How to Recruit for Tech Talent with Limited Resources

By Catherine Skrzypinski Jul 17, 2017
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SEATTLE—Recruiting leaders at technology startups say they must prioritize their resources to remain competitive when they recruit for candidates against tech giants.

"We won't win if a candidate's pure motivation is cash," said Jason Buss, vice president of talent acquisition at software company MongoDB in San Francisco. He spoke at the 2017 Talent42 Tech Recruiting Conference.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Recruiting Internally and Externally]

Compete for Talent Creatively

While it may be a challenge to compete against tech behemoths Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, recruiting leaders say startups can differentiate themselves from their competitors.

As one of the fastest growing companies in Seattle, staffing and recruitment agency Fuel Talent prides itself in going against the market to hire, said Albert Squiers, director of technology recruiting.

Squiers said he actively goes after passive candidates by inviting an engineer to lunch as an icebreaker. "Do a lot of work upfront before the candidate starts the interviewing process—it's another way to build the relationship," he added.

Sabrina Hilton, director of talent acquisition at mobile platform company TUNE, has played an integral role in helping the Seattle-based startup grow from 40 to 380 employees over a four-year period. She said she likens seeking talent to house hunting, as candidates are looking for a work environment that fits with their current stage of life.

"We need to understand what is driving a candidate to seek a new challenge with a startup," she continued. "Many are moving away from Silicon Valley to Seattle. We need to understand the phase of life [a candidate is in]."

According to the Washington Technology Industry Association, around 250,000 people are currently employed in technology-related jobs in Washington. The state's tech industry has grown around 10 percent per year since 2015.

Engage with the Community

The panel emphasized that recruiters should get involved in their community to attract candidates.

Hilton said that TUNE initially built its brand with a recruiting open house in Seattle, which resulted in three hires. "This is our short-term strategy. We acted like marketers with this word-of-mouth brand awareness," she said. "In the long term, we are building the employer brand."

Another way TUNE reaches out to the Seattle community, Hilton continued, is with TUNE House, a renovated house on the University of Washington campus. The TUNE House scholarship program provides free housing, paid utilities, laptops, weekly grocery delivery, access to professional mentors and networking opportunities for eight female undergraduate students pursuing degrees in computer science, computer engineering or information technology.

"We are helping women in tech and keeping them inspired," she added.

Squiers said Fuel Talent sponsors the annual GeekWire Ping-Pong Tournament, a can't miss event for Seattle's tech talent. "This [event] drives the depth of our relationship with the tech community."

Hilton said it's vital to sell the vision of the startup to potential employees. "Talent is tied to your employer brand. It's imperative to share your employer story and tell it well," she concluded.

"The best storytellers often attract the best talent. Evolving our recruiting marketing strategy is a big focus for our team to attract the right people."

Catherine Skrzypinski is a freelance writer in Vancouver.

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