(NOTE: Everything below is 100% true except as of May 2015 I no longer work at the company mentioned in the post. I made a move to a larger company with more opportunities.)
I’m not going to lie, this post is primarily for my friends on the Careers 2.0 team at StackExchange. Yes, even you, Account Exec/Sales Rep folks whom I’ve never met but who dutifully favorite or retweet my tweets because Bethany Marzewski tells you to (I kid, I kid. I kid because I love.) I saw enough referrer links from your internal chat rooms that I figured I should say something more!
I recently tweeted that I got a job offer, and that it was a painless process because I used Careers 2.0, and my love for them knows no bounds. That love is true and everlasting—it was just about a year ago I wrote a pretty popular post, “How Careers 2.0 (& not brainteasers) Helped My Hiring Process” (as a manager of software developers, dev ops, QA, UX, etc), and it made the rounds and gave some people some talking points or at least proof that hey, someone gets it.
A few weeks ago I found someone else who also gets it—my soon-to-be-boss. What’s the “it” of which I speak? The dead-simple, no-brainer integration of a candidate’s public writing and peer validation (votes, badges) throughout the StackExchange network of sites. There are other “it”s (see that post I wrote and its comments for my own list) but this is a big one.
In my case, I know that the hiring manager spent a non-insignificant amount of time going through my answers at Workplace.SE, to get a sense for who I am as a person, a manager, and a senior colleague, and my answers at Programmers.SE for a sense for how I think about programming matters. I know this because he upvoted and left comments, and during our initial phone screen he said he could dispense with the general management questions because he did the reading on Workplace.SE. So, so very helpful, and exactly how I use Careers 2.0—doing my research in a place where it’s clearly presented for me.
Of course in the subsequent in-person interview rounds (of which there were 3), I had to back it up and prove myself a strong potential colleague (which I did, since I got the job), since StackExchange rep only takes a person so far. But that initial push is a really big one. In my case, I think my public writing and ability for a hiring manager to see who I am and my work-related philosophies with such ease completely overcame the fact that I have zero experience in their core technical stack. One might even say that I’ve spent a good portion of my 20-year career avoiding their current core technical stack. But our philosophies match, and as people we match, and I clearly know a lot about technology and architecture in general and thus we know that I’ll get up to speed as I need to.
Have I emphasized the personal and philosophical enough? That sort of match is so very important. I could go off on a pretty amazing set of tangents about that, but the Internet does not need another reminder right now about damaging philosophical and work-environmental mismatches can be to individuals (and the industry).
Ok, so here’s the kicker, Careers 2.0 team. All of what I’ve said about the integration of Careers 2.0 applications and StackExchange profiles makes perfect sense when the hiring manager actually uses SE. If this particular hiring manager wasn’t in the top 0.61% overall of StackOverflow users, having used it almost since its inception, I’m sure he wouldn’t have gotten it in the same way. I’ve worked with other folks who (air quotes) “use” SE—meaning they read answers but don’t upvote, may not even have an account, etc—but who don’t understand the community and how to interpret a profile, and of course we know there are folks who don’t think the community is all that great (I am not blind to issues, but I think the positives far outweigh the negatives). Those non-users don’t see an ad at Careers 2.0 to be worth any more than an ad anywhere else, and they’re also likely not going to pony up the extra cash to actively search the database.
Careers 2.0 team, show them the reasons to use that integration. Draw the lines for them. Literally, make a video. Heck, make five. The lines are there, but I guarantee people don’t see them. I think that’s evident in the number of people who point their ads to their own internal applicant tracking systems, thus missing a great deal of the point. Having been the product owner and architect of a system at a company a few years back that did the same damn thing but in a different vertical, I know that feel, bro.
I have confidence you can continue to make headway in fixing that disconnect on the micro level, but don’t lose sight of it on the macro level because the gap will always be there even if it slowly moves toward closure. Something something intersecting product lifecycle / product adoption lifecycle curves. I don’t want to be the only person writing love-posts to you all in years to come!