Do the simplest thing
A few months ago in a single night I sat down and tried to go from the spark of an idea into something I could release into the wild to see if anyone was even interested. It was fun to just sit down and try to ‘ship’ a dead simple idea. “Discovery requires experimentation” as they say. The idea I tried to ship was a focal point for people to start sharing recruiter emails that were horribly bad fits for them. One of the facts of the software industry is that there are many many shotgun recruiting firms out there and that they will send an email to anyone with an @ in their name. The idea was to take the bad and also the good emails and form it into a site that would help people understand how to recruit better. The data would also be interesting to look through for my own purposes, what industries or companies are using ‘bad’ recruiters?
The core of the idea is that many people get job spam emails and I want to help give an outlet for people to share those emails with others. I also wanted people to share what they think are good emails too so that I can better understand both sides of this communication problem. The idea came out of a common lunch time habit of mine, sharing random start up ideas with my team and laughing at how crazy they are. We had been discussing recruiting and how often we are approached about positions that are not even closely aligned. For example, I was recently asked if I want a QA engineer contract job for 2 months. A simple Google search for my name would quickly reveal I have never even had a job remotely like that. I also know there are several tools out there that give recruiters most publicly available information about a particular developer. When I was younger and received such things I would usually respond with a simple no thank you. Now I have filters to mark anything with “Urgent Requirement” or “Java Developer” or “PHP Developer” as something to be sent to the trash.
I finally decided to do something about this because a friend of mine had been contacted by an extremely aggressive person who berated him for not responding to his multiple emails and told him how much he was going to not make because he told the person politely that he was not interested. We were traveling for some meetings and during the day he’d been watching the angry emails from this person come in. We laughed about them and how if only I had that website we could have his emails go there. That night back at the hotel I decided to attempt to build it in the simplest way possible. I threw together some hand coded HTML, got the domain registered, threw up Google Apps to handle the incoming emails and created recruitervalve.com (since brought down). The next day my friend and I dropped some stuff into social media, got a little response and it was an interesting experience. Had several hundred people come look at the site but no-one actually forwarded their emails. Another friend pointed out that perhaps email, while the ‘easiest’ way, was also a bad way because it would be anonymous. Eventually, I moved on and shuttered the site but it was a good experience to just do something, throw it out there and see if anyone bites.
At work sometimes it is easy to just get into the rhythm of building really complicated things. Sometimes we say to ourselves we cannot possibly release something until it has these ten things. I remember going over a list of features with my team that was literally pages long from some of our test customers that they swore they had to have before they could possibly use the product. It doesn’t always have to be that way and the hard reality is, even if you give everyone the kitchen sink they may still not use or purchase your software. Recruiter valve was a great way to simply in a few hours prove out if the path forward was worth even pursuing. The response I got wasn’t enough for me to try and pivot to something else, even though I would still love if someone could actually give developers a way to somehow improve the opportunities they receive or a way to ‘fight back’ against what I consider to be spam. However, I did get a good reminder that sometimes we should just do the simplest thing and see if it works before thinking we have to do 10 complicated things before we’ll ever be able to ‘know’ it was the right choice. Simple experiments use less time and resources and help guide you to where the next most useful thing is. I cannot tell you how many times the simple thing has proven sufficient but it is almost always worth doing first.