Joel Spolsky is a well-known programmer-author who has written some really great pieces on how to hire and manage programmers. He wrote a piece yesterday about Finding Great Developers that everyone should read. It’s certainly applicable to any type of position, not just programmers or technical staff. Joel puts more thought and money into hiring Junior Computer Science students than many companies do into their core product:
The process starts every September, when I start using all my resources to track down the best computer science students in the country. I send letters to a couple of hundred Computer Science departments. I track down lists of CS majors who are, at that point, two years away from graduating (usually you have to know someone in the department, a professor or student, to find these lists). Then I write a personal letter to every single CS major that I can find. Not email, a real piece of paper on Fog Creek letterhead, which I sign myself in actual ink. Apparently this is rare enough that it gets a lot of attention. I tell them we have internships and personally invite them to apply. I send email to CS professors and CS alumni, who usually have some kind of CS-majors mailing list that they forward it on to.
Eventually, we get a lot of applications for these internships, and we can have our pick of the crop. In the last couple of years I’ve gotten 200 applications for every internship. We’ll generally winnow that pile of applications down to about 10 (per opening) and then call all those people for a phone interview. Of the people getting past the phone interview, we’ll probably fly two or three out to New York for an in-person interview.
By the time of the in-person interview, there’s such a high probability that we’re going to want to hire this person that it’s time to launch into full-press recruitment. They’re met at the airport here by a uniformed limo driver who grabs their luggage and whisks them away to their hotel, probably the coolest hotel they’ve ever seen in their life, right in the middle of the fashion district with models walking in and out at all hours and complicated bathroom fixtures that are probably a part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, but good luck trying to figure out how to brush your teeth. Waiting in the hotel room, we leave a hospitality package with a T-shirt, a suggested walking tour of New York written by Fog Creek staffers, and a DVD documentary of the 2005 summer interns. There’s a DVD player in the room so a lot of them watch how much fun was had by previous interns.
After a day of interviews, we invite the students to stay in New York at our expense for a couple of days if they want to check out the city, before the limo picks them up at their hotel and takes them back to the airport for their flight home.
Two comments: First, that is really, really cool. Two, They must have huge margins on their products.