November 7, 2011
Otherwise known as Kyle Neath’s guide to hiring the best people in the world: an examination into why recruiters are useless piles of humanflesh hellbent on destroying the souls of good designers and developers across the world.
Too harsh? Most likely. But here’s the thing: recruiters do not give a fuck about doing good in the world. They do not care about making people happy. They do not care about building a good company. They do not care about treating email addresses as human beings. They only care about their percentage.
At its core, the idea of a recruiter never made sense. Are they going to be working with their hire? Are they a designer, developer, copywriter or someone who knows what kind of skills and personality traits to look for?
No. They’re salespeople. And I bet they’re great at hiring other salespeople.
It just seems so obvious to me that employees make the best recruiters. Recruiters have nothing to gain from a good employee, but employees have everything to gain. If you consider yourself a manager, don’t you want to be responsible for building the team of people you’re going to manage? If you’re a developer, don’t you want to work with other great developers?
I happen to think I’ve become pretty good at recruiting over the years. We’ve built a pretty amazing team at GitHub, and I’d like to explain how I go about finding the next GitHubber.
If you want to hire great designers and developers, you should be friends with them. Be interested in who they are and what they do. This is not rocket science. When you’re friends with someone you’ll notice when they’re frustrated with their job or know when they’re looking for something new. And even if they’re not looking for something new — maybe they have a (designer/developer) friend who is.
Take time to look up potential hires online. If you’re hiring in the tech industry, they’re almost certain to have an internet presence. Look up their current job. See what they do. Take a look on dribbble, browse their code on GitHub — look at their work. More often than not, it’s completely unnecessary to interview for skills. You can find that out with a half hour online. Who knows, you might even find someone new to hire in the process.
Research is the proper tool to understand whether someone has the skills to work for you.
It’s vitally important that you sit down face to face and grab a beer with every potential hire. Or sit down for dinner. Smoke a joint. I don’t care what it is — you need to sit down in a relaxed environment and figure out what kind of person they are.
Talk about their family, friends, hobbies, current job, dream job — anything you can think of. Some good things to figure out:
Grabbing a beer will help you figure out if someone will fit in.
I always try and use my personal connections to find potential hires first, but sometimes I come up empty handed. When that fails, you need to stretch out and get some new blood. There’s no shortage of Job boards out there: GitHub Jobs, Dribbble, 37Signals, Authentic Jobs — the list goes on. Pick a few and post some ads. Maybe sponsor a local meetup.
But remember you’re posting an advertisement. This isn’t a fact sheet. Make that shit sexy. Make potential hires read it and think I want that job. Explain specifically what they’ll be doing day to day, what they’ll be responsible for, and who they’ll be working with. Explain what your company is. Explain what it is your company wants to do.
And if you have anything listed under requirements, you better damn well mean it. Don’t ask for a college degree if you don’t actually require it. That’s just dumb.
These ideas aren’t exactly unique, and in fact they’re really not even mine.
In 2004 I was working for an agency and we hired a full time recruiter. Props to that man for showing me just how incompetent recruiters can be. Never in my life did I think someone would create a MySpace account and contact every teenager in the city trolling for leads. He really redefined the phrase unqualified candidate.
In 2009 I started working with Chris, Tom and PJ. For every person that thinks GitHub’s success is due to luck — I want to remind you how important the people are in a successful company. And these guys spend a lot of time making sure we have the right people.
Spend time on recruiting: it’s important.
If you'd like to keep in touch, I tweet @kneath on Twitter. You're also welcome to send a polite email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't always get the chance to respond, but email is always the best way to get in touch.