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TripAdvisor tries the smorgasbord approach to hiring software developers

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 17, 2013 08:00 AM

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How do you find a software developer to fill an open job at your company in 2013?

TripAdvisor, the Newton-based network of travel sites, posits that the answer may be by offering him or her more than one job.

The company's Web Engineering Program offers new hires many of them recent graduates a series of three or four month stints in a range of different departments in the company. The program has been "in beta" for the past two years, says SVP of engineering and operations Andy Gelfond, but is officially launching this summer. About 30 recent TripAdvisor hires are participating or have participated in it, and the company hopes to recruit about 100 more this year.

"We now offer it to all the people coming out of college," Gelfond says, "and most other people coming in." New employees in the Web Engineering Program might hop from one team to another for up to two years. "But for about one-third of them, after a couple rotations, they find a team that they like and they stay," he says. The teams at the company focus on areas like mobile apps, Facebook integration, e-commerce, and search engine optimization. Gelfond says the program is designed to appeal not just to those who'd like to sample a number of different flavors of software development work, but also those who may eventually want to start a company of their own.

The program has already helped TripAdvisor attract employees from other local tech biggies, including Google, Oracle, and Microsoft, says spokesperson Alison Croyle. In addition to Newton, TripAdvisor has software development groups in Ottawa, Palo Alto, and Los Angeles.

Engineers at TripAdvisor get one week a year of "Hacker Time," which they can devote to any project they choose, including helping a non-profit with technology, Gelfond says. Other local employers have been tinkering with their own strategies for recruiting software developers; HubSpot recently increased its referral bonus from $10,000 to $30,000. (Pictured above is a TripAdvisor-branded Rubik's Cube that the company often hands out at recruiting events.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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