Thursday, July 12, 2007

Employing Programmer in Malaysia

I think there is a serious problem of IT brain drain in Malaysia, especially Programmer (to be more specific, good programmer) for the following reasons:
  • Less people are studying Computer Science/Computing subjects after the IT bubble burst
  • Higher paying jobs in Singapore, Dubai, US, etc
  • More people are leaving the IT fields after several years, due to frustration and demanding nature of the job
  • More MNC starts their IT/Support operation in Malaysia, thus occupying a large pool of local talents
  • Programmer in Malaysia are under paid
I setup a start-up with some friends more than 8 months ago and we had been trying to employ a few decent junior programmer for the past 6 months. I don’t believe in employing someone based on verbal interview or impressive resume, I believed in my simple technical test. All candidates are sent an email technical questions which they do research on (including using Google) before returning the answers to us within a week or more. Some questions are skewed in such a way that if you are really sucks in programming, it will show easily. Most of the answer could be found by Googling, just to prove that you have taken some initiative.

Of all the candidates, probably only 20% would actually answer the questions, and another 10% would be eligible for an interview session while probably 5% actually do reasonably well (remember, it’s just a basic test, not meant to challenge).

Probably most IT companies out there do not require an Technical Competency Test before attending an interview, thus most candidates found our requirement too troublesome. I do agree, why I would want to spend hours doing some stupid questions to get an interview opportunity in a small IT company, while I can walk straight to the big boys and attend an interview. As a business owner and a programmer myself, I know the vast difference between a good programmer and a bad ones, and a bad one is almost as good as none (disruptive force). I am not looking for an all star or guru, but just someone with good foundation on programming. For example, if you don’t know what is passing by reference, you are definitely out. My point is, if you are really good, you can answer most of my question easily and boost your ego slightly. I always worry for IT companies who employ programmers without a simple Technical Competency Test. Some people really can talk and write (English, not codes), but they really can’t code. These people shall be quite impressive in the interview or in their resume, but they are not suitable as programmer candidates (perhaps for system analysts and alike).

Basically, I only manage to get 1 intern to join us in the past 6 months. Luckily, he is among the top 5% of all my candidates (too bad he can only join us for 4 months). I almost got a few more, but I loose them for a few reasons:
  • Candidate A: Top 5%, a responsible person with more than 3 years of experience. His salary request which is quite steep for us, but we agree anyway. Reason for failing to employ? He was countered offered with 25% increment.
  • Candidate B: Top 10%, but slightly impatient and irresponsible. He requested high salary as well. Reason for failing to employ? He was frustrated to attend for another competency test because of his plagiarism act, and he found another job.
  • Candidate C: Top 5%, weak in English but good in programming (typical case). He is a good bargain. Reason for failing to employ? He received an offer letter from another company right after our interview session.
  • Candidate D: Top 5%, but he is a foreigner. I thought all MSC status company could easily employ foreign worker, but it is not true (it depends on your proposal – if you didn’t allocate or plan for foreign worker, expect more paper work to be done). Reason for failing to employ? We are a MSC company with no allocation for foreign worker.
  • Candidate E: Top 20%, he is an intern who shows interest and effort. Reason for failing to employ? He took up an internship in Taiwan (is this really economically feasible?).
  • Candidate F: Top 5%, US graduate. Reason for failing to employ? He was bound by 6 months contract which he was not aware of (I found the contract have contradicting terms which are probably meant for entrapment).
Perhaps we are small, thus most of the better qualified candidates are not interested to join us. We still get good candidates once in a while, but it really depends our luck to employ them. I also found that a lot of job portals are popping out nowadays, but most of them are useless. The only usable one so far is Jobstreet, though I haven’t tried the newspaper yet. I tried contacting local colleges or universities to capture fresh graduates, but the number of candidates contacted in extremely low.

I wonder what more can I do to attract more talents.


Anonymous said...
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HUMAN --- QIN said...

I strongly agree with you opinions. Same things happen to my company too... I am working in this company for 3 years, but never even get to higher a new programmer, which can work for more than 6 months in my team... haha...