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Learn from NO

NO by Nathan GibbsDear Reader,

Most companies have some variation of this process for interviewing developers.

  • Email discussion
  • Phone Screen
  • In-person interview
  • Job Offer
  • Successful hire

Between each bullet point is a decision point on the part of both your company and the candidate whether to move to the next step. Don’t assume that just because you have a job, the candidate will be willing to move forward at each step. Some candidates will excuse themselves from the process for a variety of reasons.

  • Salary range
  • On-site vs. remote
  • Industry is not acceptable to them
  • Culture of the team is not acceptable to them
  • etc..

There are a myriad of reasons for the candidate to say No. The important thing is for you to learn from their NO.

Just like when a potential customer decides not to do business with you, when a candidate decides to break it off, find out why. Don’t be rude, don’t be surly, and certainly don’t be arrogant. Finding out why may help you in the future. Sometimes, it’s as simple as they aren’t interested in the work your team is doing. There’s not much you can do about that. You just have to accept it.

No doesn’t have to mean No.

Unlike other areas of life, when it comes to interviewing a candidate for a job, no doesn’t have to mean no. No could simply mean, not now. These are soft NOs. For whatever reason, the timing just wasn’t right.

If a candidate breaks off talks because of bad timing, then hang onto the candidate’s information, and all of your notes. Chances are real good that this won’t be the only time you are looking to hire. You’ve already done the research, you know that you are interested in this candidate and that they are not opposed to working with you. Start a file of these candidates – candidates that for one reason or another just did not work out. Once a quarter, review the file. Check up on the candidate and see if they are still at their job. You may want to go so far as to ping them and just say “hi.” You do not know what is going on with them. Keeping lines of communication open will keep you in the back of the mind of the candidate in case things do change.

When No does actually mean no, learn from the No

If the candidate broke things off because of something they saw or heard in the interview process – things like salary range, or “on-site vs. remote” – make a note of that. Those candidates are different from the ones that broke off discussions and gave you a soft NO. These candidates have given you a hard NO. They are not interested in what you are offering. You may or may not want to keep in touch with candidates that give you a hard NO. The thing you want to do is make good notes as to why the candidate said no.

Set aside some time in your schedule soon after the break, but not immediately after – to contemplate why. Yes, this is largely navel gazing but it is important navel gazing. Did they see something in your team that you can correct? Is there a problem you can work on? Not every NO will be something you can fix, or even your fault, but make sure you spend a little time thinking about it.

Depending on why the candidate gave you a hard NO, you may still want to keep in touch. If they said no because of the salary range, and you change the range, make sure and reach out to them to see if they are now interested in talking more. Regardless of whether the NO is a hard NO or a soft NO, never throw out your notes on a candidate. Even a firm NO is something you can learn from. You may not ever want to contact them again, but you will want to review your notes from time to time to remind yourself why they said no, and to see if you can avoid their reason for a NO in the future.

Hiring developers is easy, hiring good developers is hard. It takes a lot of work, an investment of time, and even then, there is no guaranteed YES, just because you have an open position. If you are open to it though, you can learn from every NO.

Until next time,
I <3 |<


Photo Credit:No by Nathan Gibbs


The secret to writing a job post to attract PHP developers

8505316460_78d0abaf5b_mDear Reader,

Is your company trying to hire a developer? Are you a recruiter responsible for helping your client hire a PHP developer? Do you have a job post out on the net? Get this one thing right and you’ll find your PHP developer.



Yes, that’s the entire secret; keep it simple. Make it easy for us to scan, easy for us to understand, easy for us to figure out how to apply.

  • You don’t impress us with big words you don’t understand.
  • Don’t use semantically null terms like “business quality”. You don’t know what that means any more than we do.
  • If you are using technical terms, please have a developer review the post to make sure you use them correctly.
  • List the absolute minimum skills to get the job. Don’t use a shotgun, use a sniper rifle.
  • BONUS TIP FOR RECRUITERS: Honestly, we don’t care that much about your agency, we are interested in the job. Don’t take up precious room at the top of the ad trying to sell us on your agency. Tell us about the job.

Until next time,
I <3 |<


Photo Credit: Keep it simple by elPadawan
Used under CC


Developing a Team With a Purpose

Purpose - by Seth SawyersDear Reader,

Having all the developers on a team mentally engaged – having them excited to be on your team, not just excited about writing software – is important. Otherwise, what you’ve got is just a group of developers working on software. The is a huge difference between a development team, and a department of developers working on the same project; that difference is engagement.

Find your WHY

For a department of developers to make the jump to an engaged team, they have to understand – and buy into – They WHY. They have to understand and agree on why they are practicing the craft of software development. Your job as a leader is to make sure the your developers are engaged in the team, not just the process. You have to help them understand and buy into the WHY of the team. If your team’s WHY is “because their paycheck arrived” then you have a department, not a team. Lead your team in discussion to discover the team’s overriding goals. Help them understand what the team’s guiding principles. Look beyond your department, your company, and even your industry. Get everyone together and talk it out.

If all of this sounds too touchy-feely for you – afterall you just want to hire more developers – you may be in the wrong position. As a leader of a development team, it is easy to think that your job is to hand out assignments. Your job is to lead the team. You are a parent, a cheerleader, and a servant, all at the same time. All this takes time. You have to invest your time in the team, so they will invest their time in the projects. There is a payoff though, time invested in the development of your team’s culture is not simply a sunk cost. Companies that invest in their development team’s culture, rarely have need for recruiters. A culture of respect will attract top talent.

Once you have figured out why you as a team do what you do, let the rest of the world know. This alone – having a team with a purpose – will set you apart from most of the other jobs out there. Having a development team with a purpose will help you attract the talent for which you are looking.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Photo Credit: Purpose by Seth Sawyers
Used under CC License

Step 0 when hiring PHP developers online. Get this right!

Scrabble - Hiring by: Flazingo PhotosDear Reader,

When building an online strategy for finding developers to hire, start with your web site. It is amazing that so many companies miss this totally or mess this step up. Make sure you have a top level menu item that is easy to identify as “this is where we post jobs”. Call it “Jobs”, “Careers”, “Work with us” whatever, just make sure it’s in the top level of your menu and not something that people have to dig down into your site to get to.

Get your jobs page right

The page that this link points to – your overall “Jobs” page that contains the listings – is a very important page on your site. You use this space to sell potential candidates on your company. List the benefits, list the perks, explain why they want to work with you instead of moving on to the next company on their list. Treat this page like any other important landing page on your site. The point is to convert visitors into “resume submitters”. If it’s not converting for you, start digging to find out why.

An important thing to remember on this page is to keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm visitors with facts, figures, and details. Be concise and put your best foot forward. Give the casual browser the info they need to decide to dig deeper. Give the truly interested links to dig down and get more info. The job listings may be the focus of the page but the other information you present on this page will help developers make the decision whether to dig into the jobs or not.

Good examples

A good example of how to do a jobs page right is Twilio gives you all the information you need to make the decision to work with them or not. They spend a lot of time selling you on the company, then they give you links to the jobs. It is very well done.

An even better example is Engineyard is brief and to the point. They give you the basics but don’t spend a lot of time selling you on the company. Then they give you the links to the jobs. I know that this is contrary to the advice that I gave a scant few paragraphs ago. However in this case, it’s fine. See both twilio and Enginyard get Step 0 right.

Step 0

A common thread between these two companies is that they have both invested heavily in their developer culture. They have built a culture of respect that is well known in developer communities. When considering whether to apply for a job at one of these two companies, the question is rarely “Do I want to work there?”. Because they have invested in a culture of respect, because they have a good reputation in the community, the questions is invariably “Do they have a job for me?”.

So step 0 in the process of finding developers to work on your team is to build a culture of respect. If you get this right, attracting developers – attracting the best developers – will be easy. Get this wrong though, nothing else will matter. Remember, developer talk to each other within their community. They will know if you are not a good place to work.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Photo credit: Scrabble – Hiring by
Used under CC

Quick Tip for Building a Culture of Respect

"My Favorite Parisian Waiter" by  Christina CampisiDear Reader,

Since my last post, “It’s all about culture”, I’ve been asked several times “What does ‘build a culture of respect’ mean?” I realised that the post, while well meaning, was incomplete. It told you why you should build a culture of respect, but it did not give you any advice on how to build one.

I’ve blogged about some of my ideas on team building in “Nerd Herding”. Start by reading that and take from it what you will.

The tough truth is that there is no easy answer. Building a culture of respect means that when you get up every morning you start thinking of ways to improve the lives of your developers.

Here is a simple idea to get you started

Make a pot of coffee. Now walk around to each developer asking if you can refill their coffee. (Don’t forget the cream and sugar)

Do not say “Wonderful idea! I’ll have my assistant to that every day”. If you do, you are missing the point. The point is not to make sure developers are working in a caffeine fueled fog. The point is to show your developers that you respect what they are doing so much that you will sacrifice some of your time to make sure they are taken care of.

Don’t do it once, do it every day. Do it with a smile. If appropriate, take the time to chat with each developer about their life, kids, SO, hobbies. Don’t just pretend to be interested in them, BE INTERESTED IN THEM.

Depending on the size of your team, this exercise could take 10 minutes or it could take an hour. Regardless of how long it takes you, do it. Do it today, do it tomorrow, do it every day next week, do it for the rest of the month. Do it every day until you understand why this is important.

At that point – that moment when you begin to understand why small and seemingly insignificant actions like a manager bringing someone a cup of coffee are important – you will understand “Culture of Respect”. Your team will never be the same again.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Photo credit: “My Favorite Parisian Waiter” by Christina Campisi