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How companies should hire developers

A couple of weeks ago Obie Fernandez posted a job offer for his company, Hashrocket, on his blog. To me this ad is the perfect example of how startups, and well established companies too, should attract talented developers. Let’s analyze why this job ad is highly effective.

Consider the intro:

Here’s a short and sweet version of a listing I’m going to start posting on various job boards tomorrow. I’m looking to hire up to four experienced web developers in the next couple of months, bringing our billable consultant headcount up to 20 people:

Notice how this brief introduction has already accomplished a lot. It’s a short informal blurb, but it gives you the opportunity to apply before the crowds show up. It also casually mentions how many positions are open and how many people in the company hold the same position. He then goes on to describe the qualifications required:

1) Have at least 5 years of serious web development experience (experience with Ruby and Rails is of course a big plus, but not absolutely necessary for the right person).

They are obviously looking for experienced Rails developers, but they are not hung up about it. They realize that if you are a great web developer, Rails won’t be a bottleneck for you for long. What a difference from the “at least 3/4 years of professional Rails experience” type of ads that recruiters love to post around.

2) Be “true believers” in Agile methods, including story carding, pair-programming and test-driven development.

They are looking for XP/Agile people and this simple requirement will excite many talented developers, while already telling you a lot about the type of company you’re applying to.

3) Relocate to sunny Jacksonville Beach, FL where Hashrocket is headquartered and currently building out brand-new, kick-ass office space. We do provide generous relocation assistance.

Finally, they inform you about where they are located, that you have to physically move there and that they’ll help you out with the relocation. On top of that, the “currently building out brand-new, kick-ass office space” is definitely something that will capture the attention of many developers. Programmers care a lot about their work environment and small perks like new facilities, large monitors, and so on. Large monitors are not mentioned explicitly, but the ad implies that this is the kind of company that would invest in their developers and provide appropriate screen real estate.

Note how they are not asking for 10 different technologies in their ad, they are not asking for a computer science degree, and they don’t have silly sentences like “rockstars” or “guru”. The ad requirements are short and to the point.

He then goes on to mention what they’re offering, on top of what we have seen so far:

Besides working in an awesome location with some of the best Ruby programmers in the world on cool, progressive projects with the best clients, some of the benefits of working for Hashrocket include:

* Competitive salary

* Company-paid medical/dental coverage

* Full 401k matching up to legal limits with immediate vesting!

* Three weeks vacation, plus paid time off for conference attendance (Rubyconf, Railsconf, etc)

* Up to 8 hours paid time per week allotted to “other activities” including open-source hacking, writing books and blogs, education and other internal initiatives

* Strong emphasis on culture and lifestyle, overtime/weekend work strongly discouraged, frequent team outings and social events

* Regular opportunities to work with some of the most experienced Rails experts in the world via our 3-2-1 Guest Star program

* All our work is done on-site, so no travel requirements (great for road-warriors wanting a break)

The whole package is very attractive: good salary and benefits, proper vacation time and paid attendance for conferences, time for other activities like blog writing and open source hacking, work/life balance with social events, the possibility to work with some of the best Rails developers and no need to travel. It’s hard to ask for much more than this.

I encourage you to ask questions and I’ll keep a close eye and participate on the comment trail for this post.

In conclusion, they show openness to questions, and an availability to discuss them in a public forum such as the comment section of the blog.

I mentioned this ad mostly for two reasons. The first is because I think it’s a great opportunity for US-based Rails developers, and the second is that I often receive job offers by email, and in most cases they are the usual recruiter drivel. Ads like this are simple, but very effective when it comes to attracting programmers. More companies should take their cue from Hashrocket. After all, developers are not that hard to please.

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14 Responses to “How companies should hire developers”

  1. Jo says:

    Yes, Hashrocket is the kind of company I would like to work for – if it wasn’t for the relocation.

    I can think of a few additional reasons why this is a successful ad. Those reasons aren’t even in the ad. Obie has established himself as an authority in the Ruby/Rails community by blogging, presenting, and writing books.

    He could have just written: “We are hiring”, and the ad might be just as compelling to members of the community he is targeting.

    Another example for the fact that the form/style of the presentation can only nudge the effectiveness. The real success factors have to be in the content – in this case Obie and his company.

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  3. Roland says:

    I wish we had such a compan in Germany.

    Looks like all companies in germany are seeking cheapasses doing dirty low-fi work in java or php. nobody seems to care about good technology, good working environment and good people. sad.

  4. Phil says:

    > Up to 8 hours paid time per week allotted to “other activities” including open-source hacking, writing books and blogs, education and other internal initiatives

    This is really the thing that makes an offer interesting to me. I wonder if it’s a new policy though; I’ve never heard of any free software projects or contributions that have come out of HashRocket.

  5. Greg says:

    A decent job posting, but the “true believer” bit would be a turn-off for myself. It makes me feel like they are a ‘kool-aid’ drinking type of establishment, which may or may not be the case. Regardless if they are, it seems like if I personally had gripes with some agile method, say, TDD, I’d be met with developers who wouldn’t be willing to let me make my case but instead tell me that ‘this is the way its done’ and have it be the end of the argument.

    A better posting would be to say “willing to try new things, such as TDD or pair-programming.” Saying you must be a ‘true-believer’ just makes me cringe and screams of ‘silver-bullet’ type thinking pervading the company.

  6. Foo says:

    > frequent team outings and social events

    That is not appealing. It’s no fun being forced to participate in company outings and social events, especially if you have a family at home that you’d rather spend your free time with.

  7. cdr says:

    Who said you were forced?

  8. Ian says:

    I agree with Greg, I found the “true believer” line rather unnerving. It basically implies that any disagreement on their chosen project-management dogma will be treated as heresy.

    That isn’t to say that a company has a right to say “here is how we manage projects”, and expect employees to cooperate. A good team-player will be willing to adhere to established team practices whether they personally believe in them or not.

    But to say they must be “true believers” implies a degree of thought-policing that rubs me the wrong way.

    On a different issue, I’m forced to wonder how the whole “overtime/weekend work strongly discouraged” policy will survive interfacing with a reality where the demands of paying clients in an averse economy may not be entirely compatible with this aspiration. At best it seems rather naive. At worst it is deceptive.

  9. Ian says:

    I agree with Foo’s sentiment regarding “social events”, although Cdr is correct to point out that nobody is forced to participate.

    That being said, as a 31 year old I find it a little patronizing that my company would feel the need to arrange my social life for me, or to encourage me to be friends with my co-workers. If my co-workers are nice people, I’ll be friends with them. If they aren’t, then nothing the company does will make me be friends with them.

    Obviously there is no explicit compulsion here, but if you don’t participate in the company bowling trip, don’t be surprised if your next performance review contains vague references to you “not being a team player”.

  10. […] Cangiano, “How Companies Should Hire Developers” Antonio Cangiano’s analysis of HashRocket’s posting and why it works, and conversely, where other companies fail to attract developers is a good read, […]

  11. Desi says:

    Social events are not forced. There are several people on the team at Hashrocket who have families and while they are always invited it is understood they have families and would rather spend their time with them. That is completely acceptable and works out just fine. Just as an fyi.


  12. Obie says:

    On the Agile “true believer” bit that some took issue with… We are a capital-“A” Agile shop and apply most of the extreme programming practices to our development process, all the time. I don’t think it has anything to do with mind control. If someone doesn’t believe (yes, believe) in Agile/XP practices, especially things such as TDD and pair-programming, then they’re simply not going to be happy here, because there is no compromise possible on those principles — it’s an intrinsic part of what makes Hashrocket special.

  13. Tony Fabeen says:

    I guess this position is pretty nice…. Unfortunately, they don´t open it for people outside U.S.

  14. Mark Smith says:

    I wish they had an office in Asheville, NC!

    The town is really well suited for “Believers.” No big box franchise businesses; lots of small coffee shops; free city-wide wi-fi; and LOTS to do while not working overtime.


  15. jerome says:

    3 weeks vacation…. man… avoid France, we have 5 to 10 *mandatory* vacation weeks…

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  17. recep says:

    That being said, as a 31 year old I find it a little patronizing that my company would feel the need to arrange my social life for me, or to encourage me to be friends with my co-workers. If my co-workers are nice people, I’ll be friends with them. If they aren’t, then nothing the company does will make me be friends with them…

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