August is the month where everything screeches to a halt. So many people are away on vacation that the people who are left behind can never get ahold of the people they need to do their own work.
But, alas, August is over. Labor Day weekend, which just ended, marks the traditional end of summer vacation on the American calendar. So today, I’m opening a new section on Joel on Software, a jobs listing page creatively named jobs.joelonsoftware.com.
The idea of a niche job board was not my own, and it has taken me a while to figure out why this is a better idea than those huge job boards bringing millions of companies together with millions of job seekers. A niche job board has modest goals, no grander than to bring a dozen or so companies that are great places to work together with a dozen or so great programmers.
The traditional way of applying for a job, sending a cover letter and a resume, just does not give the employer enough useful information to separate the “maybes” from the “maybe nots.” Many employers despair of placing a job listing on Monster or Yahoo! HotJobs or Craigslist and getting the inevitable flood of undifferentiated resumes.
For the job seeker, the problem is the same: when they look on giant job boards they see a bunch of undifferentiated jobs, often posted by clueless headhunters that provide all kinds of information you don’t need (“A leading provider of whatever”) and none of the information you do need (what’s the name of the company? Do they make nuclear bombs? Will they give me a private office and a big monitor? Free M&Ms? Are they sloppy hacks or quality hackers? Can I use Ruby on Rails?)
So it seems to me that both the employers and the job seekers would be better served by a quiet, more exclusive club with a few select listings that tell you the actual name of the company you’d be working for, and, if you’re lucky, how they did on the Joel Test, combined with a community of the best software developers on earth, that being you.
And, yes, it’s not for everybody, and no, you won’t see ads on the sides of buses for jobs.joelonsoftware.com, but you will find great jobs and great programmers there.
That’s the theory at least. There are a lot of these niche job boards showing up. 37signals has one with an emphasis on web design jobs. CrunchBoard is all about Web 2.0 jobs. There’s even a company called JobThread that offers tools to set up your own niche job board, which Salon and others are rolling out. Do we need a scrillion tiny job boards? I’m not sure, but I do agree with JobThread’s Eric Yoon that “while the big three job boards have 70% of the $2 billion online recruitment ad market, recruiters and companies have been fairly unhappy with their job posting experience.”
Jason Fried over at 37signals has been evangelizing the idea. “Big sites take a shotgun approach. You post a job. Anyone can see it. There’s no targeting, no like-mindedness. Our feeling is, if you want to hire the right people, you have to go where the right people hang out.”
Credit also goes to Fog Creek summer intern Noah Weiss, who just would not shut up about job boards this and job boards that until we agreed to try it out. And to all my friends through the years who regularly pestered me to help them find great software developers for them among the regular readers of Joel on Software.
Now, for some details. In order to keep the quality of the listings high this is not going to be a free job listing board. Listings cost $350. That only gets you three weeks; my theory is that nobody wants to apply for stale jobs, anyway. Unlike every other job board I know of, I’ve decided to keep Fog Creek’s usual 90 days, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee. If you don’t find anyone, you can have your money back. If you find someone but they quit to join the Bolshoi you can have your money back. If you get a bunch of lousy resumes, you can have your money back. If you hire someone and they turn out to be really, really attached to their cat who comes to work with them and makes Lizza in Accounts Payable sneeze so hard that she goes to an allergist driving up your health insurance premiums, well, you should have asked them about cats in the interview, but, yeah, you can have your money back.
If you’re a legit charity or educational institution, contact the kind customer service people (yes, there’s customer service, with a toll-free phone number) and they’ll work something out.
Now, about the rule we made that you have to post the company name. A lot of recruiters are working on a contingency basis. They don’t get paid unless they fill an opening. These recruiters generally don’t want to post a company name, because then applicants could go straight to the employer and the recruiter would be cut out of their commission. That’s why you see so many job ads in traditional places like classifieds that are totally vague about the specific company where you’d be working.
That, unfortunately, is not going to work for us. Every good software developer I know has a choice of where to work. They don’t want to work for a “TOP INVESTMENT BANK”. Some investment banks are really nice places to work. Others are sweatshops. Some are ethical. Many are ethically challenged. Some require suits. Others are business casual. That’s why we want to know the name of the company that’s hiring, and unfortunately that means that recruiters who don’t want to reveal the company name are really barking up the wrong tree. Try Craigslist, shugah.
Starting today, there are going to be small text links to the job board showing up in various places on the site. I’m going to experiment with showing one random job listing on the home page of Joel on Software, and links will be included in the discussion board, the RSS feed, and the email list. Also, there will be a gigantic flashing dancing hamster that appears on the home page singing the flashing hamster song and holding up a sign proclaiming the job board, and you have to find his little hat and click on it before you can go on.
Just kidding about the hamster.
Right now, as you can see, the software behind jobs.joelonsoftware.com is quite rudimentary. Yes indeedy what you’re seeing here is AGILE DEVELOPMENT IN THE WILD! Noah and I designed and coded the whole site over the course of three weeks, which included two weeks of vacation–each. There’s no searching or sorting feature. There’s no easy way to post several jobs at once. I want to see how it goes yet, see if we get any interest, and mostly see if the revenues generated by this thing would support a programmer to make it better.