Guest author Josh Fox helped create FiveYearItch, which aims to help developers find better jobs.

Like gnats at a picnic, recruiters are swarming around the miserable software developer. Irrelevant spam-offers are buzzing in your face, each aimed at some commodity developer, who’s not you.

You can chomp and chew those annoying recruiters the way you would pesky gnats that blithely fly into your mouth, but don’t bother. Flame-mail won’t do any good. You might try spray yourself with recruiter-repellent by taking yourself off the Internet—like that's gonna happen. There has to be a better way.

But First, Sympathy For The Recruiter

Those poor recruiters, they aren't to blame. They just want to help. Think what's happened to them in the last fourteen years. Way back in 1999, a recruiter's job was to dig up résumés—paper résumés!—and blast them out to employers.

Nowadays, there's a treasure trove of developers on the Web—on LinkedIn, GitHub, etc. Yes, recruiters could dedicate themselves to unearthing those old-fashioned hold-outs from modern Web overexposure, the grizzled oldsters who need to be brought out of their hidey-holes. But in general, recruiters don't know what to do with themselves.

And, hey, recruiters, no: LinkedIn-spam is not your new job. Your new job is bringing together employers and employees in the best possible pairing to make both sides happy.

Pity the poor recruiter. He has no clue about whether a given developer even wants job offers, and just as important, he can't tell what the developer is looking for in her next job. In a world where stable careers are passé, and gathering interesting and different experiences is de rigeur, a recruiter just cannot know what wild and adventurous life-directions the pro is looking for.

The job market’s splitting. Those who have top tech skills win, and everyone else loses. Hot-shot techies are getting kid-glove treatment once reserved for execs. Competition for those chosen few is getting ever fiercer.

We need a new way to get software developers their next dream job.

Recruiters Out, Matchmakers In

It's time for a new generation—really, a new profession—of recruiter types who use tech, tact, and good taste to bring employees together with employers. Let's call them matchmakers. Here’s how they'll make us a match.

1. They help active-passives come out of the woodwork.

Good developers already have good jobs. They’re not scouring the job boards. Though many of them would consider an offer if it was a real improvement, they’re too cozy and comfortable in their jobs to bother to look around. A new breed of talent search engines like Entelo, TalentBin, and Gild is uncovering some of these passive candidates, mining the Web for signs of skilled professionals who might be willing to move.

Even better than passives are active-passives, the ones who know they’d like to step up to a better job, are willing to say so (as long as their boss doesn’t find out), but who know that asking for a job for no good reason looks desperate.

A new type of “reverse job board” has arisen to serve these developers. Sites like JobDreaming, Poachee and my own FiveYearItch let the professionals sign up quickly and anonymously and get a stream of good offers, vetted by automated algorithms along with the human matchmakers.

2. They help employees lay out their real requirements, not the ones she thinks potential employers want to hear.

Everyone’s different: One developer wants better salary or equity, another wants new tech, and a third wants his colleagues to be smarter than he is (smart guy!).

Until now, employees kept their deepest dreams secret, afraid of pitching too high or too low. But why not make those secret dreams real? The trick is for the pro to stay anonymous while the matchmaker, potentially with the aid of a reverse job board, makes the arrangements.

And if the employer can't give the developer what it takes to budge her, well, tough luck for the employer.

3. They work to bring in the best developers, not just to fill a slot.

Today, employers are retaining fixed-fee contract recruiters or even hiring them in-house. That way, the recruiter is focused on making the right match, even if it takes a little longer. Just filling requisitions was good enough back when jobs were narrowly defined, but a developer today need the flexibility to take on a variety of tasks as needed, and finding people like that takes time.

Such a matchmaker can do what it takes close the deal. He advocates for the professional, while the pro herself stays out of the line of fire. A good developer wants both to minimize noise and to learn whether employers can meet her special requests—but without coming off as needy. So the developer stays well-protected from any but the most useful communications, while the recruiter helps make the deal happen.

Once a developer and an employer have caught each other’s eye, the matchmaker gently nudges the two toward each other while making sure that everyone’s happy.

4. They grab the grey-hairs who aren't puffing up their LinkedIn profiles, just crankin’ out kick-ass work.

These Ancient Wise Ones need a matchmaker to help bring out their hidden talent.

Employers should be on their knees begging the wizened wizards to come on board. But for some reason, newbies with a quickie code-camp course are more in demand than hardcore long-time devs. Sure, some of the oldsters are burned out, but there are a lot of good ones out there, too. Some of them have navigated their way through several generations of technology—they’ll pick up the next one quickly enough.

Making The Best Pairings The Rule

Here’s the sad situation today: A recruiter searches LinkedIn by keywords, sends a whole bunch of spammy emails. Maybe he finds one diamond in the dirtpile, while absorbing heaps of scorn as he sees how widely recruiters are despised.

Here’s a vision of a better future: A new class of matchmaking sites arises, building on today’s talent search engines and reverse job boards. They transform the recruiting industry, just as a variety of dating sites remade a fragmented industry of personals ads and marriage brokers. These recruiting sites highlight developers with the right skills and the right requirements. Then semi-automated systems, consisting of modern software algorithms and a few empathetic matchmakers, help make the best pairings happen.

Today, information efficiencies make hiring and job-changing a headache. In an open future, we’ll move towards an optimal world in which developers will find the best possible job and employers will find the best possible developer to fill it.

 

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