Recruiting people is always fun. Really. Not because I'm a fan of the puzzles that you need to solve during the interview process. That's quite typical for big companies like Google. No, the reason is pretty simply: I like to talk to people. From time to time I need to help out HR folks at a career fair and so it happens that I talk to graduates or young professionals seeking for a job in the tech sector. The atmosphere there is more relaxed than in the sitting-in-the-office-and-being-observed interview situation. People show up at your booth, you start with some small-talk and suddenly you're in a conversation. (Or not, depending on your counterpart.)
Neither a resumee nor a telephone interview can reach the level of face-to-face communication. You can look into the person's eyes, find out how they think about technologies, what's important for them and what they expect from their future employer. Wait a minute, this is an interview?! Right. You haven't noticed? Good. Of course, this is just an early stage of the whole procedure but it's a very effective way to reject 50% of the resumees that get sent to you where the applicants proved to be unable to read and understand your job description.
OK, you're dedicating an entire day for talking to applicants. But how can you know if it's worth enough to schedule a follow-up interview? I've developed a gut feeling over the years and some techniques:
You're looking for self-motivated people. It's when you ask for the last project and they get excited. They're saying: I love what I do and I'm 100% convinced. See also intrinsic motivation.
You need curious people. Do they ask the right questions? If they do not have a serious interest in your products it's a waste of time for both sides.
You want quality. I don't know about you, but my threshold is very high. I found it very useful to ask for samples from their last projects. This gives me the chance to discuss important parts of it in detail in order to get a better understanding of their problem solving skills.
Yes, it's June 2009, the world is in the middle of a recession, the news are full with layoffs, entire industries are collapsing and I'm writing about hiring. But each downturn also has its winners. This is a chance for small and medium sized companies with long-term strategies and innovative products on their roadmaps. It's the chance to attract the best and creative people by demonstrating your strength: You are still hiring. And it feels good.
In times of economic growth and rising stock markets when finding good engineers is unlike harder, you may end up in the following situation: the candidate is fresh from college, seems to fit the job and you're getting into the "salary topics". Now things are getting a bit odd. It turns out that there is another offer from big-company and this and that bonus etc. everything is urgent, headhunter, younameit.
You can play the money game but is it worth playing it? Remember technique #1? It's not! I'm not saying "Don't pay decent salaries." The opposite is true. You need to pay decent salaries in order to get the best people. It's even worse. You also need to offer top-quality working conditions (but that's another story)! I'm saying you're not the two year projects driven consulting gig hoster throwing ridiculous amounts of money at applicants just because of urgent resource requirements.
Let him go! This can be very disappointing but you should be thankful because you found it out so early.