keppel:

There's no shortage of smart, hardworking engineers. There's a shortage of smart, hardworking engineers willing to work for very little money.

If you're having trouble hiring, it's probably because you're not paying enough. It turns out that talented people are worth paying a lot for.

>"If you're having trouble hiring, it's probably because you're not paying enough. It turns out that talented people are worth paying a lot for."

But if you reward hard work and expertise then the shareholders won't make as much money just for being rich ...

another thing that irritates me about these claims of a shortage is that almost all of the companies doing the hiring take pride in their challenging interview process and acknowledge a high rate of "false negatives" - ie., that that they are very conservative about making an offer, and that this does result in a "no offer" to developers who probably would have worked out.

I made this point in a previous thread, and ended up in a lengthy debate/unrelated-parallel-point-making back and forth with someone who pointed out that there's a good reason to set up a hiring system that results in false positives - bad hires are so destructive that it's worth losing out on good hires to avoid the occasional really bad one.

I agree, and I think that companies should be allowed to have as high a standard as they please, and accept as many false positives as they like. I just think that if a company has decided to be selective and accept many false positives, then they've more or less decided to put themselves in a difficult hiring position. Sure, it may be worth it - I certainly think it's worth it. But if that's the case, why on earth is it newsworthy that hiring is difficult? Especially if you aren't offering far above market rate pay?

I disagree. I've interviewed people that failed on our rather easy interview questions but had other redeeming qualities. We ended up hiring these people and nobody has ever turned out well; it would have been better to have no position than to have them. My new rule is, "would I go into business with this person". If not, no hire. Sorry.

When I wrote "Sure, it may be worth it - I certainly think it's worth it", I intended to communicate that I think it's worth putting up with a high number of false negatives to avoid really bad hires... so I think we actually are in complete agreement on this point.

It seems to me that the unspoken issue here is the dichotomy between founder and employee. Not every employee is going to be someone of whom you would say "I would go into business with this person." While I agree that companies should keep standards high, at some point (and I would maintain that point is not very far out on the curve) if you can only hire people you'd form a business with you are going to hit a wall when it comes to growing your company.

I'm not a founder though, I'm employee eight billion at Bank of America. It's just that hiring people that are bad at programming is so demoralizing that it's better to not hire someone unless you're 100% sure they will turn out awesome. Otherwise, you'll spend all your time "helping" them, and neither of you will get any work done. (Nobody ever gets fired because it makes you look bad, or something, so if you make a bad hire, they're here for life. Especially since they are getting paid above market.)

Also, $115k for a senior engineer? Really great "entry level" (i.e. recently graduated but mostly self taught with lots of internships under belt) is going for $110k... most of the "seniors" I know are running $200k plus.

It's funny how every single time there are discussions of salary on HN, there will be wild differences in opinion. You're saying an entry level engineer is getting $110k while some comments later are saying $115k seems high for a senior engineer.

I never know where the truth lies…

It depends on location, in Arizona, 115k for senior is looked at as good, in the Bay Area its crap

In Sweden, it would be viewed as in the realm of fantasy. I don't know anyone who makes that much.

The truth is you gotta get better at negotiating—that goes for everyone.

I think its a bit lower then that if you want to work at a start-up. We're paying Mid-Senior level from $120-150 (Full Stack). I vet hundreds of resumes a month, and we're pretty average / ahead of the game.

My kid brother just graduated CS from Berkeley and got offers ranging from 70-85, plus equity, benefits etc. Still high, but not quite $110k...

Er... "just graduated" and "Senior Developer with 8 years experience" are different tiers.

What defines "really great"? I'm a student graduating in two years and $110k is almost twice as high as the average CS/SE undergrad starting salary from my midwest University.

I'm not sure what defines "really great," but if you interview at half a dozen bay area companies you should get at least one offer like that.

> (...) most of the "seniors" I know are running $200k plus.

Guess asking half the market rate was a serious blunder. Makes OP seem unfamiliar with current salaries of senior-level devs -- and so HR drones assumed he doesn't have any recent senior-level experience.

I'd love to know where seniors command a market rate of $200k+. (Possibly if you figure in benefits, bonuses, etc. - but a salary of $200k+ is still not that easy to get)

Hint: Look at places where 3br houses start at $750K.

I'm right in L.A. Nobody would give you the time of day for $750k, much less a 3 bedroom. :)

I _am_ a sr. dev., and I'm fairly certain I'm not making $200k.

But let's assume I'm not as senior as I like to think I am, and check glassdoor.com instead: http://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/los-angeles-senior-softwar...

The absolute top of the senior ladder lists $200k. At one single company, for one job. (And checking the same thing for Mountain View doesn't yield a significant difference)

So I don't think $110k is "half the going rate" :)

You can also look at aggregate U.S. household income statistics. Only 3% of households make $200k+ in total income, even after you count both incomes for married couples, and including investments/bonuses. And, most of those aren't in tech. So you'd have to have a very particular social circle for it to be anywhere near normal for even senior people to make $200k+. Just by aggregate numbers, low 6 figures is fairly common (16% above $100k), but things drop off rapidly above that (6% above $150k, 3% above $200k, 1% above $300k).

Ah wow, I've never made that much. I keep hearing of developers I've worked with going to new companies and making double what I am now. It always astounds how people say what they're being paid, and how I am just no where near it.

The Bay Area is competing with states with no income tax and lower rent (washington, texas, etc). A $90k wage in Seattle, WA can be equivalent to a +$110k wage in San Jose, CA after state income tax, higher rent and more expensive gas.

You tell me who they are, I'll be sending my CV right away. I'm guessing half of the recruiting work is getting in the right networks...

I'm pretty sure it's just the bay area salary and cost of living inflation vs the rest of the US.

Are you meaning they're getting that, or they're costing that?

For a $70/hour contract (~$140k/year), it actually costs the company north of $90-$100/hour (over $180k/year) when going through a recruiter.

Interesting, are you in NYC or the Bay Area? In our local market, a 7 year ruby developer would command on the order of $75k.

Please note that given a salary of less than about 80K, you are entitled to overtime pay. See the law here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=lab... (section 515.5), with 2011 and 2012 numbers here: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlsr/ComputerSoftware.pdf

EDIT: Forgot to mention, this is California law, so it only applies here in California.

EDIT EDIT: I'm a programmer, not a lawyer. Do your own research and talk to your own lawyer before doing anything drastic, please.

What is your local market?

Orange County, CA

Salaries in the LA basin and San Diego have been in a ghetto since forever, it's really well known. The theory is that there's a lot of surfers that will take a big salary hit to live near the So.Cal. beaches, so it has a permanent depressing effect on salaries. Maybe that's the reason, maybe not, but the fact is that people in LA with skills can instantly double their salary by moving to the Bay.

Given the cost of living in the area, 70k for a senior developer is a nightmare for everyone, but the fact is there's no shortage of people willing to make the trade so it works for you guys and that is fine. There's a bit of a blowback though, because of the low salaries and beliefs they are normal, it's not the best place to start a company doing anything cutting edge that requires the top tier of talent, and that's why all the really cool stuff is still in the Bay and will probably always be there.

Credible citation needed.

A few data points:

I was told by someone with lots of experience that I worked with for a few years that I should expect $110k when I graduate.

Someone I know just left $200k at a multinational megacorp for the same at a 50-person company.

A team of co-founders I know was acquhired by a different multinational megacorp, and they now make $350k-$500k before bonuses, although they've moved up from pure engineering to running teams and managing other developers.

So $200k is the lowest salary I've heard for people I consider "senior".

I was going to write up a summary comment, but I think you hit the nail on the head. I think there is some skewed rhetoric and assumptions being thrown around in the media like you suggest. Regardless, there has to be some honest companies with genuine/real need out there.

I will keep looking for the right situation/job anyway.

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