“We are one of the greatest companies to work for!” I’m sure you’ve heard this a few times through your interviews. And only very rarely it proves to be the case. (leaving aside the fact that “great” is a subjective term and as such it’s difficult to compare the “greatness” of 2 companies , which in itself makes the above statement false, assuming that you can compare greatness, the statement still proves false in most cases.)
And I ask occasionally companies what do they think makes them great. Think of yourself and try to remember how many times you heard some of the following:
“we have a great product” – no shit, Sherlock! Have you ever heard a company saying “we have a rubbish product but we still want you to buy it”? Everyone has great products – even the little man and his dog who wrote a “better” twitter and is just waiting for it to take off has a great product – its just that no one uses it 😀 Rather than these bold statements try to show them your product and demo it and let them draw their own conclusions. Remember you are not in a sales meeting but instead you’re showing it to a techie – so talk about technologies involved in each feature and component. Don’t be surprised if what you think is a killer feature or component or technology bores the shit out of your candidate- we don’t all think and feel the same!
“we use the latest technologies” hmmm really? So you are trying to appeal to the geeky type then – the ones that only send their CV to Google, and Microsoft and Amazon.. And what makes you think you got the upper hand on these guys? What makes you think that someone would believe that there’s more technology in your company than in Microsoft for instance? You are just offering the opportunity to be caught with your pants down , if your candidate turns around and asks:
“oh cool! Are you using ajax?”
“err no, we don’t do that much client side programming to need it.”
“oh so no flex, no jquery?”
“what about things like grails, groovy, linux, amqp?”
Right, so because you’re using probably one fucking library that was in fashion back in the friggen 80’s you think you got the latest technology?
You could of course suggest that you are open to embracing new technologies, that you quite often rely on your employees to suggest them etc You still have the problem of competing in this area against the big guns so you might be scoring points but it won’t be the killer blow telling your candidate this.
“We have a very dedicated team” a-ha! So you mean once I take the job I’m expected not to have lunch and spend my whole working day in the office? Either that or I’ll be just surrounded by geeks who only look in their monitor screens? And you think this sells?
“We have a team of very intelligent people” — right! And how did you attract them in the first place? Because if it’s the same “sale pitch” like the one I’m hearing now then you didn’t really get the very intelligent segment of the market!
“It’s a very lively atmosphere in the office”. This might actually be a good one, as its a well known fact that a healthy atmosphere in the work place does improve productivity. But make sure you’re not delivering that while its dead quiet in the office and the only noise is the one of the photocopier – like in some bizarre episode of “The Office”! How about give some examples of this “lively” atmosphere?
“we pay above market rates” This might actually work assuming that you pay more than 0.5% above those rates. Ultimately we all want to get pay and while a company might not have all the technologies and servers and tools I’m interested in, or the right combination of skills and personalities in their team, a salary significantly higher than I could get somewhere else might mean that they are interested in me, that they are aware of hot scoring as many points as other companies but are trying to compensate somehow for this. Though like I said, if you go down that route bear in mind that it takes a solid amount to compensate for the other “features” your package is missing. Pay less than 10% extra and you won’t get much interest.
“we offer a great package including pension, 20 days hols etc” woo-fucking-hoo! So does eveybody else!
“we care about our employees” Really? How? What do you do to show them that? Offer free spa days? That’s been done in the likes of Google and others for years!what makes you different (and better!) than others when it comes to caring about your employees? Do you throw free parties for them? Buy them lunch? Talk to them a lot informally to find out how they are and whether they need help with anything? No? Then piss off and stop waving slogans in front of them!
The list could go on and on — the point being that even though you think you have a great “sale pitch” for your candidates you are simply proving that you are just an average standard company. As such don’t expect to hire exceptional people – you will hire average, standard people too. If you don’t have a “killer blow”, something that would make the candidate want the job right there and then, your hiring process will be a standard one and you’ll get standard people. Some people will turn you down even – you haven’t got anything special to attract them. And as such is very easy for any company to attract your candidates just by offering a tiny bit extra.
I know of a company who takes their employees each year for a massive xmas party abroad – I’m talking Bermuda for instance. That was one of their key selling points and lots of candidates pretty much signed the contract there and then when told this. Another company I know of organizes parties for their employees regularly-not on such a big scale as the previously mentioned one but about once a month they all get taken out by the company – from a proper evening dinner in gaucho’s to hiring a pub and have a whole evening of dancing and drinking on the company. (not surprisingly the staff looks forward to these little treats and the mixture of spirits and enjoying a night out means that there are no office tensions.) Yet there are a couple I know who know that really they don’t have much to offer in terms of social life or quality of office life and they compensate this with big bucks. (And to all of you out there who think you’re doing the same trust me, 1k bonus doesn’t qualify as “big bucks”! I’m talking about 15-25% above standard rate plus bonus on performance. So your average 30k job becomes around 38k plus a bonus normally around xmas of another 2-3k.)
Of course your offer should adapt to the company growth rate – if you have upgraded from a Ford to a Porsche you’ll have to ensure your employees have been upgraded from office instant coffee to at least a starbucks-otherwise frustration settles in and from being “a really cool company to work for” (what the fuck does that mean anyway? Are chicks gonna queue up at my door once I start working for you asking for my “cool” autograph, or does my change in clothes change overnight so I become really stylish?) you’ll find you end up in the “they’re alright” sector. And if you’re an “alright” company then you’re average, which actually means you’re mediocre – so you can forget your plans of hiring the top end and taking over the world: you’re gonna get just the average segment who want to turn off their screens at 5pm on the fly and leave work regardless.
I’ve been through this logic with a few people I know and it seems a lot of people find it hard to sit themselves on the other side of the fence- it’s hard to understand when you’re settled in a company that it might actually not be “a great company to work for”. I always ask them the same: “what do you offer?” and maybe because of the credit crunch,when it was acceptable to offer just a job, or maybe it is because most people find it difficult to look at themselves from the other side of the barricades, but most people don’t realise that just offering them a job with your company which you think is great is not good enough to attract motivated employees who also want to stay with the company and help developing it. (As a side note that’s why I think the HR interviews are a waste of time: asking me standard questions from “The Perfect Interview” book will get you a standard answer that doesn’t say anything about me apart from the fact that I can lie comfortably in an interview! What gets me out of bed in the morning? A blowjob, a coffee and a cigarette – but to my employee it will always be “a challenge”! So what the fuck have you learned about my from that question and answer?bugger all!but I have learned that you are a “standard” – read “crap”- company that does everything by the book. In other words to work around the lack of brains in your company you got strongly ironed out procedures in place.) Do you pay significantly more above market? (Even that alone won’t get you the top end as there are people out there not motivated by money!) No! Have you got a great career track for him/her? No, cause you’re a small company and the structure is really flat? Can your company be used as a great career propulsor? No, cause you’re to small and no one knows of you so having worked for you in my CV is equivalent to “I’ve done stuff”. Have you got such mind-blowing technologies in house? Probably not – you’re still in your initial years and as such not missing deadlines and getting paid is bloody important so you are likely to sacrifice the technology in favour of the paycheck. Are you developing such an awesome atmosphere in the office that people start hearing of it (and as such want to come and work for you)? Probably not if you’re in your early years as you’re hardly ever in the office, meeting up with those prospective clients to have time for this. (Hint: thought of delegating this?) Are you taking your staff out on regular basis on in some exorbitant places? (Hint: did you know this is more tax efficient for both sides than a bonus?) Apart from tasks do you give your staff anything that would make them feel you care about them more than any other “great” company? No. Your “great” product which you entice them with, does it span over more than 1 server? No? In a world where your average dot-com starts with about 10? Think again then: is it really that great? And another aspect: assuming you are small and just starting up, and you do have a great product but with a great future ahead, but are just lacking funds for instance, have you thought of enticing your employees with shares?after all it might be only 10k worth of shares today but if your company will be worth millions in 2 years those shares might become 100 k! Oh hang on, you don’t want to “lose control” of your company by giving shares away – right!
So let me sum it up: you don’t pay a lot of money, don’t offer that much extra, don’t give shares away and aren’t in fact different to hundreds of other companies but still think you can attract the top end? Dude, call the fucking jobcentre people and get some jobless in, as these are the only ones you appeal to and attract!
Is that really all there is to it baecuse that’d be flabbergasting.
I found this article on company culture too here: http://paulstamatiou.com/startup-culture which I thought it’s rather relevant in the context of this.