The Ofice Hours program is a combination of remote training, extended interview, and therapy session.  Our experience so far is that with a little investment in time, a “so-so” candidate can turn into an awesome one.

At Nearsoft, we’re always looking for good people to join our ranks, responsible adults who love what they do, live our values, and will help us achieve our goals as a team and as a business.

To achieve that, we have a somewhat lengthy recruitment process  Once the process is complete we hold a “Thumbs” meeting where we decide whether or not to extend an offer to join us.  You can read more about it here.

The Problem

We provide pretty detailed feedback to all candidates we decide not to hire.  This includes a list of books, articles, training courses, and other training material to address the specific areas we feel the candidate needs to improve.  The recruiter in charge collects all the feedback and offers it back to the candidate.  In some cases, the interviewers go over the feedback directly with the candidates, particularly when it comes to technology.

However, we felt that even with all this,  we weren’t doing enough to help these candidates do a better job in the future.

Beyond the list a list of training materials and one or two conversations, we pretty much left candidates on their own, without guidance.  We felt that we could do more to stay in touch and help more proactively.  Particularly when we run into very interesting people who may not be ready to join us but still make an impression on us and show that “spark” that we’re always looking for.

And this is how the Office Hours program was born.

Office Hours

Now when we encounter a candidate with high potential we schedule a few hours during the week to get together with the candidate online.  Sometimes it is one hour every day, other times three to four hours a week.  Whatever works out for the candidate and her Nearsoft mentors.

During Office Hours we talk with the candidate about whatever area she’s currently working to improve.  It may the training material, specific questions, or best practices and how we usually do things at Nearsoft.  In general, it’s an informal technical discussion where the main focus is on those areas of opportunity that we identified during the recruitment process.

We see many cases where really good people have picked up very bad habits from the places they’ve worked at.  At Nearsoft, we have the luxury of constantly learning from each other, from our clients, industry thought leaders, etc., and we get to use bleeding edge technologies to create awesome products.  This creates a pretty high bar for most developers who’ve never been challenged this way and are only expected to put in eight hours at the office and get the code out regardless of how scalable, maintainable, or satisfying the result may be.

And It’s Off!

We just kicked off Office Hours program recently, with “Marco” as our first candidate.  He is a great guy who applied for a PHP position.  He made a very good impression on us and showed a passion for technology and the kind of things we do.  He wasn’t quite ready but we felt, and he agreed, that the Office Hours program could give him the little push he needed.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking with him about Persistence Patterns, ORM (specifically, integrating Doctrine with Zend Framework), TDD, BDD and DDD and Unit Testing best practices and techniques.

The talks we’ve been having so far have been really great.  We clicked with Marco right away and have had really interesting conversations and debates.  He’s already shown a lot of improvement, and, of course, we have learned something new along the way, too!

The Future

So far, the Office Hours have proved to be a great improvement in our “follow up.”  The candidate gets to improve quicker and faster than before, we get to keep the interest of a potential hire, and get to know that person better.

Furthermore, through this program we’re also making a small contribution towards our vision to spread our culture as much as possible and improve the state of technology practice and entrepreneurship south of the border.

Hopefully, we’ll have many more great experiences in the future, as we’ve had with Marco, and be able to develop the potential of great people that apply with us but need just a little push to get on board.

Make It Work for You, Too

We encourage other organizations to launch similar programs to help develop the technical community at large.  It will enrich your internal culture as well.  For our part, we will continue to share our experiences with this and similar programs.