Everyone knows that hiring in tech is broken, but I think hiring is mainly a narrow waist problem. Narrow waists (or hourglass) is a concept that tells about complex multifaceted systems that are separated by a slim layer of data exchange.

On the employer side there are many aspects of the role that they need to fill. It could be specialized knowledge about Apache Kafka or the need to do Database migrations between specific DBs. Then there are intangible things like cross-cultural communication skills, knowledge of special domains (e.g. Security or HTTP), and also the requirement to be a good fit to the existing team. These requirements are often listed down in the job description, but the intangible parts about team dynamics and unique product history are usually left unsaid.

On the applicant side, there are many things that the applicant might have experience with. Things like fixing a bug in the CMS running JDK 8 or successfully completing a SASE audit report for the critical systems. Due to the prevalence of single page resumes, it becomes harder to put everything in the resumes. In addition, not all roles that the candidates are applying need all the skills/experience the candidate has.

The hiring team usually gets ~7 seconds to review and screen resume. Even if we consider the interview time to be 1 to 2 hours, it is still hard enough for both sides to accurately share the relevant information. Given the stressful nature of interviews, sometimes information isn’t conveyed correctly.

So how to overcome this limitation? Hiring is complex, broken in parts and there is no silver bullet to this problem. However I think the following strategies might help:

For job seekers: Study the job description and the product the role is about. Then tailor your resume to highlight your skills that match them1. However the best way to get a nice shot at this is to find someone who can refer you. Hiring managers generally see referrals as a sign of cultural fit and have more likely to get the job.

For hiring managers: Any hiring manager worth their salt knows that all the Dark matter developers are usually not on the market. They need to do guerrilla hiring and go out of their way to find such developers. A good hiring manager always has their ears on the ground for good developers; be it in their extended network, or the forums they hang out at.

  1. Don’t lie on the resume. It is easy to get caught during the interviews, especially in areas where you don’t have hands on experience. ↩︎