Your Pipeline is Broken

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend of mine who is smart and talented enough to have gotten an internship at Apple and is planning to go out there for a permanent position at the end of the school year.

We were catching up about all the stuff we have been doing over the last few months and I can’t remember how this topic came up, but she mentioned to me that a company in town was desperately anxious to hire every mobile developer our school produced.

She is not the first person to tell me this. I am very puzzled and confused by this information because it does not correlate with my own experiences.

I started in the mobile development program two years ago. I was at school as a mobile development student for three semesters. Each semester we have an IT Job Fair where local employers supposedly send representatives to connect with students looking for jobs or internship.

I noticed that every semester I went to this job fair it got progressively worse and worse. At the first job fair people would actually talk to you and answer questions. The second one people would avoid eye contact with you and were incredibly unhelpful.

I went to the last one purely out of spite. I simply wanted to see just how bad it had gotten over the last year. I was not disappointed.

Each booth has a sign on it saying what they are looking for. I found one company looking for a mobile developer. Every other company that was looking for developers was looking for someone who knew VB.Net. VB.Net was eliminated from our curriculum around the time I went back to school full time. No one there had ever even taken a class in it. There was also a shocking amount of people looking for COBOL programmers even though I have no idea how long ago that language was eliminated from the curriculum.

The only people even looking for Java, which I had assumed was a pretty safe language to learn, were recruiters. Yes, there were recruiters at the job fair. I guess they really don’t want to miss an opportunity to capture someone before they know better than to hand over their soul, I mean, resume.

So, back to this company that is supposedly desperate to hire people. They have a booth at the job fair. Back when I was just starting out I talked to people there about what I should study if I want to work for their company. They handed out data sheets and seemed happy to talk to me. At this last one there were two women at the booth gossiping. I was feeling like a troll, so I went over to talk to them. They ignored me. Having nothing better to do and being curious about what was going to happen, I stood there and watched them while they tried to pretend I wasn’t there.

When it became obvious that I wasn’t going to leave, one of them sighed and snapped at me, “What do you want?”

I told her I was looking for a job. She sighed again and rolled her eyes at her friend. She said, “Yeah, we don’t hire people. If you want to work here, go over there and talk to Robert Half and leave us alone because we are busy.” She then went back to ignoring me and picking up her conversation with her friend.

Aw, isn't that cute. She wants a job. Doesn't she know she has to fill out form BZ/ST/486/C and defeat the Minotaur to get a phone screen?

Aw, isn’t that cute. She wants a job. Doesn’t she know she has to fill out form BZ/ST/486/C and defeat the Minotaur to get a phone screen?

Yeah, I am not talking to Robert Half. Robert Half is evil and incompetent. Actually, I could replace their name with any number of other recruiters in Madison and it would still be true.

I have spoken to recruiters (back when I didn’t know any better) and I have been told that no one in town wants entry level developers. No one wants to hire someone who just got done with school. I was told that no jobs ever came up, but if in the unlikely chance they ever did, I needed to sign an exclusivity contract with one of the recruiters to even have a shot at it. I was speaking to about five recruiters as part of my unemployment obligations back before I decided to go back to school full time and each recruiter was only interested in getting dirt on what the other recruiters were talking to me about.

I stopped looking for jobs on job sites because every job posted is a fake job created by a recruiter to trick someone into sending them a resume so they can fulfill some quota. I have seen the same job posted over and over again, but it someone miraculously never gets filled.

I have tried applying for a job directly at this company. I have applied for jobs that I fit perfectly and I have never made it past the HR screening criteria to even receive an email written by an actual human being.

I found it was easier to get tech conference talks accepted, get a book deal, and find a job at a weird esoteric small company that builds fluid printing robots that is run by one of the best programmers in the world than it was to even get to first base with this company in town that is supposedly desperate for developers.

I thought that maybe things had changed since last year. Things in tech change very rapidly and it was possible that this company had gotten their heads out of their asses and actually fixed their problems.

I asked a current student if he went, and he verified my tale that no one there was actively seeking out mobile developers. He saw lots of people looking for COBOL, but no iOS or Android.

I am actively telling people attending school not to bother with this company because it is too hard to perforate the layers of bureaucracy protecting it from ever actually hiring a competent person for work they supposedly need done.

People, your pipeline is broken. I believe that it is possible that the executives talking to our school actually want to hire some of our students, but they are setting up impossible obstacles to prevent us from ever actually getting there. Sending representatives from your company to a job fair to basically tell anyone who wants to work for you to fuck off is not going to convince anyone that they really want to work for your company.

I guess I should thank these guys for making it so hard for me to get in. When I went back to school in 2010 I wanted to work there and have a nice, stable, mundane existence. I think if I had done that I would be bored to tears. Things worked out fine for me. I guess maybe they were doing something right by trying to keep people like me out. I will see what I can do to help the other people like me avoid being trapped by the endless recruiter bureaucracy.

My plea to the current students studying programming: Don’t fall into this trap! This leads to misery and despair. Build a portfolio. Reach out to experts in your field. Go to conferences. Do things that don’t pay you a lot of money immediately but build your skills and establish your credibility. Push yourself to do things that are hard and be comfortable with feeling that you are stupid. Be willing to learn better ways to do things. For the love of God, do not give your resume to a recruiter! They will hound you to the grave with four month contracts in Boise, Idaho programming in a language that died ten years ago. Choose your own adventure.