5 Practical Tips for Not Looking Like a Resume Black Hole

If you're hiring job seekers who have a hard-to-find skill set (e.g. most software engineers), you may be discouraging the best from applying because you look like a resume black hole, a company that never responds to resumes from job seekers. Additionally, if you actually are a resume black hole, you're probably getting a bad reputation among job seekers. They talk, and once they've spent time updating their resume, crafting a cover letter, and possibly answering a puzzle you asked only to never hear from you, the talk won't be good.

Most job seekers are very familiar with calls for resume submissions. Be it on a job board or on your company's jobs page, they know it's unlikely they'll ever hear anything back. Worse yet, you'll miss both the best passive and active job seekers. You'll miss passive/casual job seekers because they'll be reluctant to exert effort to update their resume and write a cover letter on such an uncertain prospect. You'll miss great active job seekers because they probably have multiple options and they need to be able to count on hearing from you in a timely fashion to compete with their other options.

Here are a few tips to let job seekers know you take them and your hiring process seriously. Some of these tips require fundamental shifts with respect to your hiring and screening process, so they may work better for smaller companies.

1) Explicitly state that you will respond to all candidates within X hours. To decrease the amount of time you spend replying to non-qualified applicants, just say, "We promise we'll let you know whether you'll move further in our process within 48 hours. Otherwise we'll just reply with 'Thank you, but we won't be moving forward with you'." Alternatively, you can offer to send feedback for less than qualified candidates. Either way, you need to give the job seeker some explicit assurance that a person will read their application; otherwise, the job seeker will assume they're at the mercy of some buzzword search tool.

2) Lay out your hiring process and timeline. Example: "After receiving your resume, if you progress through each stage, we'll do a phone screen within 3 days, bring you in for an interview within 10 days, and give you an offer within 15 days. We want to have you working here in just over a month."

3) Request a bit.ly link to their LinkedIn profile. Let them know that you'll click the link when you start reviewing their application. The job seeker will be able to monitor one of the earliest interactions you have with their application. It will keep you honest about #1 above and will give the job seeker an assurance that they'll be able to see your progress with their application. You need to explicitly ask for a shortened track-able link though. It's often considered rude to include these links in an email to a single party otherwise.

4) Don't just say "we're always looking for..." on your jobs page. When you say this, you convey that your request may not be fresh. If, for example, you really are always open to hiring any great developer who sends you a resume, consider posting a specific job or two and put a field next to the link that says "current as of X," where X might auto update every week.

5) If you stop hiring, take down your job posts. If you don't, you'll lose credibility for future hires. Job seekers will have invested time in sending you a resume, cover letter, and possibly an answer to a puzzle you requested. The word will get around. Make sure you take down posts on job boards and on your own jobs page. If you can't take them down, updated them with a note that the position is filled or no longer available.

At this point, you may be thinking "well, if they don't want to go through the trouble of applying, we don't want them." Think again. The best job seekers have plenty of competition for their skills. If you want a chance at getting them, you have to give a little.

About Hirelite

Hirelite runs web-based "speed interviewing" events to connect software engineers and companies hiring. If you're looking to evaluate the software job market or looking to hire, check out Hirelite.com. Our next event is on Tuesday, Nov 16 and focused on jobs around NYC.

Dear Developers, a "Free" Headhunter Will Cost You >$10k

Have you ever felt like a headhunter was stealing from you? Not literally taking money out of your wallet, but something just rubbed you the wrong way?

Well, it could be that your headhunter is doing sleazy things or it could be that they actually are costing you money. Here's how.

Headhunters who recruit software engineers get paid when they place a candidate that gets hired. Companies pay recruiters 20-30% of what the candidate will make in their first year at the company. For an experienced software engineer making $100k per year, a recruiter's fee would be $20k-$30k depending on their agreement with the hiring company.

What does this mean for you, the software developer who just received an offer?

As businesses grow, recruiting costs become a fact of life whether they come in the form of job posts, headhunters, or time spent networking. Over the past few months, I've talked to a lot of companies that are hiring developers (with and without headhunters). Of the companies that use headhunters that I've spoken to, about half of them are willing to pass along a portion of the anticipated recruiting budget to a new hire if that person comes to them without a recruiter. This willingness likely stems from the huge demand for software engineers right now, so your mileage may vary in different market conditions.

Next time you're doing a job search, approach companies directly through your network, through a job post, or through a company's website. When you receive an offer, you'll be in a position to ask for a larger salary or sign-on bonus if you know the company has a habit of using headhunters.


You receive an offer at a job where you will be specializing in Hadoop. (Almost every company I know of that uses Hadoop uses recruitment agencies). If you know that the company has a habit of using recruiters, try to determine who has the most visibility into the recruiting budget. This person will be your best bet for negotiating more money for approaching the company directly. At larger companies, this will be the HR representative who gave you the offer. At smaller companies, this is more likely a hiring manager or CTO.

Go to this person and tell them you approached their company directly because of how much you like the culture, people, technical challenges, etc (this part has to come from you). Then tell them that you understand how much recruiting costs can be for developers, and that you're happy to be saving them money. Then ask, "Would you be willing to take recruiting costs into account with my offer?"

Using this strategy, I've heard of one developer getting a $15k sign-on bonus, and another developer getting a 5% salary bump. With software engineers in such high demand, there's no reason why companies shouldn't pass along some of the money they save recruiting you if you go directly to them.

About Hirelite

Hirelite helps software engineers talk directly to companies by facilitating web-based "speed interviewing" events where developers video-chat with a series of companies for 5 minutes each. Our next event is this Monday, November 1st at 7pm EST. The companies attending are all NYC based, but we're accepting job seekers from around the US who would be willing to relocate.

Come develop software in NYC!

If you're a software engineer and you've ever wanted to live in New York City, the time is now. Nearly every company in NYC needs software developers. For non-technical people, it is becoming a crisis. For software engineers, it's great news. Local developers are getting poached left and right, but we'd much rather fuel the NYC tech growth with more engineers instead of playing musical developer chairs. 

Due to high demand and the growing accessibility of funding in NYC, salaries and equity arrangements for developers have never been better. It's routine to see developers just a few years out of school making >$100k or receiving generous equity grants, often over 15% as the first employee after founders. If you've ever felt undervalued as a software engineer, now is your time. Hiring managers and non-technical executives have realized the value of great technical talent and are working furiously to attract developers.

The technical community in NYC has really come together as well. You could go to technical and startup events every night of the week if you wanted (Ex: NYC Ruby, NYC Python, New York Scala Enthusiasts, Lean Startup, NYC Tech Talks, and Hack & Tell). There are burgeoning hacker spaces, cafes, and coworking spaces (Ex: New Work City, Hive, Ace Hotel, and General Assembly). There's even an awesome way for out of town developers to meet other techies or find a place to crash: Adopt A Hacker.

Here are a few examples of cool NYC tech companies: Gilt Groupe runs luxury fashion sales and built and open sourced Hummingbird to monitor them. SeatGeek helps you get the best ticket prices for sporting events using data. Etsy is a marketplace for handmade goods and treats code as craft. Yipit aggregates a multitude of daily deal sites and encourages hackers to become founders.

So, what's the best way get into one of these companies if you live somewhere else but want to join the party in New York?

Video Speed Interviewing with New York City Companies

For the past few months, Hirelite has hosted in-person and web-based speed interviewing events to unite software engineers and companies. Developers can quickly evaluate multiple companies through a series of 5-minute interviews over the course of 2 hours without having to take off work (the events are at 7pm). So far, we've only accepted developers and companies already in NYC, but for this event, we're opening up registration to all back-end and generalist software engineers who can work in the US.

Our next events will be on Monday, November 1st at 7pm EST and Tuesday, November 16th at 7pm EST. Both events will be web-based, using live video chat so that you can interview a series of companies without leaving home. It's a great way to sample the job market quickly. To register for either of these events, visit Hirelite.com. We've got a great group of companies lined up with more on the way.

What developers think when you say "Rock Star"

When you say "rock star" in your job post, you're discouraging the best software developers from contacting you.

When you write, "We're looking for a rock star developer."
A developer sees, "We want to treat a developer like the RIAA treats rock stars."

Using "rock star" in your job post may have communicated a trendy vibe at one point, but those times have passed. Now it communicates a desperate attempt to seem cooler than you really are, a sign that you're too full of yourself, or that you're just naive. 

Naivety worries developers the most. To developers, "rock star" communicates that you're not sure what you want. Or rather, you do know what you want, and what you want is a miracle worker. "Rock star" signals that you haven't thought enough about the role this developer will fill, leaving developers with a feeling that they'll be receiving ill-defined requirements, not enough time, or not enough resources to do their job (in addition to being overworked and underpaid).

Speaking of overworked and underpaid... there's really only one time "rock star" is appropriate: "We want a rock star developer. We know you're rare, and we'll pay you like a rock star." Sadly, this isn't usually the case. Here's how software engineers are paid in relation to rock star software engineers [1, 2].

Now here's how musicians are paid in relation to real rock stars [3, 4].


So next time you're thinking about saying rock star, ninja, guru, etc in your job post, consider it a sign that you have more thinking to do about your hiring requirements. Here are a few questions and trade-offs you should consider answering with your job post:

  • Do you want a specialist or a generalist?
  • If you want extraordinary people, can you compensate them extraordinarily or provide an extraordinary environment? 
  • Do you want a technical person who cares more about the business/market challenges or do you want someone who cares more about the technical challenges? 
  • Do you want someone who prefers quick, practical, "good enough" solutions or do you want someone who prefers to take their time and do things more maintainably or scalably?
  • Do you want a feature developer or a maintainer? 
  • Do you want a risk taker?

Let us know in the comments If you have any more high-level questions you like to have answered before you post a job description.


    About Hirelite

    Hirelite runs "speed interviewing" events over video chat to connect software engineers and companies hiring. If you're looking to evaluate the software job market or looking to hire, check out Hirelite.com.



    [1] Simply Hired salary estimates for software engineer
    [2] Simply Hired salary estimates for rock star software engineer
    [3] Simply Hired salary estimates for musician
    [4] Average salary for the top 10 best paid music stars. But wait, those are only the top 10 musicians! Yes, exactly. Rockstars are stars because they're scarce, and because they're the best.

    Also, an associated queston on Hacker News a few months back was very helpful. Thanks for all the comments there today also.

    Speed Dating for Software Jobs, a web event

    Our in-person "speed interviewing" events have worked so well that we're expanding to web-based events. On Tuesday, July 27th, Hirelite will host its first web-based event for software jobs and software engineers in New York City.

    Get your webcams and microphones ready for efficient, face-to-face interviews, just like our in-person event but even more convenient. This web-based event will last 2 hours and feature a series of 5-minute interviews with either software engineers or companies. Since you can only get through so many interviews in 2 hours, we're capping attendance at 20 companies and 20 software engineers.

    Over the next few months, Hirelite will expand to other cities. If you're interested in Hirelite coming to your city, let us know!

    Related Posts:

    Results of a Speed Dating Event for Hiring Software Engineers

    More Efficient Screening Interviews - Part 1

    At our first "speed interviewing" event, we received feedback on over 200 five-minute software engineering interviews. We asked companies and job seekers about what worked for them and what they liked to see. There were a few themes that should make your screening interviews more efficient and help you quickly eliminate possible mismatches. This piece covers more general screening tips. Later, we'll cover more technical screening tips. Remember, there are plenty of things you should be doing that aren't covered here.

    Tips for Job Seekers

    Before the interview, you should know what you offer in general and what you offer specifically to the company you're interviewing with. In general, you need to communicate your technical skills, growth, and experience. Most people don't have a problem with this. After all, it's probably on your resume. To to stand out, you should have tangible examples. Blog posts, code examples, design diagrams, and screen shots of past projects make a world of difference in an interview because so few software engineers have concrete examples to show. Additionally, be ready to state what you personally did on a project. You don't want to fumble through an explanation with vague answers about what "we" did.

    Discussing your experiences is pretty standard though. To really give a good impression, determine the company's needs and how you can address those needs with your skills. Check out the job description; most have responsibilities and requirements sections. From there, it's just an exercise in reverse engineering to market yourself to a company. For a great example of targeting an employer's needs, see Leonardo da Vinci's resume.

    At some point, the company you're interviewing with will ask you what you are looking for. Having a clear answer to this question benefits both you and the company. It can help you avoid working in a situation you would hate, and it can help the company determine if there is a deeper fit than just your experience coinciding with a job post.

    Additionally, knowing what you want relates to skill and enthusiasm. When you don't know what you want in a job, companies may see you as desperate or lazy. When you know what you want, you have two strategies to combine when speaking with a company: 1) express passion for technical problems and say exactly what you want to do or 2) express passion for the company's mission and suggest what you can do for the company (or say that you're open to doing anything). You'll need to mix both of these themes together, but from what we've seen, larger companies prefer more of 1 and smaller companies prefer more of 2.

    Tips for Companies

    Quickly state your company's mission, interesting technical problems, company size/trajectory, job responsibilities, and job requirements so you can start focusing on the candidate. Practice before the interview if you have to. The better you do here, the fewer questions the job seeker will have to ask and the more you can focus on evaluating them.

    Once you've introduced your company, you need to quickly determine if you're dealing with an active or passive job seeker. Active job seekers are ready and willing to switch jobs for a variety of reasons. They may resent some part of their current job situation, they may have personal reasons for looking for a change, or they may be unemployed. Passive job seekers enjoy their current job but casually consider a change as opportunities present themselves. Your strategy will vary based on what type of job seeker you're dealing with.

    If the job seeker approached you, they're likely an active job seeker. By definition, active job seekers are more desperate than passive job seekers, so you'll have to balance enticing active job seekers with keeping them from parroting exactly what you want to hear. If you say, "We're really only considering someone who enjoys dealing with dozens of last minute design changes," an active job seeker can easily say, "I love last minute design changes!" A month after hiring them, you realize that maybe they weren't completely honest. To combat this, consider leading off by asking the job seeker what they're looking for after you introduce your company.

    If you approached the job seeker or you met fortuitously, they're likely a passive job seeker. They have the high ground. With passive job seekers, you must devote most of your efforts to enticing them while determining if they're a fit as time permits (you may need to find/make time later). Tell them about your company and focus on what you can offer this person: freedom, responsibility, interesting technical problems, influence over the business, great people, etc. Once you've got them hooked you can start validating that they're the right person for the job.

    Some time after you've determined that the person is a possible fit, be prepared to have a preliminary conversation about compensation if you're at a startup. Startups are strange animals, and you want to weed out people that aren't ready to handle them. Tell the candidate what the compensation structure is like: all equity until funding, mostly equity with subsistence salary, mostly salary with some options, or primarily salary.

    A word of caution: Be careful with the active/passive distinction. Unskilled people may appear as passive job seekers too. They may have carved out a comfortable hole where they have made themselves essential by writing unmaintainable code or by doing brainless work that nobody else wants to do. Also, remember that just because someone is an active job seeker doesn't mean they're not skilled. They may just really like your company.

    What to do when there's not a match

    From what we've seen, for one reason or another, companies and job seekers often determine very quickly that they are not a match for each other. What should you do if you're in such a situation? First, both sides should realize that there are likely no hard feelings involved. Figure out how you can help each other. Job seekers can tell their friends that a great company is hiring or evangelize the company's product. Companies can give job seekers career guidance or suggestions on how to approach interviews. Keep a good attitude about the situation, and don't appear to lose interest in a person or company the moment you decide there's not a match. You never know when you may need someone's help in the future.

    Our next event will be next Tuesday in New York City (we hope to expand soon). If you're a software engineer or a company that needs software engineers, check out Hirelite.com

    Results of a Speed Dating Event for Hiring Software Engineers

    On Tuesday, Hirelite hosted its first event, Speed Dating for the Hiring Process, to connect software engineers with companies looking for technical talent. In short, we learned that companies and job seekers like the speed interviewing format because they can quickly evaluate many possible matches on what's most important to them - cultural fit. Also, speed dating for hiring is way less awkward than speed dating for romance.

    How did the event work? Each job seeker interviewed with each company for 5 minutes then rotated to the next company. At the end of each interview, both the job seeker and the company indicated if they would like to contact each other on a form they received at the event. After the event, Hirelite sent job seekers and companies their matches' contact information.

    Screening and Attendees

    Hirelite requires job seekers to pass a brief programming test in the language of their choice to register for the event. Most applicants had no trouble with the programming test, but we did get some responses from job seekers who clearly could not code. One response completely ignored the question, "I don't program but I have a lot of technical experience and would really like to come." Simple, to the point, and not suited to this event.

    Job seekers in attendance were primarily Hacker News readers or their friends. They showed substantial technical ability, especially with web and mobile development. The developers that came generally had a broad base of skills spanning multiple programming languages for both back-end and front-end development.

    Companies including single founders looking for technical cofounders; angel-funded startups; VC-funded startups; and larger, established companies attended. Most companies were very comfortable with just finding great developers and letting those developers learn (or create) their company's tech stack.

    From feedback on the event, both job seekers and companies primarily made decisions based on cultural fit because the overall quality of the attendees was so high. The event's language-agnostic approach provided optimum value to both job seekers and companies: many developers didn't want to work for a company that would pigeonhole them, and many companies believed that the best developers would be able to pick up whatever technology they used. However, some larger companies sought separate events for different languages (ex: one Java event, one Ruby event, etc). We'd love to hear what you think about both scenarios: specific language-focused events vs. language-agnostic events.


    When both a company and a job seeker wanted to contact each other, Hirelite alerted both parties of the match after the event. Companies and job seekers were free to share business cards and resumes at the event. This matching step ensured that companies and job seekers didn't waste time with parties that were not interested (in addition to ensuring that job seekers and companies had each other's contact information).

    Though the quality of both the job seekers and the companies was very high, not everyone got matched with everyone else due to the importance of cultural fit we mentioned above. Now for the data:
    • Companies wanted to connect with 46% of the job seekers they interviewed.
    • Job seekers wanted to connect with 57% of the companies they interviewed with.

    However, this difference in selectivity was not statistically significant. Additionally, it's important to note that the job seekers approached the companies (companies stayed and job seekers rotated), and speed dating research has shown the party being approached to be more selective.

    These wishes to connect translated into the following matching profile:
    • Companies received a match for 73% of the job seekers they wanted to connect with.
    • Job seekers received a match for 59% of the companies they wanted to connect with.
    • Of all the interviews, 34% resulted in a match.

    After attendees receive their matches, it's their responsibility to follow up with each other as Hirelite is not meant to replace the entire hiring process. Hirelite is a quick way to get people with technical talent directly in contact with companies that have a strong interest in hiring them.

    Next Up

    In our next post, we'll feature tips for both "speed interviewing" and traditional interviewing based on what we've seen. Follow us or sign up for email updates to be alerted when we post.

    Our next event is on Tuesday, April 27. As with our previous event, we're capping attendance to 20 companies and 20 job seekers, so register to reserve your spot.