Let’s face it. Nearly every developer these days is being “courted” by one or more people (recruiters, founders, employers, conference/meetup organizers, etc.) at any given time. As a developer and someone running a business to provide technical services, I fall into that camp. And as someone who falls into that camp, I am grateful that Michelle Chaffee wrote about what it takes to find a good match in her recent post, Courting a Coder. It’s great to hear about it from her perspective and to have her speak up about it. If you haven’t read that post, go read it now (but make sure you come back here!).
We are in this weird and simultaneously awesome time in the tech industry - every company is a tech company and everybody and their mother is looking to hire tech folks. And not usually just one, but many. Because of this, tech people start to feel like pieces of meat or “just a number”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m (sometimes) flattered and I don’t want to jinx it because the bubble could burst at any time, right? Sadly, there are days when the interactions are downright disrespectful. But here’s the thing: we want to work with cool people working on cool things. THAT is your in. Figure out how to relate to us that way rather than by expecting us to sign an NDA before our first coffee date or through some form email where you forgot (or were just too damn lazy) to shove our real name in (Hello [INSERT NAME HERE] or Dear Trusted Associate... DELETED!).
It really boils down to building relationships and trust. We need to get to know you just like you will get to know us - we are interviewing you as well. And what’s cool to one person may not be cool to the next. Which means I might have to talk to one or more potential clients to learn about your vision and whether it’s something I could get on board with. It also means you might have to talk to more than one or two tech people to learn what makes them tick. Some of us are driven by a paycheck. Some of us are driven by doing something good for the world (or even just one small crazy chaotic part of it). Some of us want to be able to set the technical direction. Some of us want someone else to do it for us.
Know that this is not a wasted effort, even if I don't get on board with your vision. Neither of us wants to work with someone we don't jive with or toward a vision we aren't onboard with. Inevitably it will cost both of us more in the long run. Either in time and money or happiness.
But here’s the thing: even building a relationship with someone who is not the right fit right now is still beneficial. You are building trust with that person. They may be a good fit six months from now. They may know someone who is the right fit. However if there is no trust between us, we will be reluctant to just give up someone’s name as a recommendation.
Build the relationship, because with it comes trust and referrals to both employers and technical folks.