Hiring in a Down Economy with the Help of a Beer

A lot of companies are hiring technical employees, even as unemployment rises in tech areas. But some companies say they are receiving too many resumes for open positions, and, it's making it more difficult to find the right candidate.

If you want to get a feel for LOLapps LLC in San Francisco as a potential employer, here's a tip: There's premium beer in the office refrigerator. Interested? This company is hiring.

LOLapps, which makes applications for social networks such as Facebook, is less than two years old, is profitable, and plans to nearly double the size of its 20-member staff over the next few months.

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LOLapps isn't the only company hiring. There are a lot of companies searching for tech employees, even as unemployment rises in technical areas. But companies say they are receiving too many resumes for open positions, and, almost paradoxically, it's making it more difficult to find the right candidate.

For instance, last year, Black Duck Software Inc., which makes open source management tools, might have received 100 resumes for an opening. It now gets as many as 500, too many to sort through, and it has five openings ( four listed on its site). "It's almost because of the volume that you need to rely on other mechanisms," said Tammi Pirri, vice president for human resources.

Employee referrals are Black Duck's preferred method for finding candidates. But the company also uses LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networks to connect with the open source community in its search for candidates.

Recommind Inc., which makes enterprise search and electronic discovery software, is hiring 12 people in engineering, support, product management and sales. It receives 250 to 350 resumes within 48 hours for each position, said Craig Carpenter, vice president of marketing at the San Francisco-based company. It is seeking employees with technical skills as well as some legal and enterprise experience, such as familiarity with EMC Corp.'s Centera data archiving system or Symantec Corp.'s Enterprise Vault.

Competition for employees with these skills is difficult, Carpenter said. Employee referrals are responsible for filling half the positions, with the rest coming from responses to its listings and via recruiters.

One technique used at Purdue University for dealing with increased resume volumes is to write a more specific help wanted ad.

"You can be somewhat more demanding in the job descriptions," said Gerry McCartney, Purdue's CIO and vice president for IT. The university, in West Lafayette, Ind., has about 20 openings in its IT staff of 450 people.

"We are seeing a lot more people and much better people applying for jobs," McCartney said, but it's still difficult to find the right person. The university wants people with technical skills but who also understand the business, which may mean going back to school for post-graduate work to help them work with the university's researchers. "Your best people know the business, they're not just technical people," he said.

Kavin Stewart, LOLapps CEO, takes nothing for granted about recruiting and said an increased candidate pool doesn't ensure the right hire. He has established a recruiting team, and networks to improve the visibility of his new company. Job ads are crafted carefully and are intended to challenge candidates. Technical skills needed include Linux, MySQL, Python, JavaScript, as well as an understanding of how to build highly scalable systems. Rather than reclusive techies, the company also wants engaging people, who are willing, as its ad says, to "have a point of view on the product and be willing to debate it."

Good candidates know they're good, so successful recruiting also means ensuring current employees are happy. LOLapps has created an eighth-floor office that is as conducive to work as it is to socialization. Stewart's hope is that prospective employees will pick up a good vibe from the office, and if they find out about the end-of-the-week beer, so much the better. "We have no trouble recruiting against our more well-funded adversaries," he said.

While some companies are getting too many resumes to review, Todd Edwards, director of talent management at Johnston McLamb Inc., an IT consulting firm in Chantilly, Va., that specializes in geospatial visualization and Oracle software, said resumes still matter, especially for a consulting firm.

Writing skills are important in consulting work, and the resume is the prospect's chance to make a good impression, Edwards said.

The company plans to fill 12 positions in 60 days. Some of the jobs are already posted on its Web site.

This story, "Hiring in a Down Economy with the Help of a Beer" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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