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August 10 2022

The Honeypot Article: What Changed After a Decade

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The recruiting arena is constantly changing and adapting to new circumstances. This transformation was sent into hyperdrive as the technology continued to rapidly evolve. The same happened in 2020 when the Covid pandemic started.


However, we believe it’s interesting to take a step back and see what exactly changed, and how did the general image and behavior of recruiters and candidates transform over time.

In 2012 one article caused quite a stir and attracted a lot of attention. It is an article written by Elaine Wherry and called The Recruiter Honeypot. Elaine co-founded a startup called Meebo, which was providing social messaging and advertising tools that helped publishers achieve greater engagement with their users.

Meebo was growing rapidly, and to meet the company's first real revenue target, Wherry needed to double her JavaScript team by the end of the year. The situation was aggravated by the fact that most of the recruiting team recently went out on leave and Elaine was left alone with the problem.

So Elaine created an online persona named Pete London – a self-described JavaScript ninja – to help attract and hire the best JavaScript recruiters. During this experiment, Pete got 530 emails from 382 recruiters, from 172 organizations. He was offered seven iPads, one Xbox, one MacBook Air, and five $1,000 referral cash incentives followed by two $10,000 referral cash incentives, eight coffees, seven phone calls, and six lunch invites.

While Elaine never hired a recruiter from the experiment, she learned a ton about how to compete in today’s Silicon Valley talent war. You can read the whole article here.

What has changed over the last decade, let’s see if those lessons can be applied today in 2022.


Lesson 1: Recruiters rely exclusively upon LinkedIn


Back in 2012, it was surprising to Elaine that Pete London got almost all his offers through LI. Mostly this was because LinkedIn wasn’t how Meebo found its initial superstar JavaScript team.


However, we think that in 2022 this tip is definitely still relevant: Recruiters flock to LinkedIn first, if not always.

However, we would still advise recruiters to use multiple communication channels. Try “guerilla recruiting”—that is, everything from “JavaScript Bingo” to Google Ads to Boolean searches, GitHub, blog comments, student newspapers, Twitter keywords, meetups, Stanford CS classes, speaking events, etc. They’re essentially out-of-the-box mechanisms to generate talent and are really effective in finding and hiring great people.


Lesson 2: Fear the silicon valley long tail


Originally, Wherry was reaching out to potential candidates with a mindset that her emails would land next to Google or Facebook. She was emphasizing the "amazing, unique" startup experience. But the Pete London experiment proved that this approach was wrong, since 85% of inbound emails were from startups, reaching out with the exact same emphasis.

This is even more relevant today when there are thousands of startups. Find a way to really differentiate yourself and make sure that you stand out from the crowd.


Lesson 3: Can a start-up rely upon external recruiting?


It turns out that the external recruiters actually do a pretty good job for small startups. So until you can have a fully functioning recruiting (and sourcing!) team of your own, rest assured good partners do exist. This is still relevant, the scarcity of talent has only been magnified over the last ten years, finding great talent takes a village.

These are the top 3 lessons that, in our opinion, have remained as relevant as they were 10 years ago.

However, we are always happy for a discussion! Comment to share your opinion.

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