"We Hire the Best" is a Red Flag

If a company emphasizes that they only hire the best talent over how they're a welcoming, healthy work environment-- that is likely not a company you want to support.

And if you aren't actively training beginners from a variety of backgrounds, or reaching outside of your closed circle of industry contacts and friends-- you can do better.

If you are already good about this, be very vocal about it. Talk about it on your jobs page. Be visible. Set a good example.

Doing so improves communities, brings people out of poverty, makes more ethical products and policies, fights bigotry, and has a positive ripple effect on our society.

I entered the party, and immediately started feeling pretty awkward. I was invited by an engineer, and it seemed a gathering of basically male engineers and their girlfriends/wives. All worked at "elite" companies.

It was just supposed to be a casual party, but I could hear deals materializing around me. I could hear people talking down to their girlfriends as if computer science was some magically hard topic they could never understand. I could hear introductions being made, people asking for jobs.

It was only four short years ago that I wondered how anyone ever broke into the tech industry. That I would've dreamed to be in conversations like this.

But see, these people don't get jobs with interviews.

They get jobs through friends.

People tell me:

"But our project's super secret! I don't want to spread the word too much!"
"I don't have time, it's easier just to hire this guy I know."
"We only want people with top industry experience, and that's a really small group."
"It's hard to find good engineers. And I know this person can do the work."

Excuses. Stupid, bad excuses.

And these people work at some of what people view as the top companies to work for, places they could only dream working at.

Many of these places have brutally hard interviews for programmers. Notoriously for "only the best."

But their friends get in. Maybe they do an interview, but we all know they're already in.

Not all places are like this by far, and there are great teams within companies who do these things.

And many people do this with "good intentions." See the above excuses.

But this happens at too many big, influential companies I know of. Companies that others look up to as examples.

I once met a team in one of these casual settings, and they said I should join. They said not to worry about the interview, that I'd go through some kind of obligatory process but then I'd be in. Then I hear that it won't work out before I even start this interview. A powerful man there said I wasn't qualified. When a man who referred me argued against this, he finally said he was sure the guy was just recommending me because he was sleeping with me and doing me a favor for that reason. That was so off base, so not the truth, and so sexist. But that was enough. Shut out. And I was no longer invited to any gatherings with that social clique.

Most of these engineers come from wealthy backgrounds. And I think that company has one woman engineer, a few people of color (maybe?), one LGBT+ engineer. Out of all the engineers there.

These companies I know of aren't going to change fast enough.

But maybe the people who do this unintentionally-- say they really believe one of the excuses above-- will change fast if they realize how damaging only hiring from a limited circle of industry folks or friends is.

For those of us who are already pretty good about being open, it should be motivation to try even harder to offset the bad culture a lot of tech companies have. It's also a chance to recognize that actively advertising a healthy work environment will definitely help you get people applying. Healthy work environment is perhaps the most important thing!

And for all the junior engineers-- don't think that if a company has a brutally hard interview or claims to hire the best that it really is the best. In fact, take that as a huge, giant red flag. Look for companies that are welcoming and friendly and open to beginners.

Trust me, you will be healthier and happier in those places. Not fighting uphill battles and wasting your health and anxiety on abusive (however "unintentionally") cliques.

These cliques impact communities heavily. They determine who can come up out of poverty. Who can start businesses. Who can get financial support when they're down. Who has access to valuable advice and resources. They build products that influence policies on surveillance, tracking, huge political issues.

It's one reason I own my own company, and only support companies I think are genuinely healthy places. Let's work to make those groups fizzle out as much as possible and build better communities instead.

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