⚠︎The Toddlers are raising the Infants ⚠︎

I thought that I had seen it all last year with some of the sketchy and downright underhanded tactics from recruiters. So much so, that we fired all of our recruiters and decided to take an organic, direct-hire approach to our growth at VideoAmp. Now, I have seen a new tactic on the supply-side; “bait-and-switch candidates”.

Before I unpack this discussion, I want to say that coding schools come in different shapes and sizes. Many of the schools that I toured 5+ years ago had solid leadership and curricula. However there are now significantly more schools pumping candidates into the market and there is a glut of early-stage talent.

Coding schools are an option IF you plan to hire juniors and plan to cultivate talent. We’re hiring Juniors less-and-less these days at VideoAmp unless they have a CS degree… in which case they don’t usually attend a coding school. You can see the adverse selection problem here; and we have yet to hire a coding school grad.

I respect the students that I have met at coding school commencement ceremonies who range from kids who forwent college, to those who had previous careers like teaching or law, and decided to do a career lateral. I have total respect for this move, and it prevents structural unemployment. Kudos!

The most important aspects of a coding school are the technical leadership and instructors. Far too often, I see schools where the instructor is one of the previous-semester graduates who did not or could not find an individual contributor role.

We have to pause here and think about this…. beyond the technical skills you learn about in these intensive programs, there needs to be pragmatic knowledge discussed about what happens “in the trenches”.

This has to come from instructors who have been to the mountain… who have done enough tours of duty. One must develop a solid, first-hand credo before they can deliver one. The more I see this trend, the more I’m convinced that at many coding schools the Toddlers are raising the Infants.

We chuckle all the time in my hiring circle about how we can spot a coding-school CV or LinkedIn profile in about 1.3 seconds. This is because EVERY profile is curated in the same way. They take classes to do this. So much so, that it’s easy to pass on these profiles when we are looking for senior talent, or junior talent with CS fundamentals.

100% of the time, an experienced candidate does not lead off with a litany of projects. Instead they highlight career roles. Coding school grads do, and they have lots of them in the past year: drinking games, card counters, silly games, goofy shit…

Not to mention mass endorsements (which I don’t care for anyways) from all of the students and instructors in the coding school, creating a virtual circle-jerk of meaningless endorsements. This behavior belongs directly in the town hall of Fluffer City.

A “bait-and-switch” candidate is one who appears interested, but is really interviewing for other less qualified candidates. Recently we had considered coding school candidates who were on the fringe of our base requirements, but had an appealing skill which made them possibly a fit for our team; enough for us to have a screening call. After days of non-response, we had already written them off, but they come back saying they took another opportunity but we should consider this other candidate. One who is certainly NOT qualified. After the 2nd one, it’s a pattern. “Fool me twice….. won’t get fooled again…” or however that saying goes :O

As an early-stage company, every new hire is really important. We need big impact, super intelligences, and strong ethics. What we want is what stands out. I want to see YOUR purpose, what YOU are looking for, and show me you can communicate intelligently. That’s why Linkedin puts your Summary as the first box at the top of your profile. Show me your Github, write your own thought leadership pieces about what you think is important. Contribute to a major open-source package; ideally one we use. But don’t use these other tactics to get our attention.

To all of the coding school Toddler instructors and graduates: play your cards face up. Do not worm your way in. Do not bait-and-switch. Do no fluff. Our bullshit detectors are highly calibrated, and we do not forget when you waste our time.