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Monday, March 2, 2020

Pondering the reasons why you should work somewhere

One of the things you get asked to do when you work at a company is bring in other people to work there. There are the obvious requests for referrals, where you reach out to friends, acquaintances, former coworkers (modulo non-solicit agreements), and so on. Then there are the times that you are personally used like a (token) piece of meat to say "look who works here". Been there!

I've been through this a few times, and I found myself in a spot where I had "no gas in the tank" to use to bring people in. It took me a while to figure out what the trouble was, and why it wasn't like before.

After pondering it for a while, I got it boiled down to a few items.

Why, exactly, would someone want to work for company X?

First, let's get the money out of the way. Every job should pay you for your services. Assume that some are going to pay better than others, but for the most part they're all going to be in the same neighborhood. That's a given. This is not about the money.

This is more a question of: given more-or-less equivalent compensation, why would someone go to THIS company instead of some other one just down the street?

One of the reasons I thought about was that the company built something cool that they wanted to work on. This is typically expressed as something like "I want to go wrench on BigTable" or "I think Tupperware sounds pretty cool" or something like that. The implication is that the company actually makes stuff, and that it's doing interesting engineering (and not operations) work.

Another reason would be that the company is known for building interesting things, and the person wants to build something too. They think "I want to build X over there". It's a lot like the last one, in that the company has to be seen as an engineering concern that likes building things, and will let the person build something that excites them.

Then I came up with one more reason, which is "someone interesting already works there". This is where someone finds out that so and so has a FooCorp e-mail address, or has been seen wearing one of their employee badges, or has been presenting for them at a conference. Other people can think "wow cool, if person X works there, I probably want to work there, so I can work with them".

Person X, meanwhile, probably works there for a similar reason: they wanted to work on something interesting, build something interesting, or possibly even work with someone they found interesting.

Some months back, I found myself pondering this situation, and realized I didn't have anything good to offer to a potential candidate. Basically, if I was expected to woo people, what am I expected to woo them with?

Let's review the possibilities:

  1. The company built X and they might want to work on it
  2. The company builds lots of things like X, and they might want to build something new, like Y
  3. The company employs neat person Z, and they might want to work with them.

I started trying to think of values of "X". I pondered it to the point of coming up with an idea for a post that you might have seen last month.

I never came up with a good answer to 1, 2, or 3.

So, I never wooed anyone past a certain point. If you were expecting me to reach out to you and I never did, that's why. It's not you.

I just didn't have anything to offer... and I didn't want to invite anyone into another meat grinder situation.

You're better off on the outside. As am I.