Why SharePoint Recruiters Are So Bad

From time to time, I’m approached by a SharePoint recruiter looking to get my help in hiring the perfect candidate for a position. You may be surprised to hear this, but finding and hiring the right candidate isn’t all that hard if you know what you’re doing.

If you’re such a recruiter however, chances are high that you have no idea what you’re doing, so I’m going to point out some of the mistakes you make so you can fix them.

It’s Not Low Hanging Fruit

One reason why the market to recruit SharePoint people is hot is that SharePoint people are generally paid very well. Recruiters work on commission, usually a percentage of the salary the employee gets.

That’s why it is very tempting to hire a $100K a year employee rather than an average support chump who is more than satisfied making $30K a year.

It’s human nature to seek the highest reward for the least amount of effort, but whereas understanding the reward is easy, many recruiters are incapable of understanding the effort.

It’s SharePoint, right? How hard can it be?

As common as it is to see a high reward as a tempting target, it is equally common to ignore some very basic logic. If it was easy to make three times the reward, you’re not the only one who realizes this. If people are still not hired, it’s probably because there’s more to the story than you think initially.

Recruiting people to SharePoint positions require a great deal of understanding. If you have that understanding and do the right things, you can find people that are suitable for a job fairly quickly and you reap the higher rewards.

If you don’t, you’ll make all the same mistakes that everyone else does and you’re wasting everyone’s time and money.

Your Ad And Why It Fails

Let me examine some of the mistakes I see in job ads and approaches to hiring SharePoint people.

“Great Salary!”

The worst possible line you can write in a job ad is that the position offers a great salary without any specifics.

First of all, if you don’t understand the business,  how can you evaluate the salary and call it great? Second, if you don’t know who you’re hiring, how do you know what they consider a great salary?

The problem is that when you say that there’s a great salary, or even a competitive one (which is even worse), you’re building expectations that you have no idea whether you’ll meet. I may think $200K is a great salary but you think that if you make $80K a year, you’d be set. Thus, when the time comes to negotiate a contract, I’ll be disappointed. That’s never a good way to recruit anyone.

If you know what the position pays, even if it’s just in a range, just tell me. You should know enough about the business to know what such positions pay.

No salary information is actually better than trying to tell me that I should be satisfied with what you think is great.

“Must Be Willing to Relocate”

I understand the value of team building. Having someone nearby to whom you can walk and ask questions, give tasks, or get feedback is awesome.

However, I’m already living in tropical paradise. I have the world’s biggest pool less than 30 feet from my door (it’s called “The Pacific Ocean”). I have wild macaws flying over my private rooftop terrace daily and monkeys call at me less than a mile from my living room. I love this place.

If you demand that I, or anyone, break up their current way of life, you need to offer something that is more valuable. I would consider moving from here for an additional $75-100K, which means that what you previously thought was “a great salary” is now up to $275-300K.

This tells you something important; I value my current way of life at a certain sum. Are you or your client willing to pay that sum or is the value too high for the convenience of having my stunning personality in your office?

Today, it’s easy, convenient, and moving towards completely normal to work in distributed teams. Perhaps it’s better to move with the times and see if there are cheaper and even better ways to accomplish what you want? Heck, it’s cheaper to fly someone across the country once a week than it is to relocate someone and pay them for the inconvenience.

“Here Are The Tools You Must Use”

If an evaluation of what you think is a great salary is the worst single line you can add to a job ad, the worst possible paragraph you can add is the tools you expect someone to use to solve your problems.

I’ve written about this extensively in the past, but as a recruiter, think how you’d react if your client comes to you and demands that you use only paper letters to contact potential candidates, or that you cannot use Google but must use Bing to search for resumes.

Would that make sense to you?

You’re given a task to do something which you possibly know very well how to do. You have your way of working, using tools you know very well, and processes that you’ve proven over years of experience.

Why would a client, who is not a professional, tell you how you should work and which tools solve the problem? If they know so well how to do your job, why aren’t they doing it themselves?

Now, take the previous two paragraphs and flip it on your potential candidate and see if it makes more sense. The correct answer, in case you cannot figure it out, is “no”.

So, stop telling people which tools to use. Instead, tell them what they need to do. “Build us an intranet that solves these problems” or “Replace this legacy database with something that adheres to these requirements” or “Reduce the time and overhead of managing projects by 25%”.

Note: Feel free to read up on Paul Culmsee’s article and especially the f-law #3 to understand more about how to set intelligent goals.

Understand the Business

The key thing you must do as a SharePoint recruiter, however, is to understand the SharePoint business. It’s hard work, I know, but without it, you won’t find the right people, and even if the right people are staring you in the face, you won’t know how to recognize them.

Understand what it means when you ask for a “SharePoint developer” or a “SharePoint administrator”. These terms do not mean what you think intuitively, and when you don’t understand them, you look for people that have the completely wrong set of skills.

Understand where the community is heading. Unless you interact with and understand at least the basics of how the SharePoint community works, you won’t be able to reach the right people. As an example of how effective this is, a recruiter who is well-known in the community recently sent out one single message to the right channel and landed resumes from highly qualified professionals within minutes.

Understand where SharePoint is headed. SharePoint is changing, dramatically. You can’t recruit people for the tasks of yesterday and expect them to cope with the tasks of tomorrow unless you also expect to give them the proper training. Oh, and yes, you’ll be paying for that training, whether it is in having incompetent people a year from now or it’s actually giving the employees the resources they need.

Intelligent recruiters know how to work with the community. Some of them approach community members to learn, seeing that those that make it reap huge rewards.

Others think that they can just apply their skills at hiring burger flippers at Mickey D and get the best SharePoint professionals in the world.

It’s up to you, really.

.b

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Why SharePoint Professionals Are So Bad

Someone asked on Facebook:

“SharePoint Peeps. (primarily consulting) I have been doing an increasing number of interactions with the trusted SharePoint admin at a variety of customers. Maybe I am just being negative but. I am seeing a disturbing trend of a lack of real "expertise" in this arena. Is this just me, or are you seeing the same thing? Are you out there with these customer SharePoint folks thinking wow these people have it together or are you walking away thinking "who ties these peoples shoelaces for them?" or somewhere in between?”

Here’s my response and rant.

I’m still not sure you’re really serious about your question, but in case you are, as someone who has been actively engaged in the training space of SharePoint for a number of years, including building a university solely dedicated to SharePoint with a bachelor level track in training SP admins, let me just say this in as plain text as possible:

The average SharePoint professional, whether developer or administrator, is so poor at their job that, if their skill levels were applied to other areas, such as hairdressing or fixing your car, you would run away and live like a hippie for the rest of your life.

“Screw the do, I’m walking home”

The fact that SharePoint even functions to some extent is a credit to Microsoft’s development skill, not those who run or build on it. Sure, it has issues with the code base, but it’s a very complex animal and even getting an animal to walk, much less do all the tricks that SharePoint can do, is incredibly difficult.

Sadly, Microsoft took that skill and hid it away in the latest versions so SharePoint hasn’t really evolved. Like a dog, they took SharePoint behind the shed and shot it. They then brought back the skin saying "Look, SharePoint isn’t dead, it has just evolved into this nice rug". Then they claim that they did this because everyone wants rugs.

Back to your question, keeping up with SharePoint is a full-time job and then some. Paradoxically, that is because SharePoint was never allowed to mature before it was replaced with a new version and the marketing department (including its field operatives, the MVPs) started focusing solely on "the new way to pet Lassie".

Of course, people need to eat, and as such, they tend to do what their bosses tell them to do. Those bosses are people too, and people have an innate tendency to believe everyone else knows more than they do. As such, when the marketing department says "Everyone needs rugs, we’re now a rug company" then those bosses dutifully tells their employees to start shooting every dog they see.

So, SharePoint admins and devs, who want to eat, start shooting dogs and turning them into rugs, which initially are really poor rugs because nobody has any idea what a dog rug should look like. Developers have to learn tanning, and admins have to turn from caring and nurturing dogs to being interior designers.

However, as they get a bit of experience and start creating beautiful rugs with nice tints of color and practical shapes, Microsoft brings out a new strategy. The trend now is hardwood floors and nobody wants rugs anymore. In fact, it was a really bad idea in the first place.

Now, this happens at such a pace that by the time everyone starts to learn how to shoot dogs and turn them into rugs, there’s a new fad coming. Because it requires extensive investments in learning, usually done at the employee’s private time or at the cost of quality of their work or life, the employees get increasingly de-motivated. "SharePoint is hard" and "SharePoint sucks", not because it actually is hard or sucks (c’mon, you have to spend a couple of weeks training to get a job; how hard can that be?) but because they’re constantly told to retrain to cater to the latest and greatest flimsical fad.

So, yes, you’re right. SharePoint admins suck. SharePoint developers suck. I’ve even worked closely with those considered the best in the business for years, and you’d be scared shitless at how little many of them actually know outside a laser focused area.

It’s not their fault, though. It is a fundamental flaw in how SharePoint is sold and how Microsoft promotes its strategy, as if SharePoint is indeed the core business of all its users and thus warrants the massive investments in training that it requires. 

.b

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Why I am Leaving SharePoint and Why You Should Consider It Too

It’s no big secret that over the previous months, I’ve done less and less SharePoint related work. That is because I’m leaving SharePoint as a career and I’m here to tell you why.

I’d like to start, however, by saying what are not the reasons I’m leaving SharePoint.

It’s Not About SharePoint

I’ve had heated debates and flame wars with people who say that I’m leaving because SharePoint is such a shoddy product.

SharePoint is a great platform. The way it enables businesses to build solutions to give them advantages quickly is amazing. I’ve seen people build solutions in an hour that has saved businesses days or weeks of work. I’ve seen companies utilize SharePoint to see completely new business areas and make a killing over their competitors. I’ve seen and had clients send me gifts for saving employees and jobs.

So no, SharePoint isn’t a bad platform. It is an awesome platform.

It’s Not About the Community

The SharePoint community is dwindling and has been for years. I’d be tempted to blame it all on Twitter buying up Tweetdeck because after Tweetdeck was nerfed to promote the silly web client, the once vibrant Twitter conversations in the community has gone away. 

However, the community still exists. It’s far more fractured now, spanning a range of sites including, but not limited, to Twitter, Faceboook, Yammer, and various web sites and other platforms.

I once wrote that community isn’t defined by technology but by people. The SharePoint people that comprises the community are still there. They’re just a lot harder to find and it’s more difficult to keep up with what’s going on now that there are 10+ newsfeeds to follow.

It Is About the Future

SharePoint is dying, and don’t give me that “it’s not dying, it’s turning into something else” because that’s the same as saying that Michael Jackson isn’t dead, he’s just turned into daisy fertilizer.

Sure, SharePoint is turning into something else, which means that there’s a new way of solving every problem, using a new set of tools, in a completely new game. That’s fine, but it’s not SharePoint anymore.

As a SharePoint professional, you’re asked to relearn everything you know, basically taking your productive skill set back to zero and start building again. You’ve learned plenty of transferable skills, but you can also transfer those skills anywhere you want.

The new paradigm of SharePoint isn’t SharePoint anymore. It’s no longer about using technology creatively to gain a competitive advantage, it is about getting the latest commodity that everyone else has too.

Commodities can never be a competitive advantage.

So ask yourself this: You have a completely blank slate in front of you. Everything you know is wiped clean. You need to spend the next two-three years at building a new skill set.

What is it about the coming paradigm of SharePoint that makes you want to start writing “My new career as a SharePoint something” on that blank slate?

The technology certainly isn’t unique anymore. There are five dozen alternatives to virtually any part of the new SharePoint now, and even Microsoft encourages you to pull in components from varying sources when you want to build something.

Is it brand loyalty? Are you really willing to bet the next years of your future just to remain loyal to a brand that has a decade long track record of changing just as you gain any reasonable amount of proficiency? If so, you’re certifiably insane and you can stop reading right now.

It’s About Fun

The main reason I’m leaving SharePoint, however, is that it’s no longer fun. Part of the challenge of being a SharePoint developer is overcoming adversity and finding creative solutions to problems using an at times limited set of tools in innovative ways.

That was just the first step. What is utterly fascinating with SharePoint is that you can then take those skills and be incredibly valuable almost anywhere you go. Even when you’re charging your clients hundreds of dollars per hour, you still produce more value than that, at least if you know your trade.

So it’s not just a personally interesting challenge, it is a profitable one for all parties involved.

That is no longer going to be the case. SharePoint hasn’t evolved in the areas that matter so after many years, I’ve seen and solved virtually every problem there is.

When I now get a request for work, I can usually compose the solution entirely using code I’ve already built. I can take an existing taxonomy description and turn it into a fully content type enabled SharePoint structure in minutes, maybe an hour. I have so many workflow templates and have done event receivers so many times, I can probably fix your business process in a day, including writing out the training documentation.

It’s become a matter of producing rather than creating. I’ve become an assembly line worker rather than a developer. I no longer need to think and I have great fun thinking.

So, What Now?

I’m deeply fascinated by many things. I’ve already worked for a few months in the startup community both to learn and to offer insights from my experience as an investor and as an entrepreneur. Maybe I’ll pursue a career helping startups succeed.

I’ve also wanted for decades to get into game development. Over the previous months, I’ve built a platform for interactive story telling called Wizh. It’s in closed beta now and I work on it as much as I can because it brings back the fun.

Wizh is built on top of an interactive story engine called, creatively enough, ISENG, and I see huge potential in using ISENG in everything from story driven games, interactive fiction, and other entertainment areas, but also as an engine powering training, education, user experience testing, and more.

ISENG is to games and entertainment what SharePoint workflows are to business processes, to put it into language my SharePoint savvy audience can understand.

I’ve kept up with my students over the years but lately have seen that most of them want to learn things outside of SharePoint so I’ll probably refocus my mentoring efforts into a broader area of development.

I’ll probably also offer the odd opinion piece on SharePoint, but it won’t be my career anymore. This blog will retain it’s existing content but I’ll start adding other pieces of writing that interest me. If you want to tag along, you’re more than welcome.

Of course, if you have a great idea or need an experienced developer, entrepreneur, and architect, I’m all ears and would love to hear your thoughts. Maybe you’d like to partner with us in developing Wizh? We are always looking for interesting ideas, especially if you can help us fund the development.

That’s it. I’m done. .b has left the building. Talk again on the outside.

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