How we source software engineering candidates who will pass your tech interview

ericThis article explains our bulletproof process for sourcing software engineers and provides concrete examples; this process led us to placing software developers at growing startups as well as enterprise brands such as REMAX, Lever Data, WorkReduce, and Drive Sally.

This article is for leaders at growing companies with job openings for software engineers. This is especially for leaders who may be understandably frustrated by the hiring process when it comes to software engineering talent.

It’s been known since the 1980s that there is a distribution of productivity among computer programmers, and that some are not only “10 x” (ten times) but in fact one hundred times more productive and efficient than the average programmer. [1]

So it’s clear that good programmers are rare, but the great ones are worth it.

Anyone who reads TechCrunch will know that startups – even those that don’t make it past the Series B stage – are regularly snapped up in “acqui-hire” deals, where the founders are paid a bounty per software engineer in the neighborhood of $5 to $10 million.

So it’s clear that good programmers companies are willing to pay up for top talent.

Companies may be so desperate to find talent that they locate to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, with its enormous rents, passive-aggressive “we’re here to change the world, not to make money” ethos and its startup monoculture, just so they can fish in a talent pool that’s stocked with talent.

But often times, if a leader at a company isn’t technical, they might be afraid that it’s impossible for them to hire a great software engineer. For good reason. The maxim “A players hire A players” is something that resonates with experienced entrepreneurs. And go find a blog article or Quora article addressing the common question – how should? a non-technical person should evaluate potential developers – and see the refrain “God help you” uttered by Silicon Valley luminaries.

So when a company has trouble with its hiring process – and starts making excuses like “all the good software engineers are already working” or “it’s impossible to compete with the massive salary offers and social prestige of Facebook/Apple/Netflix/Google”, it’s in fact entirely understandable.

When I show you the solution, the only reason I am able to convey this to you is because I happen to luck into a very specific background and set of circumstances that enabled me to make this insight. I was born in Palo Alto, into a community of successful entrepreneurs and software developers; I started programming in the ‘90s and was working in Silicon Valley as a professional by the 2000s.

So, here is the simple and straightforward solution: treat the software developer recruitment process like a funnel, and have a great software engineer run the funnel for you.

To understand why this is true, visualize a hiring process that resulted in the hiring of an excellent candidate. Working backwards in the successful hiring process, you have the great candidate. Then you have the interview. Then you have the phone screen. Then you have the resume or initial contact with your firm.

funnel.png

Without making sure that great people see the job listing in the first place, at the top of the funnel, we’re never going to get great candidates out of the end. And without a sufficient volume, we won’t be able to get sufficient throughput due to the drop-off at each stage.

In order to get great candidates to the top of the funnel, you need to ally up with a great software engineer. This software engineer can tell you where all the great candidates hang out (“it takes one to know one”); they can tell them about your job opportunity, and they can sell it in a way that makes it both convincing and credible to a peer.

For example, while a CEO might talk about a culture of transparency and their open office – a snarky engineer might interpret that as a culture of anxiety-inducing mistrust where someone can breathe down your neck, watching you code, while you’re just trying to focus and get the job done. So, tone matters.

One of the major problems that a reader of this article might have is that either they have no amazing software engineers to set the tone and bar for their process or, if they do have the talent, the talent is focused on building features for the product roadmap and therefore doesn’t have the time to commit to running the funnel and process. Both are understandable and both are solvable through Code For Cash’s placement solution.

The Code For Cash proposition is simple: we’ll run your recruiting for you and in exchange, you pay us 20% of each successful hire’s first-year cash salary.

You can continue doing things as usual and perhaps experience death by a thousand paper cuts, or you could delegate to us and pay us once we generate a success.

This process has worked for prestigious firms and entrepreneurs, including WorkReduce, Lever Data, David J. Moore, Johann Schleier-Smith, and Bluedrop Performance Learning.

Here’s how we get the job done.

We find the people who are obviously great.

The first thing we do is go through GitHub and look for people who have had their pull requests accepted into popular open source projects.  We then research their contact information and remove anyone from the list who asks not to be contacted by recruiters.

We then look for authors of popular blog posts or paperback books on the relevant topics, and conduct the same research – removing contact info where inappropriate and enriching where appropriate.

We write the screener questions.

The first step in the process is to really review the job description and understand: the psyche and personas of potential high-performing candidates, what the day to day is like in the job, what kind of background that person might have had to led them up to that point, and of course, the fundamentally important “hard skills” that are required. This helps us design questions to help us tease out whether they are the person who is right for the role and confirm that they have the communication skills to share their skills knowledgeably.

Example screener questions include:

We create a landing page fully instrumented with analytics.

Because most job recruiting processes are not run by default as a funnel, sometimes the “product” and “user experience” aspect of job listings gets ignored. The most important thing is to tell a story about the company and a story about the job, and for the story to be credible (to sound like it was at least approved by the software engineers working in the organization). The more detail-rich and authentic the description is, the better. It’s important to pick the technical skills capriciously either.

We treat this landing page like a product and manage it as closely as any product manager would.

We pay the fees.

We find that it often takes at least three hundred qualified eyeballs to get a placement at a company. A qualified eyeball is when a candidate with the requisite technical skills views the job posting. In order to get the job posting in front of qualified eyeballs, some amount of expenditure is required. This occurs in both time to contact candidates as well as fees incurred with posting on the job boards, podcasts and meetups that are relevant to the role. It’s no matter – we pay the fees because we are confident that our methods are effective.

Example job boards or sourcing locales:

  • Lobste.rs
  • Craigslist
  • Hacker News
  • MIT Alumni Job Board
  • UWaterloo Alumni Job Board
  • Tech Hiring Subreddits
  • Reddit Ads
  • Rands Leadership Slack
  • Various domain-specific Slack channels
  • AuthenticJobs
  • BetaList
  • Angel.co Source Pro
  • LinkedIn groups
  • LinkedIn ads
  • LinkedIn Recruiter
  • Various domain-specific IRC channels
  • GitHub Jobs
  • StackOverflow Careers
  • A recruiter presence at local tech meetups

We get the ball rolling in our network.

When Code For Cash was first founded, we were a network of freelance programmers. Because of this, over 2,000 programmers signed up with us and registered their skills. The tech programming community is extremely tight knit, and we seed our viral referral loop by sharing our jobs and galvanizing our immediate audience of programmers by paying them if they originate successful placements.

Our offer is that we will source and place candidates for you in exchange for 20% of first-year salary.

Our guarantee is that we will get the job done. If for any reason a candidate does not deliver value for you and your organization, you will either get a complete refund or a replacement.

There is a human element to this process, and there are a limited number of software engineers with the requisite traits to succeed in sales (recruiting is fundamentally a sales process). So we can’t work with every company or individual who would like to work with us, but we promise to add value in a big way to each person we contact.

Contact us today and with a 15-minute meeting, get the ball rolling and be confident that you’re about to hire extremely talented software engineers.

https://calendly.com/code-for-cash-recruiting/15min

[1] DeMarco, Tom, and Timothy Lister. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams. New York, NY: Dorset House Publ., 2003.

Getting invocation count for Lambda functions

For one of our Software as a Service as a Service (SaaSaaS) clients, we built a serverless Lambda service and charged them per successful invocation.  Each time the service succeeds, we charge; therefore, we wanted to figure out how many times it was successful in order to calculate their bill.  Our service logs the text “Posting response” if the invocation was successful; if you want to get a total invocation count, in the steps below, replace “Posting response” with “END RequestId”.

 

  1. Follow these instructions to export your log data to an S3 bucket under your control: https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AmazonCloudWatch/latest/logs/S3ExportTasksConsole.html
  2. Run this on your local commandline: aws s3 cp s3://bucket-with-the-export/exportedlogs lambda-exported-logs –recursive

  3. Run this on the local commandline to uncompress all the logs: gunzip -r lambda-exported-logs
  4. Install The Silver Searcher, a super-fast grep-like tool available on most platforms
  5. Fire up the ruby interpreter (type irb on your local commandline) and run this code:

    irb(main)> res=`ag -c "Posting response"`
    irb(main)> res.split(“\n”).map{|x|x.split(‘:’)[-1]}.map(&:to_i).inject(:+)

  6.  You’ll get your total invocation count.

How does the uTask system work?

This post explains how the Code For Cash uTask system works, both from the perspective of a developer and from the experience of a manager.

Manager

If you want to hire a developer from the Code For Cash network, you have a few options:

  1. Join the Code For Cash Slack channel, and post a requirement informally in the chat.  If you want an invitation to Slack, simply sign up for a Code For Cash account at https://codefor.cash/signup and click the link in the Sidebar to join Slack (https://i.codefor.cash/user/configure_slack).
  2. Post the requirement formally by clicking the “Manager” menu in the Code For Cash Sidebar and then the “Hiring” tab.  Within the Hiring tab, you can choose between hiring for a fixed-scope project at a fixed-price or hiring a developer at an hourly rate for ongoing work.

If you post the requirement through Code For Cash, it will be cross-posted to the Code For Cash twitter account, (https://twitter.com/codeforcashbook), it will be cross-posted to the Code For Cash Slack channel, and it will send an email notification to any Code For Cash user whose skill keywords match the keywords in the job listing.

Some managers also choose to have Code For Cash promote their job listing on social media, which is available for a flat fee of $195.  To take advantage of this offer, simply paypal $195 to zack@codefor.cash and in the transaction notes, add the link to your job listing.  We will promote it using targeted pay per click ads on Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Once you find a candidate you like, you have the option of hiring directly, hiring via the platform (we have a built in contract system, managed by DocuSign, wherein your developer will sign a contract that includes an NDA, a non compete clause specific to your product and industry, assignment of intellectual property rights of the work product, and so forth.

You also have the option of using Code For Cash as your escrow agent, which is a way of providing peace of mind to both the developer and to you.  The burden for paying the escrow fee falls entirely on the developer.

However, you always retain the option of circumventing Code For Cash and hiring the developer directly.  It’s up to you… we’re here if you need us, but you’re equally welcome to just leverage our hiring tools for your process.

NOTE:  There are two types of uTasks.  Fixed-price projects with a crystal clear specification, and hourly engagements.

Developer

If you’re signed up for the Code For Cash network, you can bid on any Code For Cash uTask.

  • Browse the list of open uTasks at any time by navigating to https://i.codefor.cash/utasks
  • If you upload a resume or list your keywords at https://i.codefor.cash/user/gig_alerts then you can get email alerts whenever a uTask is posted that has overlap with your skills.  Sometimes developers like to disable email alerts, but you can always re-enable them at https://i.codefor.cash/user/account_settings
  • If you are hired by the manager for a task, then you have the option of working through the Code For Cash platform (letting us manage the contract and holding the money in escrow) or working directly with the manager.  The escrow fee is 30% for non-subscribers and 5% for subscribers.

    Subscriptions cost $25/monthly (or $300/year .. subscribing annually also provides you with a Udemy for Business account).  In addition to lower escrow fees, you also benefit from instant gig alerts for freelance programming jobs, discovered by our bots from elsewhere on the Internet.

 

 

What are SPF records and why do they help with email deliverability?

SPF record is an abbreviation for Sender Policy Framework record.  The SPF is a type of DNS record.  It is how you control who (what servers) is authorized to send email on behalf of your domain name.

Email is such a simple protocol that anyone can send email pretending to be from anyone – spoofing.  However, because this loophole was immediately adopted by criminals for nefarious purposes, email service providers began to automatically reject  unidentified emails.  In practice, this means a hard bounce, a soft bounce, or going into the spam folder.

Whether you’re sending email from Google Mail, Outlook, Mailchimp, Amazon Simple Email Service, or another solution entirely, having SPF records in place will improve your email delivery.

Here’s how we add SPF records for a domain:

  1. Search your email provider’s help page for the term “SPF”.  For example, here is Google’s page if you’re using hosted Google Mail
  2. Your email provider will advise you a TXT record to add to your DNS in order to authorize them to send email on behalf of your domain.  For example, “v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all” is the SPF record to authorize Google.  For MailChimp, it’s “v=spf1 include:servers.mcsv.net ?all“.

    Note: If you’re using Google for Mail and then MailChimp for Marketing, you can combine the two into a single SPF record: “v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com include:servers.mcsv.net ~all”

  3. Go to your DNS provider and add the TXT record.  We recommend CloudFlare for DNS, because they provide a slew of benefits, such as https/SSL and even their Free plan is really powerful.

That’s it!  It may take a few minutes for your email service provider to confirm the SPF record but in a worst case scenario, it could take a whole day, so we recommend being proactive with setting up SPF records.

What is and isn’t possible with ARKit (Augmented Reality) currently?

Recently a prospect came to us and asked if we could build an app that would let users preview trying on engagement or wedding rings.

Unfortunately, this isn’t currently inexpensive due to the software limitations of ARKit.

The prospect, still bullish on Augmented Reality, asked us to look into creating an app to simulate wallpapers and drapery on walls.

Unfortunately, this isn’t easy yet either.  Code For Cash coder Serge “buildcode” Boinn looked into this and found this (technical explanation to follow).

“Vertical plane detection” is the technical concept here.  This has not been added to iOS (iPhone) yet, but conversations with an Apple engineer suggest that it is coming soon.  Connect with us on social media to get updates on what is possible using the cutting edge of software technology.

Our coder did add that this may be currently possible, using clever techniques with existing iOS methods, but certainly wouldn’t be cheap – not like the $300 furniture demo that we built.

“SDKs save tons of development time, but there are typically other approaches that involve a ton more work. For rings, for example, there was a video I posted that demonstrated trying on a ring while using a marker on a finger. There might be other ways… Just not a good fit for something quick.”

So: anything is possible!  But somethings may be more affordable and accessible and less risky than others.  Then again, in software development: if there’s no risk, there’s no point (i.e., no risk? no value… no reward).