Responding to Recruiters: Priority List

I get a handful of recruiters who are looking to find me a role in their companies. (Sometimes they are also looking for people who aren’t me to fill roles — which I usually pass on to others by saying “Anyone looking for a job?”, getting a chorus of “Nope”, and moving on.)

While responding to one of these recently, I ran down the checklist I have in my head for what is important to me in looking at a new job. I think that the list of items on this list are essentially a log-scale order of binary predictors for how likely I am to consider a switch to another position; for example, I don’t think that it’s plausible to imagine that I’d consider any position that didn’t have the first two conditions met.

  • Work from Cambridge, MA, ideally in a local office or some other employer-sponsored working space. (Things that are close enough: Cambridge, Boston. Things that are not close enough: Lexington, Waltham, Billerica.)
  • Working in a working environment which supports flexibility in work schedule, and is supportive of work/life balance.
  • Working on projects that I don’t personally consider dishonest or immoral.
  • Working with user data — the bigger the better.
  • Working on projects which are visible to the public.
  • Working on interesting new technologies, especially technologies which can be open sourced and shared.
  • Working with maps, or geospatial data.

(Compensation also plays a role, but I don’t think I’ve ever not responded to a recruiter based on that fact.)

I’m not actively looking for a job — despite Nokia’s overall poor performance, I work under the ‘Location and Commerce” group inside Nokia that is still making a healthy profit on our overall activities. Most importantly to me, I work with the same team I’ve worked with for more than 6 years now, so switching jobs would be a painful transition that is unlikely to be enticing without a really strong offer.

That said, I often read the engineering blogs of places like Yelp, Netflix, and Foursquare and think “Man, wouldn’t it be cool to work someplace where maybe I couldn’t put out fires all the time? Where occasionally, I could actually work on cool stuff?” (Note that my brief research into Netflix indicates that it fails *both* of the first items on my list, so it’s evident that “Companies doing cool things” is not synonymous with companies for whom I would want to work.)

I just miss the days of MetaCarta when occasionally, I got to put together something interesting without spending 75% of my time fighting against people inside my own company, and I dream that somewhere out there, there must be other cool companies to work for where that’s not the case. I’m not convinced this isn’t just a ‘grass is always greener’ thought, though. 🙂

(If you are looking for a senior software developer, and think your company can meet all of the criteria above and be cooler than where I work now, feel free to drop me a line.)

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