Never Stop Recruiting. Part 4/4 of Tech Recruiting in Chicago.

Part 4 of 4 : Recruiting for Tech In Chicago

The cycle of recruiting shouldn’t be one that starts and stops, it should always be a continuous process no matter if you’re in the “buying” frame of mind or not. Be proactive and not reactive, it seems very shallow and self-serving to just connect with people when you need them.

This type of thinking is what spearheaded the Tech In Motion movement that I have been so privileged to be a part of the last few years. The concept is to bring people that wouldn’t normally be in a room together to network. If doctors hang out with doctors, there is some light networking going on but real networking happens when you can get a room of people together that compliment one another because they do different things. Having a business guy talk to a technical guy who’s just getting done speaking with a real estate woman is how great networking happens. 

The best recruiter is a networker – one who makes connections to get connections in return. Most people make the obvious connections: recruiter to jobseeker, single male to single female, etc., but it’s the great networkers who think like a great recruiter and after listening, realize that a connection can be made. Don’t waste your time deepening connections with people you already know, think outside your own network and expand it constantly. Balance these connections by staying in touch with people in other teams or in other companies. Don’t make the trunk larger but make the branches reach further.


Build outward, not inward.  The point of networking is to connect people who wouldn’t ordinarily work together. You are the reason they got together in the first place and they never forget this. Don’t make the trunk larger but make the branches reach further.

Focus on quality, not quantity.  Rather than aiming for a massive network, focus on building an efficient one. An efficient network requires knowing people with different skills and viewpoints. Don’t preach to the choir, collaborate with the unpopular.

Build weak ties, not strong ones. The strong ties are already there, they are the people you already know well and talk to frequently and probably someone who knows a lot of the same people you do. A weak tie forms a bridge to a world you don’t normally walk in. To maintain a weak tie, you only have to maintain it once or twice a month. Keeping this tie is more beneficial than not having it at all. The road less traveled isn’t built with a highway.

Use hubs, not familiar faces. Identify the hubs in your community who are already great organizational networkers and ask them to connect you to someone who knows more. Weave a web not a flock.

Swarm the target. The smart networker enlists the help of their network to increase the odds that the target will listen. Ask a shared contact to reach out to the target person. Ask someone high in your network to talk to someone high in your target’s network. Share your vision of building a team, starting a company, recruiting for a client and remember reciprocity: make sure to highlight how this benefits them. The best leaders think of themselves last.

Strengthen ties by investing time. Invest time and resources to build stronger connections. Help the team get to know each other better. You’ll start to see results very quickly and you won’t need to be the aggressor all the time, the bond becomes so tight that you no longer need to be the glue. Once you have the ropes in place, you need to tighten them for the mast to sail. 


Interview Momentum

Part 3 of 4 : Recruiting for Tech In Chicago 

Most spend a lot of time on the interview “process” itself and forget the purpose of the entire thing – to hire the person you’re looking for. Don’t fall into the trap of just interviewing people, the best interviewers actually hate interviewing. That’s good because you need to HIRE someone. The key is to capture and control – Interview Momentum.

  • Define an interview process – pick an interview team, plan on a process (initial, deep dive, final).
  • Momentum is everything, you need to build and maintain it.
  • Never let more than 48 hours go by without speaking to the candidate and always be moving somewhere… if you stop, so does all your momentum.
  • 3 rounds of interviews – max. Stop with the technical brain teasers, they’re not effective.
  • Make a hiring decision within 5 business days of meeting the candidate. Understand that you’re not the only one interviewing them regardless of how you found them.

After you do a round of interviews and find someone you like, it’s time to make a decision. Don’t sabotage all of the momentum you built so far and wait. It’s like a meal at a restaurant, where you have a great meal and wonderful service only to wait forever for the bill? It sours the entire experience and devalues everything that you experienced prior… So all of that hard work that the restaurant put forth on trying to please and entertain you is wasted simply because they killed the momentum of the meal. The same applies to interviewing so don’t waver and just move.


Don’t be afraid of making the wrong decision – not making a decision is a decision in itself and it’s always wrong. No is a decision as much as Yes is.

Don’t kill the momentum you’ve built up to this point, if you do, think about what the candidate is thinking.

There are no “maybe’s”, make sure to close the interview loop by having one more phone call, lunch or drink to express your concerns.

Once you make a decision, have a “pre-closure” conversation with the candidate or recruiter before making the offer to finalize expectations. Candidates are receiving multiple offers and it is critical to understand where they stand in their decision process. This shouldn’t be taken personally, but instead discussed just like any other business decision.

Who’s involved in the decision? People don’t make decisions in a vacuum and most of the time they are heavily influenced by certain people they trust. Have they talked with their family and/or significant other? Have they mentioned the opportunity to a mentor or anyone else in their inner circle? What are their thoughts?

Are all questions answered? Do they have all the information they need to make a decision? Don’t assume that benefits have been discussed just because they met with your HR person for a few minutes at the beginning of the process. Double check with them and provide them the information personally. A quick e-mail is a small price to pay to guarantee they show up on their first day.

Know their expectations. Make sure if you are selling your opportunity that you sell to their desires and needs. Do they understand the expectations and opportunities within this position and your organization? Even though a path to management might excite you, it’s not for everyone and you should understand their career goals before making an offer for a position that involves management or other duties they may not be excited about.

Commute and hours. Even though your candidate and you may see eye to eye and everyone loves the idea of working together, they still have to make the drive most days. Have you covered the logistics of actually getting to and from work, schedule, hours, etc? Make sure you find out how long it will take to commute to and from work, if they have done that commute before, and what traffic patterns look like. The last thing you want is for someone to leave in 3-4 months because of a hefty commute.

Don’t be the last to extend an offer – it’s a sign of weakness. Make the best offer you can first.

Setting up the offer. Timing and delivery of extending an offer is the most critical and misunderstood part of the hiring process. A written offer is a necessity but it shouldn’t be sent without talking through the offer first, and sent off as a formality. The real offer should be personal, exciting, motivating for you and the candidate. This person will be working for YOU and a big part of the reason they are taking the job is because of you. Pick up the phone, call them, and simply tell them what you liked about them, why they would be a great fit for the position, and why you are excited for them to join the team.

What to offer. It is important that you put your best foot forward and extend one offer that represents your BEST offer. Be firm and fair with this. If they are paid fair market value at their current job, give them a fair bump in pay (typical is 7-10%) that will show you are putting your best foot forward and get them started with the right mentality. The advantage of this is that you know right away whether this person is going to accept your offer, and they aren’t going to go out shopping it around to try and re-negotiate after the fact. The last thing you want is resentment from a candidate who feels they were offered an unfair wage based on the market and their earnings history.

Time to decide. Once you have extended your offer and notified them that this is the best and only offer they will receive, give them 24-48 hours to think about it. At this point, there is no reason anyone needs more than a full day to think about a job offer. They have no doubt been talking about their job search with friends, family, and mentors for weeks and would have already been thinking about this in detail. Anyone who takes longer than 24-48 hours to accept a job, probably isn’t going to accept it. Think of it this way: If you were to propose to you girlfriend and she said “let me think about that for a couple days…” it would seem that either you rushed to judgment or you’re not getting married anytime soon and maybe you should now try online dating.

Forget Skills, Hire for Potential.

Part 2 of 4 : Recruiting for Tech In Chicago

Everyone is looking for the person that they can take on to their team, hit the ground running and go to the next level. Who wouldn’t? If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Great companies are built on hard work and dedication, and that starts with hiring the right people not the right resume. If all you have is your vision it’s nothing until you surround yourself with the right people. Anyone can think of great ideas, but a leader is only a leader when they get their first follower. Hire for character and not skills.  


Hire on potential not credentials

The question is: when you hire, do you look at people that have done it before or people that have the potential to do it better? Hiring will always be a risk, why not take a chance hoping you’ll get an even better return. Hiring another company’s prized engineer will take some serious courting, so just develop your own.

Less-established employees have room for growth

They are fresh and eager, not fatigued or scarred. There’s literally no ceiling for them and they’ll look at your business as “their” business. They don’t develop the “employee mentality” until much later in their career.

They have no bad habits to break; only good habits to learn. 

You don’t have to un-train them on the paradigms they’ve put in place somewhere else. They can blossom into anything.

They have the right attitude.

With attitude, as they say, the aptitude will come. Attitude is everything.

New blood, whether young or old, can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to old problems. 

Their enthusiasm can be infectious. Their naiveté is some of the gold that they bring. They’re not afraid to ask, “Why do you do it this way?” From the most innocent questions, we may go back to our roots and say, “That’s a good point. Why do we do that?” The newest employee may be the one who prompts a positive change.

Hire someone with enough skills to build on. 

In a perfect world we’d all hire people with no experience and just give them everything. The truth is that we’re not always in the perfect world and we need someone to be effective sooner rather than later. Hire people with enough skills to be productive but give them something more than money. Give them the opportunity to learn new technologies – after all, isn’t that why we’re in technology? The technologist in us will always be curious as to what’s new out there, it’s in our blood. 

You can build lifelong relationships.

Some employees are young; some are older. But when your company is in the place that allows an employee to blossom and shine, they will love working with you, most likely forever.  Thus, turnover is low.

The hardest part is to get into the right mentality, now that you’re (hopefully) there. It’s time to put the word out there.

  • If you have a technology stack, put that in there, but don’t make it seem like you need them to have everything.
  • Cast a wide net – a job description itself will never find your next developer… you will! So don’t be lazy and cut corners.
  • You screen people – not the candidate.
  • Send your job description to colleagues in the industry that have strong networks.
  • If you have the capital to use a recruiter, be selective and don’t use everyone. Do your research.
  • Talk to everyone – you never know who will impress you.
  • Interviewing makes you more aware of what you’re looking for and measure it on what’s available.
  • Redo the job description after interviewing 5 people.

Recruiting for Tech in Chicago. Part 1.

I thought I’d share a little bit about my experience recruiting in Chicago. Most of this is taken from a presentation I gave to budding entrepreneurs at 1871 and I’ve decided to split it up into a four part series for greater ease. 

The Chicago Tech Scene is…


The Chicago Tech Scene is incredibly dispersed throughout many industries and everyone’s hiring. In fact, according to the Silicon Valley Bank, 90% of Software companies nationwide say they will be hiring for developers in 2013. A few other points include:

So how do you stand apart and recruit top technical talent with all of this competition? First, let me just guess who you’re looking for without the buzz words for second.

  • Someone young and works hard.
  • Someone who is incredibly smart and can adapt easily to new situations.
  • Someone who can relate to business users as well as technical people.
  • Someone who is passionate about technology and is proactively involved in the tech community.
  • Someone who would does this for fun and happens to get paid for it.
  • Someone who is motivated to be a part of a team.
  • Someone who wants to build something cool and challenging.

Now let’s throw in those buzz words that you’re looking for as well. 


If you’re PHP you want:

  • Drupal 7, Zend, Object-Orientated Javascript, HTML5, CSS3

If you’re RoR you want:

  • Object orientated coding experience, Rails 3.2, Cucumber, Rspec, Shoulda, CouchDB, MongoDB , Reddis, Git

If you’re .NET you want:

  • C#, ASP.NET MVC ¾, Telerik controls, jQuery, Javascript, JSON, LINQ, SSIS, SQL2K8 R2

If you’re Java you want:

  • J2EE, Spring MVC, Lucene, Hadoop, Groovy on Grails, JSP, Javascript, jQuery

If you’re Mobile you want:

  • Object orientated coding experience, iOS AND Android background, Windows Mobile. 

Now let’s talk money, because after all, you may offer a cool collaborative environment but if you aren’t competitive with the market you’re asking people to hold out on the hope of making it big. Basically the same thing every broke entrepreneur is telling the same developers. Let’s start out with the basic developer salaries without all of the latest and greatest technology.


 PHP Developer Salaries

  • 1 – 3 years of experience: $60K – $80K
  • 3 – 5 years of experience: $80K – $110K
  • 5+ years (with an O.O. background): $115K – $130K

Front End Developer Salaries

  • 1 – 3 years of experience: $50K – $70K
  • 3 – 5 years of experience: $65K – $85K
  • 5+ years: $80K – $110K

Ruby on Rails Developer Salaries

  • 1 – 3 years of experience with stability: $65K – $80K
  • 3+ years experience with stability: $70K – $110K

Java Developer Salaries

  • 1 -3 years of experience: $60K – $80K
  • 3 -5 years of experience: $85K – $95K
  • 5years plus: $90K – 110K
  • 7+ years (Architect level): $105K – $135K

.NET Developer Salaries

  • 1 -3 years of experience: $60K – $75K
  • 3 -5 years of experience:$70K – $95K
  • 5 years plus: $90K – 110K
  • 7+ years (Architect level): $105K – $135K

Mobile Developer Salaries

  • 1 -3 years of experience: $60K – $80K
  • 3 -5 years of experience: $85K – $95K
  • 5 years plus: $90K – 125K

Let’s talk about what the latest technology will cost you.

The average salary for a junior / entry level (0-2 years) developer with an above average CS degree (think a Big Ten school) is: $55K – $65K. If you get someone with an elite education than they can pretty much write their own ticket.

  • Add in modern development languages such as object orientated PHP, RoR, Java or C# you can add $5K
  • Add modern web development frameworks we spoke about (Drupal, Cake PHP, MVC) you can add another $5K
  • For every 2 years of experience you add $5K
  • Now add someone with the soft skills you’re looking for and you can bump another $5K on top
  • If you add “bonus points” for Mobile experience (iOS and/or Android) you’re looking at 10K-15K for a jump.
  • That’s now $70K – $80K for a 0-2 year person and $85K – $95K for a 6-8 year developer with a decent degree

This is starting to add up, right? Especially for entrepreneurs that are trying to bootstrap their start up and make things happen. Well, before you give up hope, I think you’re in great shape because the way you should always hire is to hire with an eye for potential. Yes, that’s right, hire someone without the skills. I will explain in Part 2 of this series.