Recently, three friends considered working together on a spare-time project, but it didn't pan out because one of them felt underappreciated. The other two are hard-pressed to find a replacement as talented or prolific, yet they didn't show appreciation when courting their potential golden hen.
It made me reflect on a phenomenon that bemuses me. A high-quality engineer will be chased like wolves by a top-shelf company, and then get lukewarm treatment by a far less successful company.
One example is my Caltech friend "David", who submitted his resume to a slew of companies at Career Fair. One company did a campus interview and then delayed three months before offering to direct him to a position coding printer drivers. Meanwhile, Microsoft was so hungry for him that they surfed for an online photo and created a personalized web page about how he would add spice to their team. Alas, the photo they found was not of him, but of a similarly long-haired student who David disliked.
During my own experiences, I found that prestigious companies worked harder at recruiting me, which was counter-intuitive. A few years ago, one 15-person startup -- above average but not phenomenal -- put me through two rounds of interviews. Even as their engineering VP delivered my job offer, he enumerated the flaws in my personality that I would need to change. Contrast this with Google in the same year, who sent me a chocolate gift basket after my offer letter, and then shipped another basket to my parents to get on their good side. Or Blizzard, king of the games industry, whose interview-day present of a Starcraft pre-launch beta CD made me the envy of my gaming friends.
I've seen this happen to others: hardware engineers, fresh college graduates, etc.
Consider high school. The prom queen is desired by all, but the prom king acts nonchalant about getting a date with her, whereas the lonely kids lower on the social totem pole would jump at the chance. Here it's the inverse. The prom king of the software world, though deluged by superstars, goes all-out in the chase. The aspiring startups and nearly-bankrupt stragglers, despite dying for talent, stay cavalier.
Perhaps it's an effect of that philosophy "it takes talent to recognize talent". The software titans reached their dominance partly due to their ability to find and chase star employees.
But I wonder why it doesn't apply the other way around. By extrapolation, mediocre engineers would be unable to recognize a good opportunity. Yet I see struggling engineers plead and plead for a chance at Google, citing it as the dream of their life. Stars generally do not prostrate themselves in this manner.
It could be that engineers can benefit from wisdom of the crowd. No matter how poor an engineer's judgement is, they hear lots about how great Google is, so they go with the masses. But then why doesn't this apply to the companies? They should be able to determine mass-appeal of their candidates by looking at their job histories and education.