YAPC through the eyes of a recruiter

Last week I attended the YAPC:NA 2012 in Madison, WI and I wanted to pass along a few observations from a recruiters point of view. Having recruited Perl developers for Shutterstock in NYC , there is a perception in the recruiting community that Perl is a dying language, there is a lot of unmaintainable code, and that Perl programmers are nearly impossible to find. Shutterstock has had a lot of success with Perl so why all the negativity? And while the company does have a lot of really smart, cool Perl developers, it is a hiring challenge. Anyway, when I arrived at the conference, I was surprised at how down to earth and friendly everyone seemed to be, not to mention a fairly large number of younger developers and recent graduates who loved Perl. You could really sense the power of the community they all shared. One of the guys I spoke with had graduated from an engineering program several years back and had learned perl on his own. He claimed it was a fun and powerful language and sure, he does stuff in other languages, but Perl is his workhorse. He went on and on about how quickly and efficiently you can get stuff done using the free tools that Perl provides. No shame. The other observation was how much support there is around the language. My Perl coworker was able to recognize just about anyone from their IRC handle. Apparently the IRC chat is a place where most Perl people hang out to ask questions and help out the the newbie. Seems to me that Perl is alive and well, but unless you live in the Perl world, it can be hard to see that. Perhaps it's time we bring a new message about Perl to recruiters.


It's nice to see recruiters' point of view, we need more of that. Out of the blue, do you have any idea for promoting Perl that could be done on the recruiter's side specifically ?

Indeed, Dams took the words out of my mouth.

So, first of all, thank you for giving us you perspective. Most of Perl-related jobs are working with Perl, while yours is working with those who work with Perl. You get a perspective we don't, and it's interesting to hear it.

Also, what are you suggestions in promoting Perl or the image of Perl amongst recruiters?

I'm happy you came to the conference, and I hope you were successful and found many potential candidates. Hope to see you again at a future conference! :)

I'll ask the same question from the other side: any tips for freelance Perl programmers on finding recruiters? I've been working with Perl for 15+ years, and I've only been contacted by recruiters twice. I keep hearing that there's a shortage of Perl programmers and recruiters are hunting, but apparently I'm not putting myself in their path. Granted, I haven't put a lot of effort into finding Perl work or polishing my resume, because I've had enough general web development stuff to keep me busy, but I'd like to move to more Perl and less (preferably zero) PHP and web design stuff.

How should I do that? Is a resume the most important thing? And then do what with it? Are the freelance sites worth using? (When I check those, I see loads of people low-balling every job for about $5/hour.) Or should I just post it on my website and hope they find it through search engines? Should I forget about trying to attract recruiters, and actively pursue work through jobs.perl.org and the like? I've built up a pretty decent presence on PerlMonks over the past year or so, I think, but I haven't been contacted for work there.

In short, where should someone with a lot of practical Perl experience but not necessarily much of a public portfolio (lots of one-off scripts mining data and doing sysadmin tasks on servers, but no modules on CPAN) put his focus?

I appreciate Carla taking the time to step up with these comments. I think it would be a great idea to start building some documentation aimed at helping recruiters understand the Perl community better, and understand how to find good Perl programmers. Right now I know a lot of recruiters are not going to be really pro Perl simply due to the fact that they have a hard time filling Perl jobs and of course most recruiters only make money when they can fill a job. So what I was thinking is starting with a one page "So you are a recruiter?" entry somewhere on the Perl.org website. Carla would be willing to take a look and help us put something useful out there, as well and send it around her network.

So, thoughts on where this should go? Is making a "http://recruit.perl.org/" too much? I'm willing to work on the content, if I can get someone with access to the website to get it online!

I’ve been approached by recruiters only once, but I’ve been approached numerous times in person (by non-professional recruiters) asking if I’m looking for work (mainly the “we’re looking for people where I work, would you like to join?”) and had been contacted for job offers randomly by people via email for quite some time now. So, though having little experience with professional recruiters, I might be able to give some insight.

My advice is to basically be more “out there”. Be where people see you, where recruiters see you, and where potential employees see you. This sound opaque but I can expand on it.

  • Go to Perl Mongers meetings. You can meet future employees there, you can meet future co-workers. I’ve been contacted many times by people I’ve met at these meetings. I’ve contacted these people when we had openings.

  • Show off your knowledge when you’re there. Do a short talk about a cool trick you did at your work using Perl. Be someone at the meeting that people can point to and recognize. (this isn’t really something I do, but I would definitely do it if I was looking to be recognized - I’m just a loud mouth :)

  • Contribute to a module. This can be documentation, testing, typos, small things you already know shouldn’t be used (indirect new() call, not using defined() when needed, switches of any type, etc.) - this is a MAJOR issue. When you contribute to a project, you’re OUT there. People talk about you (first by thanking you), sometimes in public. You can show this off in your resume. Bosses look for you online and find you, and your work. You get credit for it.

    My boss for almost 5 years now (which I adore!) saw my CPAN contributions before interviewing me in person and was so impressed I didn’t need to take the practical test. I was simply accepted as “able to write production code”. Please. ask anyone if you can contribute, they’ll give you a list twice the length of the sun! Contact me!!!!!11

  • Go to YAPC. It’s like a much bigger crazier version of Perl Mongers. There is also a job fair!

  • Once you make contact with people, and they will know you’re looking for work, they’ll pass along your info to their company accompanied with your CPAN handle (“this guy fucking put shit on CPAN!”) and will talk about whatever great conversations they had with you on Perl Mongers (“dude, this guy did the craziest thing, he’s super sk1ll3dx0rs!”). I sometimes get asked about people in the community, whether I know them and can recommend them. If it’s someone I know, and I can recommend, I happily do it. The people you make contact with might be the ones that will be asked about you, and they could recommend you.

  • Write, publicly. A comment is a start! A blog (hey, did you know blogs.perl.org give you a free Perl-related blog?! Yes, they do!) can get you some traction. You can write about fucking anything relating to Perl. You could write about modules you’ve learned to use, about experiences trying to accomplish a task with Perl, asking for advice on certain situations, how you handled certain problems, beginner/newbie tips, more, more, more.

  • Upload a module to CPAN! I talked about contributing to modules, but maybe you have a module you wrote for yourself? Perhaps you could polish it and upload it? When contributing to projects, it’s considered an honor to release it. Some will gladly share that honor with you (CONTACTZSKDJ ME!). You get your name on some stuff, spread the word around.

Hmmm… I probably missed a bunch of stuff John could add, but hey, that’s a good fucking start right there. Suddenly you’re not anonymous anymore, you’re that guy who wrote those blog posts, who I met at YAPC, who I met at the Perl Mongers, who uploaded that module I saw/used/talked about, who contributed to all these other projects, who I work with on this or that, you’re THAT FUCKING GUY! As soon as I hear about an opening, I’m contacting you. Hell, maybe I’ll just contact him to see if he’s looking for work.

Oh, and important to know, that the more involved you get (meeting, contacting, writing, cooperating), the better you get at what you do, and the more you learn, and the more you can offer!

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About ccasamona

user-pic I blog about Perl.