Trying to hire full-time Rails developer...

I've been having some trouble tracking down someone to hire for a Rails
position, so I figured I'd try here. Monster and 37signals haven't been
much help so far. I think getting people to sit at a desk in Milwaukee
is the tough part, but upper management isn't willing to budge on that.
So here the current job posting we have. The right candidate would get
55-65k per year. Email me at rails-job@imsbarter.com if you're
interested.

I'm probably wasting my time here, but I'm going to try to give you some
perspective on why you might have trouble filling this job.

First, let's split your pool of candidates into those who already live in
Milwaukee and those who would have to relocate. I'm not sure what the going
rate for web programmers with 2+ years of experience is in Milwaukee, but I
can tell you that your salary range falls short by tens of thousands of
dollars for where I am. I think you'll have a hard time getting someone to
relocate to Milwaukee with a salary offer like that. If someone was willing
to relocate, there are much more lucrative jobs available even taking
into account differences in cost of living.

Now, for those who already live in Milwaukee, there are those who prefer
to work in an office, those who prefer to work remotely, and those who
could go either way. The ones who prefer to work remotely are right out, so
you're down to those who either want an office or will go either way. If
they'll go either way, they can find much better paying work remotely, so
you're unlikely to be able to attract them with that salary range.

Out of the remaining pool you only want those who have some confidence in
their aesthetic sense (or that second sentence will scare them away) and
not only have some design skills but are looking for a job that might use
them.

Further restricting your pool is the Adobe software experience, however
cursory. Worse, you want *nix knowledge. So the Linux-heads who have never
had cause to touch Adobe software are out, as are the Windows-heads who
have never touched a *nix box. This may or may not significantly restrict
your pool.

So here you are, looking for a Milwaukee resident (or someone who has a
reason other than a job to relocate to Milwaukee, in which case they are
imminently Milwaukee residents anyway and the point is moot) who prefers
working in an office, has 2+ years of web programming, has some graphics
design ability, fulfills the various other requirements, and is actually
looking for a job in that salary range. You're screwed.

While I'm willing to believe that the requirements you're listing are
appropriate and reasonable, I don't think you can find someone to do that
job at that salary. Milwaukee may be a perfectly nice place to live and
work, but if you can't draw from the larger pool of potential candidates
throughout the country, you won't be able to find anyone. Even lifting the
restriction on remote work (which you claim is a non-starter) may not be
enough since, as I mentioned, there is more lucrative work out there for
remote workers. You need to raise your salary range significantly.

Alternately, don't publish a range and request a desired salary from your
applicants. Maybe offer to pay relocation expenses. That will give you some
sense of how much money people are expecting for the kind of job opening
you have. I can't give you an exact number, but I can tell you that you're
aiming too low right now.

Thanks,
Andre

--Greg

Way too low, especially for a good Rails coder. Even if it's
successfully sold as an "opportunity to work with Rails" ( I've seen a
bunch of those the past year), the coder will no doubt find a better
job after gaining a few months experience.

Nice response post there Greg0r. I had very similar thoughts when I
read the initial post.

Thanks, but I'm not currently available for hire. I just got my dream
job a few months back. Genetics research application development at a
local medical university using, you guessed it.. Ruby on Rails. I
deploy to Oracle which is damn yucky, but locally I use Postgres. You
couldn't pry me away from this gig if you had all the New Castle in
the world.

I'm not sure what you need to do. I just know I wouldn't do Rails
development for $65K/year. I, like many others on this list, have
spent a great deal of time and effort teaching Rails to ourselves and
we want to get paid for it.

Rails is shiny and new and people who know it well, right now today,
have proven initiative to go out and learn new technologies all on
their own. That can-teach-myself personality trait is what is going
to cost you at this point in time. But it's a temporary situation..
until enough "average" Rails coders get taught Rails through courses
and whatnot, that's when you can probably get yourself a cheap Rails
coder.

And do you really want a web developer with only 2 or 3 years of
experience? I just think back to how inexperienced I was at the 2 to
3 year mark. If I were a hiring manager I couldn't see myself wanting
to hire that old inexperienced me to do any serious Rails development.
Rails is advanced. You want someone who already knows at least one
or two other programming languages besides just Ruby.

Just a quick search on WorkingWithRails:

http://workingwithrails.com/search?q=+Milwaukee&submit.x=227&submit.y=16&submit=Find

Turns out there are only 4 people listed! Compare that to Washington
DC with 10+
http://workingwithrails.com/search?q=+Washington+DC&submit.x=0&submit.y=0&submit=Find

Or even my own hometown of Charlottesville with 8
http://workingwithrails.com/search?q=+charlottesville&submit.x=0&submit.y=0&submit=Find

If it's a given that a Rails programmer is who you need, then it might be time to live outside your comfort zone a little. Ok, maybe a lot. Find a reputable freelancer -- and you can probably tell some of the people who've got the secret sauce by reading this list carefully -- and give them a small slice of work to do offsite. For an agreed-upon rate.

When that slice (or iteration, or whatever you want to call it) completes, see if the results are better, worse, or about the same as if you had the person's butt parked in a chair in your office. I'll bet you will find that a good Rails dev working in his or her own environment will save you tons of time and money. Further, I believe you'll probably get a superior end result if you choose carefully from a larger talent pool. It's just the initial anxiety you have to overcome :slight_smile:

If you really want face time, I'm sure most freelancers would make a periodic business trip (at your expense) to attend meetings.

So, if you can sell the "baby steps" approach to freelance development offsite, you certainly will improve your chances of finding someone. Additionally, you can pay a bit more because you have no cost burden for office, support staff, benefits, or other infrastructure.

Just my $.02