I’ve been living and working in Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas, for the past 10 years. In spite of Dallas being a pretty large city, the IT world has always felt small. When I meet someone new, the degrees of separation from a common friend is usually only one.
As a hiring manager, this was always a big advantage. There was rarely a candidate I couldn’t get an honest opinion on from a friend I trusted. All the good folks know a lot of other good folks, and there is a great deal of camaraderie among them.
This has always worked out to the advantage of the companies in the area. If they managed to hire a few of the good guys, they could ensure the rest of the IT people they hired were also good. It was a free and easy quality filter.
Now that the local job market has rebounded, this tight network is going to work to the disadvantage of a lot of local companies. With the tight labor market for talented Java developers, the calls and emails that used to be “tell me about John Doe” are now “tell me about Company XYZ”.
Talented people want to work at companies that don’t suck, and now that the market is good, they have more choices. I had a recruiter call me today pitching a spot at a company where one of the friends I work with just left. I knew from him the place was a suckfest, and I didn’t hesitate to tell the recruiter that too. Companies like this, and the one I just left, are going to have a brutal time recruiting and retaining talent based on their word-of-mouth reputation.
Dallas is as small as ever, but after seeing the small world syndrome work to the benefit of a lot of employers, the winds are shifting and a lot of the suck companies in the area are going to have that same syndrome working against them.