The great software developers, indeed, the best people in every field, are quite simply never on the market.
The average great software developer will apply for, total, maybe, four jobs in their entire career.
The great college graduates get pulled into an internship by a professor with a connection to industry, then they get early offers from that company and never bother applying for any other jobs. If they leave that company, it’s often to go to a startup with a friend, or to follow a great boss to another company, or because they decided they really want to work on, say, Eclipse, because Eclipse is cool, so they look for an Eclipse job at BEA or IBM and then of course they get it because they’re brilliant.
If you’re lucky, if you’re really lucky, they show up on the open job market once, when, say, their spouse decides to accept a medical internship in Anchorage and they actually send their resume out to what they think are the few places they’d like to work at in Anchorage.
But for the most part, great developers (and this is almost a tautology) are, uh, great, (ok, it is a tautology), and, usually, prospective employers recognize their greatness quickly, which means, basically, they get to work wherever they want, so they honestly don’t send out a lot of resumes or apply for a lot of jobs.
Does this sound like the kind of person you want to hire? It should.
Joel goes on to talk about how to find these people, and one of the things he talks about at length is bringing people in as interns while they’re still students. One of the great joys of working at the UW is that we get the opportunity to work with lots of really great students – they’re our most valuable natural resource. Students are smart, energetic, and frequently they don’t yet know what supposedly can’t be done. And often, when we’re lucky, we get the opportunity to hire the best of our student employees as full-time staff when they graduate (unfortunately, we have more talented students than we have the ability to create open positions for them – but I guess that’s good for Microsoft, Google, and the rest of the companies that go on to hire these folks).
Joel’s article has me thinking about the possibilities of using some students for some of the projects that may be coming up for us in Emerging Technology.