Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hiring IT graduates

I work for a company that believes in giving job opportunities to new graduates (in particular, those with IT-related degrees), and to technical support staff who want to transition to software development. They are hired at very low salaries, and, as they prove themselves, they earn more. The system seems to work, and my employer has a very low staff turnover.

The job market is -or was two years ago- tough for young South African graduates to break into. Companies seem to want to avoid the risks inherent in taking someone green and training them. Their scepticism is probably warranted, given the number of low-value certificates that are produced at IT colleges. But university graduates with good records are often tarred with the same brush as graduates from fly-by-night colleges.

Recruitment agencies also seem to dislike graduates, probably because they get lower commissions1.

Interestingly, the only developer who left my company since I started there, was hired on the basis of previous experience (he has no formal IT qualifications). He turned out to be, quite frankly, a professional liability. There was a secret sense of relief when he left us for a better paying position.

On the other hand, the smartest, strongest developers, who are driving the company forward (and earning it lots of cash), and who were hired straight out of university, remain at the company. They could probably have been snapped up by any company at a salary of R6 000,00 p/m after graduating. Today they are unlikely to change jobs, even if offered four times that amount.

Of course, there will be duds if one hires junior people (it's depressingly easy to cheat and coast one's way through university), but the risk is reduced if you pay them less.

Joel on Software has a good point:

In fact, one thing I have noticed is that the people who I consider to be good software developers barely ever apply for jobs at all. I know lots of great people who took a summer internship on a whim and then got permanent offers. They only ever applied for one or two jobs in their lives.


By the way, it's because of this phenomenon-—the fact that many of the great people are never on the job market-—that we are so aggressive about hiring summer interns. This may be the last time these kids ever show up on the open market. In fact we hunt down the smart CS students and individually beg them to apply for an internship with us, because if you wait around to see who sends you a resume, you're already missing out. [Read the rest]

I think that Joel, and my own boss, are on to something.

1 If you are heavily reliant on employment agencies for IT recruitment, then you are asking for trouble, since most are ignorant.