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To me, the smoking gun is the fact that there is near-universal agreement that we're in a talent crunch, but at the same time successful startups are demanding that candidates accept temp contracting roles to mitigate the risks of bad decisions.

Couldn't that be because startups have to "lower their standard" for engineering interviews, since there's a shortage of people who will perform up to their standard in an interview? In other words, if there is a shortage of experienced candidates who can nail the interview, startups might be willing to go for people with less experience who they believe will be able to learn quickly and end up being valuable team members.

Of course, this assumes that a trial (say, 30 days) can give a lot more information about the long-term potential of the candidate than a day-long interview, which feels like a reasonable assumption to me.

For some companies the standards are not entirely meaningful. Must have 3.9 GPA from an Ivy League school, know [obscure library] in detail, have experience in Scala and Lua and OCaml and Julia, as well as a deep passion for cricket. Then, once this person is found, they put them to work building a Rails CRUD app... There is some hyperbole here, but not too much.

I think I lost one job because I used emacs and they used vi.

I'm not wholly disappointed, because 1) I finally got around to using vi, spending a solid week using it and only it, as my homework[1] for the company, and 2) you don't want to work someone that only hires clones of themselves.

[1] They didn't assign it to me, but I'm always looking for something interesting to do, and since I was serious about wanting to work for them I did it to ease my eventual on-boarding.

A company-specified text editor is a indicator of an unbearable degree of micromanagement.

Be happy you don't work there.

They did a lot of pair-coding, so I'd see a common development environment as acceptable.

Sounds like one of those 'boutique' consulting agencies that likes to build 100% mandatory pairing into their costs when billing clients for their sake.

Are you sure you didn't get the job because you used emacs? I can't see why that's a reason for not hiring you. As markrages says, if this is true, it's some inconceivable degree of micromanagement.

This comment is the vulgar truth.

The industry wants hordes of people who color by number with the newest frameworks, not hackers.

The question as I read it is, is there evidence that conventional hiring practices are ineffective?

I didn't provide evidence, but did point out what I see as a smoking gun, which is the trend of temp-to-perm hiring.

Temp-to-perm is not conventional hiring; if you do it, you are not hiring the way AmaGooBookSoft hires. That you would do it at all suggests that the conventional hiring process isn't effective.

At the same time, temp-to-perm makes it harder to find people; it (almost) has to, since asking a candidate to accept a monthlong (or even weeklong) contract is onerous. People forget that candidates often interview at multiple companies; a week off work seems reasonable when you don't consider that it's a process that might repeat 2, 3, or 4 times for a given candidate.

> The question as I read it is, is there evidence that conventional hiring practices are ineffective?

There is clearly evidence that the entire hiring process leaves much to be desired. Temp-to-perm is obviously not ideal. I'm just wondering whether the problem is that companies are relying on the temp-to-perm pattern in lieu of better available alternatives, or if the temp-to-perm pattern is simply the best option because there is genuinely a short supply of experienced, easily recognizable talent.

In the last 10 years, I've never interviewed anywhere on the east coast that wasn't 3-month contract-to-hire. Then again, that was all through recruiters. I don't work as an employee anymore, and I don't deal with recruiters, so I'm not sure what it's like now. However, there doesn't seem to have been any sea-changes in the market around here, so I suspect everyone is still doing it.

Really? I'm in the Boston market, and we don't use contract to hire as a strategy, and to my knowledge, none of our primary direct competitors for engineering talent do either.

(We will occasionally hire an ex-contractor, but that's the exception and they were genuinely a contactor first. No one comes through the front do applying for a full-time position and gets offered a contract-to-hire.)

Well, to be fair, I hadn't ever applied for anything in Boston. Also, I acknowledge that not all places may do this, just that I've never encountered one that didn't. Which could say more about the quality of the recruiters I was using than anything else.

Basically, in a 300 mile radius around Washington D.C. there is apparently a shit ton of little, bullshit consulting agencies. There are at least two in even the small towns. Bullshit consulting agencies are the type I'd expect to do contract-for-hire.

It's also, for no reason I understand, the only types of places that would ever look at my resume. Perhaps that is because the alternatives to the consultoware places are health insurance companies (which I patently refused to apply to) and financial services companies (also not terribly appealing). Those sorts of places always looked like they were exactly the same sort of poorly managed shit-show as the consultoware places, just that the client was in-house. Not much consumer-facing software being made out here, I guess.

Mitigating risk by contract-to-hire might be reasonable in some European countries where firing is rather complicated. But, what's the problem in US? I thought it was extremely easy to fire people there.

Most European countries allow a probation period, in which you can terminate the employment contract very easily. It's not even reasonable in Europe.

You are qualifying this with the word "successful", but is it really the case that high-quality candidates are putting up with temp contracting roles in lieu of an immediate "permanent" position? That seems like prima facie evidence that there is not, in fact, a shortage of high-quality candidates.

The later says nothing about the former, IMHO. Even if there's a crunch, a bad hire is a bad hire.

The point isn't that bad hires have become less tolerable; it's that conventional interview practices are so unreliable that startups have taken to doing things that actually make it harder to attract candidates in order to mitigate their risks.

Good point.

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