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Agree 100%.

In my anecdotal experience, companies put far too much emphasis on finding unicorns that can solve problems on a whiteboard than they do on finding above-average developers that have a strong work ethic, can learn fast, and have shipped something.

As it stands, it seems the only people these companies hire are notable SV personalities, or people that excel at the formal interview format.

As a result, they are missing out on a lot of good talent.

Don't even get me started on working remote.




I could upvote this all day. I was rejected by a company that posts about their need for developers constantly, and it irritates me to no end. I provided a big batch of sample code privately, on Github, demonstrated the apps I've shipped, showed great enthusiasm in their product (I was a happy user long before I attempted to join the company). They see all of this before interviews and then they reject me because of how I named a variable in a 15 minute pair-programming exercise and said I should read Code Complete (I have mostly), promptly ignoring the thousands of lines of code they could inspect. I'm sure there was more to it, but still, left a bad taste in my mouth.


That is pretty insulting, especially given the subjective nature of naming things.

Also code complete is ancient, sure much of it is still relevant, I don't think it is the be all and end all though for the modern programmer.


Many interviewers simply can't get past the power-trip of interviews. This turns the interview into an awkward tightrope of appearing smart/dependable without being intimidating.


I find myself getting nervous on both sides of the table.


Just be glad you didn't end up working with these people.


You're absolutely right.

Remote is a non-starter for 99% of start-ups... and a lot of companies that are selling pants online are searching for PhD-level engineering talent to run their shopping cart.


I've noticed this, too, and been baffled by it. My working explanation is that people tend to hire clones of themselves. If the people making the hiring decisions in that online pants company have PhDs, they'll believe they need PhDs to work on that shopping cart.


> people tend to hire clones of themselves

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Ask a company that is hiring "is X important?", where X is one of {open-source coding, algorithm design, Ivy league degree, master's degree, MIT degree, Facebook alum, Google alum, presence in Silicon Valley, under 25 years old, over 25 years old, has a github, has a blog}, and you will get a "yes" for each X that the founder has.


As someone hiring at a pants-selling company, I'd settle for somebody who can recognize a many-to-many relationship.

Our salaries aren't that uncompetitive, either. I think it's just that pants are un-sexy.

At the very least I'm trying to sex things up a bit by moving us to a semi-modern stack so we match the desires of the more ambitious talent in the marketplace...


Just checked pants-selling tech jobs; none of them (in the bay area, where the majority of them are, at least) have a requirement under 3 years. The majority of them are senior roles. Was your HR person flying by the seat of their pants when they wrote the job descriptions? If not, then I must be unaware that recognizing many-to-many relationships is a skill picked up after years of employment.


And as for remote work?


Is this a disco-pants selling company? That's pretty sexy.


note: before my inbox overflows with resumes, you still need to have j2ee experience.

(As much as I'd prefer to hire bright people who can learn on-the-job (a category from which I emerged), our current delivery schedule means we don't have the bandwidth. The reasons behind this are beyond the scope of this comment :( )


But... that seems a bit of a wrong approach. If it takes you another 6 weeks to fill the role, that's 6 weeks someone could have been "learning on the job", no? And there's always a ramp up period - you're making an assumption that the person coming in without X years experience in tech Y will by definition not be able to learn fast enough on the job to be productive enough to hit target Z. But by not filling that role, you're definitely not hitting target Z. I do also get that there's time that's spent in onboarding any new hire, but that's possibly equivalent to spending more time hiring no?

I understand your main point, but I just think many companies hold fast to that position far too long, when the alternatives might be better than they think.


I agree. But I'm not high enough on the totem pole to change the model.

Yet.


Ah, the ole sets-out-to-demonstrate-that-there-is-truly-a-shortage, demonstrates-that-the-shortage-indeed-lies-in-the-number-of-entry-level-jobs.


The startup I co-founded is exclusively remote, with almost everyone in a different USA state. I've found a lot of the talent in the area we're looking for (Minnesota) find remote to be either a new idea (I've done just a little remote before), and perhaps a somewhat strange concept (many are not sure if they could do it all day long).

Is there any good strategy to finding remote workers in a specific geographic location? Yes, that's kind of antithetical to remote working, but the state offers tax advantages to employing people from the state... and looking through the entire state of Minnesota should find someone who's fine working from a home office... right? Or do those types of people really primarily live in the SV area?


Not exactly what you are looking for but might be something interesting for you to check out: venturepact.com


Appreciate you're insight here, if anyone knows first hand, I'd imagine it'd be you with your experience on developerauction.


I can't speak to the Valley or any other "top tier" places but I live in a 2nd tier technology city, Orlando. We are the simulation capital of the world, two full sized Lockheed Martin campuses, really any defense contractor name you can think of, some household brand video game companies, etc. Lots of action going on here. The unemployment rate for developers is under 2%. This means that not only do "above-average" developers have jobs, lots of really awful developers also have jobs. It's INCREDIBLY difficult to find talent with under 3-4% unemployment.


There are a variety of reasons for that, in my experience. In the I-4 corridor the "shortage" is driven by two things, primarily: 1) it's just a crappy place to raise a family, what with the poor public services (parks, transportation, you name it) and school systems (gotta fund those prisons and blame the poor and old people for consuming state-subsidized health care and driving up those costs, y'know); 2) companies there are even more ridiculous than the valley with lowball compensation packages (this is especially true of the simulations and video game companies in the area).

People, especially educated and intelligent people, typically don't want to live in a place that values tourism, guns, and private religious school vouchers over parks, playgrounds, and public schools, and that also pay average (at best) industry wages.


How do you local unemployment data on developers? Are there any agencies that collect this data?


Don't tempt me like that. I'm homesick, but doubt I could sell the wife on Florida. :P


I wonder if anyone in NY, SF, or any other 1st tier developer city can comment on the local unemployment rate for either software devs or IT in general. Here in Orlando/Tampa it's been around 2% for YEARS.


I don't know how First Tier Phoenix is... it's mostly business process development here, a lot of banking, and quite a bit of other financial process development, and business management dev.

We've been really low on unemployment for a number of years... the cost of living compared to dev wages (usually >= 80% of NYC/SF wages) is really great, that I would be hard pressed to consider moving to SF, Seattle or NYC. That said, it's a bit hard to find talent, but then I don't do it for a living... Also, I don't think the business people doing HR really "get" the mindset of a software developer in terms of actually recruiting.


Do you want to work with above average people, or do you want to work with great people?


I want to work with people who are good match for a job.

Most projects are not that difficult and uber-tech as founders like to think. Reliable average programmer that generates maintainable code in predictable speed might end up as useful and less annoying then bored genius.

That was annoying thing company I knew did. Candidates were selected for their love of algorithms and detailed knowledge of frameworks etc. Anyone else was labeled "weak".

It just so happened that the work required only surface knowledge. What they really needed was someone willing to do "boring" programming work responsibly and without supervision.

So, hired geniuses were running away faster then you can say bye and those who stayed half assed work.


> Most projects are not that difficult and uber-tech as founders like to think

This requires a certain amount of intellectual humility; as founders would have to acknowledge that it is likely they are not changing the world (they're coloring by number using last week's cool framework), and they don't need the best engineers.


I'd rather not work with above-average people who think they're great.


Agreed. The subset of people who think they're great, and are great is vanishingly small IME. In fact after around 15 years of working as an engineer, I can think of maybe 2 people who fit that subset, and easily 50 who were legends in their own lunchtime.

It's gotten to the point where anyone who proclaims to be an expert in something is immediately suspect to me. The smartest guys I know never have to say it, and truly never brandish their skillset like some kind of gaudy prize. That kind of attitude makes it very easy to be undermined.


So who would you prefer to work with:

a) The smartest guys you know? b) The average guys you know? c) The average guys you know, but tell everyone how great they are? d) The below average guys you know? e) Other?

People who are great, do so not by telling other people they're great (although sometimes you need to have a little PR), but by demonstrating their great:

1. You want to work with them 2. Work diligently to make the team, product, and company better 3. Are smart 4. Are productive

A perfect blend of: talent, hardwork, and ambition.

I've noticed a trend of acceptable mediocrity here on HN. Any mention of wanting to work with people that are exceptional, results in near universally negative feedback.

As a startup, your first hires are CRITICAL. They set the tone of your company, and will carry a lot of the burden alongside the founders. You can't just settle for "good enough to get the job done." You're not just hiring for today, but for the next 2-5 years.

Seed your company with great people, and keep raising the bar.

Myself personally, I'm not great, so I want to work with people who are better than I am, not worse.


So basically you don't want to work with above average people.


It depends on how you measure great.

You can be great as an above average developer, and you can be less than great as an excellent developer.

I'd prefer to measure the complete package.


Fair point, and I agree. You need to measure the whole package.




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