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Stop Relying on These Recruiting Obsessions

By July 25, 2017 No Comments

Everyone has a preferred recruitment process. Some start with a phone-call, a technical test or personality quiz. Others prefer to do interviews that involve a panel or one-on-ones. There are some that prefer a white-board test, while others hand out assignments that can be done on-site or at-home. There are so many possibilities that it’s hard to definitively say one way is the right way.

Regardless of your process, talent selection is not getting any easier. In a market where demand for talent exceeds the supply, too many naive interviewers are still obsessed with legacies from the past: degrees and resumes. They cling to these outdated criteria in an effort to minimize the risk of hiring the wrong person. It’s not going to be easy, these practices are ingrained in our behaviour, but if we can kick these two obsessions to the curb, it will help you see talent in a new light.


Job descriptions all over the world list related degrees as a prerequisite. If you’re hiring a doctor, or a lawyer, or something that requires a license to practice – yes, you should probably hire someone with a degree. But hiring a programmer with a computer science degree only suggests that he or she invested thousands of dollars and several years to learn extensive theory and impractical languages like Dr. Racket (shout out to UBC CPSC 101). It is not the only means to competency.

We know that hiring software developers is hard, and if we continue to seek out a formal Computer Science education, our supply and demand problem will persist. There are over 71,000 tech sector firms in Canada. From 2016 to 2019 the demand for tech talent is expected to increase 24%. This prediction is well on it’s way to being reality: in June of 2017, Indeed had 17,020 job postings for Software Engineers, up 6.84% from the previous June.

The demand for programmers is clearly growing. Luckily, university enrollment in Canadian STEM programs has been on the rise since taking a serious hit (over 50% decline) between 2002 and 2007, and it looks like supply will finally keep pace with the industry growth (assuming graduation rates don’t plummet). While these degree-holding juniors might sustain our industry growth, can they make up for the retiring population? What happens as we need more Intermediate and Senior level developers, but the supply of those with degrees falls way short of our needs? Are we going to let our jobs sit unfilled for even longer? That’s not good for productivity, so the only answer is to loosen the educational requirements.

With the ubiquity of Massive Open Online Courses at our disposal and the rise of bootcamps like BrainStation and RED Academy, there’s nothing that can’t be learned. It’s time we stop requiring a degree, and start respecting autodidacts for their hustle and DIY mentality. If your candidate shows initiative, intelligence, and integrity – they’re clearly worth a shot.

Our campaign for hiring a Jr. Talent Marketer explains it best…

We hire people, not degrees

Hire people for their attitude, not their aptitude. Skills can be taught – even outside of a lecture hall.


We know that developers are in high demand, if not the highest of demand. If we believe that talent is scarce and in high demand, then we need to take a proactive approach to recruiting. Why do we still rely on resumes to tell us if someone is worthy?

Good developers are being headhunted daily, so it’s safe to assume that many don’t apply to job postings with a resume. If their resume plays no role in their ability to secure employment, why would they invest time and effort to create one in order showcase their skills and qualifications for your specific job? They wouldn’t.

Moral of the story: good developers don’t necessarily have good resumes. If you’re working with a recruiter who recommends a candidate after a one-on-one conversation, don’t let the resume dissuade you. You need to explore that developer’s potential; don’t be afraid to own a decision based on imperfect information.

By relying on resumes and degrees to validate someone’s competency and values, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Not only does this serve to shrink our candidate pool, but everyone is fishing in the same tiny pool. If we insist on hiring like it was done in the 1900s, we’ll be doomed to repeat the mistakes of other employers (good tenures and track-records do not necessarily indicate a good developer).

Next time you’re hiring, I encourage you to focus on the person. Take the time to understand what each person knows; how they acquired this knowledge; and what they’ve done with it. With this foundation in place, you should be able to tell if they can learn your world. From this point, it’s a matter of knowing where your mission and their motivation intersect. Passion trumps past-performance.