Venture Capitalists Discover Recruiting 2.0

from the back-to-work dept

While some people are still saying that it’s difficult to find programming jobs these days, almost every company we speak to in Silicon Valley is saying just how difficult it is to find qualified programmers. In part, this is because the big companies like Google and Yahoo have been sweeping up as many good programmers as possible. It seems like a few venture capitalists are noticing the same thing, with at least one setting up its very own job recruitment web tool for portfolio companies. It certainly helps show startups one tangible difference between that VC firm and others. Recruitment has always been a big part of what a good VC firm helps with — and there have been stories of executive recruiters moving into venture capital jobs in the past. Also, it’s been common in the past for VC firms to list a static page of open jobs or link to help wanted pages on portfolio company websites. This case goes quite a bit further — setting up a whole tool for portfolio companies that not only promotes the jobs within that tool, but also feeds the jobs out to various job boards, job search engines and even Google ads on certain keywords. In less than a year, the firm claims it’s saved portfolio companies nearly a quarter of a million dollars in recruitment fees. Seeing a VC firm actually set up useful tools to help in this process, though, is still a bit surprising. For all the talk of how VCs understand tech innovation, it’s still rare to see one actually embrace it as well.

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Comments on “Venture Capitalists Discover Recruiting 2.0”

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Metrics 2.0 (user link) says:

Recruiting 2.0

I guess the Recruiting 2.0 where the community creates the content and also consumes it started way back with the general online career sites. Then you had vertical, functional, and niche career sites. The VC version is yet another 2.0 and it wouldn’t be too long before VC/Startup specific career sites spring up (not that there not any already!).

Howard (user link) says:

Interesting take on

I would guess there are still between 3000 and 5000 C++ programmers looking for work in the DFW area alone. I am extremely lucky to have found a woefully-underpaid position doing maintenance programming. The alternative was losing my house, which I very nearly did. During my job search last summer, I found that there were never fewer than 100 applicants for every position for which I managed to get an interview, and for some of the advertised “open houses”, the resulting traffic jams made the local news.

The non-existant “shortage” is entirely due to employers taking advantage of the programmer glut to put unrealistically detailed and broad requirements on all job openings (probably just to cut down on the number of applicants to a manageable number). In the few job postings I see in the local paper, there are requirements like a Master’s Degree for entry-level positions paying less than $50k. That doesn’t look like a “shortage” to me.

If there was really a programmer shortage, you would be seeing more than a quarter-page of help-wanted ads in the Dallas Morning News classifieds under IT every day, like there was in 1999. Now, there are no ads AT ALL for IT or engineering except on Wednesdays (special employment edition) and Sundays, and then only a half-dozen or so. Just after the six pages of ads for healthcare workers.

Programmer shortage? Bullshit.

discojohnson says:

Re: Interesting take on

“shortages” doesn’t mean “shortages everywhere.” what am i saying? MOVE! if there are no more fish on one side of the lake, you get to the other side to fish. here’s an idea: go to and search for an area other than DFW. i’m from DFW (originally) and now live in STL because the market was dry there. also, it’s time to get some upgrade training to market yourself. the mentality you’re showing is the same of the plumbers crying that the waterless urinals will put them out of business.

ELS says:

Good Programmer Shortage

All programmers are not created equal.

The kind of guy who you can have lunch with and chat over a product feature, and it’s up and running by dinner, and you can roll it out in beta the next day. There is a shortage of those guys.

There is always a shortage of 10X programmers, there’s no shortage of 1X programmers.

Start ups (and therefore VC’s) are looking for 10X programmers.

Bob Dole (user link) says:

I think...

I think they mean there is a shortage of quality programmers. I am a senior systems admin making 80k+ and program on the side for my own needs and enjoyment. i have never had a single programming class and own 1 c++ book. i can code in 6 languages and architect and application.

98% of all programmers i meet are able to code in maybe 2 languages and can’t see past the modules they write. they never have a clue about the systems that their code will run on, and security context is rarely understood much less concidered. These same programmers b!tch about not begin able to find a job, or being unpaid, blah blah blah…

I can’t understand how any software they write ends up working. But then, all i have is a High School education.

Howard (user link) says:

1x versus 10x

I guess I’m probably not a 10x, but I’m not a 1x, either.

There is another factor at work here…

By last summer, I was willing to relocate, so I was interviewing everywhere I could think of. One such interview was with Amazon. They were impressed with my initial phone interview, and with my responses to their technical questions, and with my performance on their trivial little test. (When you have taught C++ courses for more than 10 years, it’s hard not to do well on such a test)

But, I knew that I didn’t have a chance at Amazon when I saw that their interview team consisted entirely of children. I did not talk to a single person that had more than 4 or 5 years of experience, and the only real surprise was that I got to talk to four interviewers before the last one finally came out and said that he didn’t think I would be a good “fit” for their organization.

The problem is not that I’m not good enough. The problem is that I’m TOO experienced. Although I managed to land a job by reducing my salary requirement to less than half was I was making in 2001, even that tactic didn’t work most places — they seemed to be afraid that someone with my qualifications would leave as soon as the job market improved. So it was damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

My current situation doesn’t pay enough for me to save anything for retirement, so I’m busy building a business on the side that is not related to programming, which I hope will allow me to at least have a productive retirement.

Howard Lee Harkness Violins and Musical Accessories

Anonymous Coward says:

Mr. Harkness, with all due respect your post clearly shows that you are one of the 1X programmers. Your lack of flexibility and dedication to a company rather than ‘the job’ is why you would be considered a bad hire by this Fortune-500 HR manager (me). Your attitude regarding Amazon’s unorthodox hiring process is a clear indication of YOUR outdated view on employment.

1-dimensional employees are dinosaurs. Evolve or die.

Tyshaun says:

Re: Re:

Mr. Harkness, with all due respect your post clearly shows that you are one of the 1X programmers. Your lack of flexibility and dedication to a company rather than ‘the job’ is why you would be considered a bad hire by this Fortune-500 HR manager (me). Your attitude regarding Amazon’s unorthodox hiring process is a clear indication of YOUR outdated view on employment.

1-dimensional employees are dinosaurs. Evolve or die.

Anaon Coward, you say you are a HR manager for a fortune 500 company yet you are willing to assess Mr. Harkness’s hireability in such unsusually harsh terms without ever seeing his resume or talking to him in person, that’s a bit odd to me and I would be lothe to see your companies hiring policies.

I have a significant amount of coding experience, even at the team lead level, and would almost be offended to be forced to interview in front of a bunch of “fresh outs” as we used to call them. Most places I’ve worked have a policy that at least one senior/management level engineer must interview a person just to be sure that what Mr. Harkness describes doesn’t happen. Sounds almost like a case of age discrimination to me.

While I’m on the subject does anyone else think its absolutely weird that engineering is one of the few fields in which you seem to have to take “tests” whenever you go for a job? I could understand testing new grads and early career personnel, but why should people with 10, 20, 30 years experience in a given area have to take some silly test in that area? Can someone name another field where this is normal practice? I have over 10 years real experience doing OOD with C++ and Java yet I went on a job interview last year and was asked ” what is object oriented programming”?

Howard Lee Harkness (user link) says:

Re: Anonymous Coward

Dear Anonymous Coward:

I’m sure that with your attitude, and your presumed ability to make snap judgements about qualifications with no reference to any material facts, it is unlikely that you will ever have to make a hiring decision that involves me. I expect that I would be able to identify your type, if not you specifically, just by your attitude. I’ve been in this business long enough to spot all sorts of dysfunctionalities. But you could do me (and all the other readers of this blog) a favor by revealing the name of you “fortune 500” company so that I can avoid wasting my time with it.

Dear Tyshaun:

Thank you.


Since I anticipate that I will be looking for a job again soon (I survived the last layoff, but I expect the next one to get the entire department), I will probably be posting my resume again in a few weeks. And it’s not because I hate the job. I was hoping to keep it, even though it doesn’t pay much. It’s not really a bad place to work (I’ve had some of those), and it beats being homeless.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for a good recruiter who has some experience with placing older employees.

I did have an opportunity to work on a brief contract doing some real-time programming early last year, which I enjoyed a lot. I may try to get back to them, even though it means relocating. I got that contract because I have some fairly rare skills (I have programmed in more than a dozen high-level languages, and about two dozen different assembly languages — sometimes using four or more languages on a single job). I hesitate to go back into contracting, but, again, it’s better than being homeless.

If that doesn’t work out, I will try to find more violin students, and get back into the Plano School District private tutoring program. I’ve always had a passion for teaching — which is what got me into teaching C++, Java, and C# for four national training companies back when that business was going good. I’m also pretty good with my hands, and good bow-rehairers can get a fairly dependable $30/hr. Since I tolerate tedious work fairly well, that is a possible viable alternative to writing software for a living.

Howard Lee Harkness

Petréa Mitchell says:

Artificial shortages

I remember someone once showing me an ad looking for a programmer with 5-8 years of Java experience. This sticks in my memory because, at the time, Java had been publicly available for less than one year. I expect this same recruiter is now writing job descriptions requiring 5-8 years’ experience in Ruby on Rails.

Brendan says:

Re: Artificial shortages

I’ve experienced that as well. I think in all likelyhood those types of ads are the ones posted by recruiters who don’t know their elbow from their a**hole. I’ve had recruiters phone me for a position, and then proceed to ask me about the technology they’re hiring for (how long has it been around, what types of uses does it satisfy, etc…) showing they knew nothing about the position they are trying to place you for. No qualifying of applications whatsoever…

I’d better stop… once i get started about recruiters….


the interviewer that rejected you says:

get over yourselves

You need to be tested because you aren’t even close to as good as you imagine yourself to be. I have interviewed many people with outstanding resumes that were just plain incompetent. You expect you are entitled to a job just because some moron gave you a job before. Experience counts for a lot, but only when it is accompanied by the brainpower to make use of it. If you couldn’t even answer the questions of a few children with much less experience than you, then maybe you need to do a bit more learning of your profession. I have worked at places both where the interviews were soft and where they were technical. From my experience, I will never work again at a place where the interviews provide no challenge because it shows what your co-workers are going to be like. Those with big egos and small brains tend to gather there.

Howard Lee Harkness (user link) says:

Re: get over yourselves

I passed all of their technical questions with flying colors. They were really excited about how well I did, and told me as much before my personal interview. What I didn’t pass was the color of my hair (even if I had dyed the gray, I still don’t pass for twentysomething anymore).

Learn to read for understanding. And get over *yourself* while you’re at it.

Howard Lee Harkness

ELS says:

Tests during interviews

There are tests given during interviews for a few reasons.

1) A surprising number of “qualified” people fail them. Especially people who have spent the last few years in engineering managment, rather than actually inplementing solutions.

2) It’s not about passing with flying colors, it’s about observing how you approach a problem. It’s about seeing if you not only answer the specific question, but see beyond the question and see where the problem fits within a larger whole.

3) It’s about seeing if you ask questions back. I’ve been known to give incomplete data to properly solve the problem to see if they can identify and ask or the missing pieces.

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