Attracting Tech Talent
For startups, attracting talent is a top priority and a critical component for their success. It also proves to be a major pain point for many startups. For top technical talent, evaluating the potential of a position goes beyond simply looking at the job description and the people involved in the work. Before you ever receive a resume from sought after technical talent, they are going to look into your organization as a whole, and make a determination as to whether your startup is worth their time and investment. And it is here where the startup’s talent acquisition effort begins.
What does top technical talent look for when researching you, and what can you do to maximize your appeal to future candidates? We’ve listed some of the bigger aspects, and provided some insight into what you can, should, and should not do to attract technical talent.
1) The Product: We put this first because for top technical talent in today’s market, the options available are numerous. Everyone wants to be a part of something revolutionary and exciting. Because of the high demand for exceptional technical professionals, top talent has the choice to pursue what they want for the most part. But unless your company is working on something that clearly stands on its own as disruptive or revolutionary, the product itself is not as important as how it is presented, framed and marketed. For the blatantly revolutionary and life changing project, attracting tech talent is less of an issue. But for a product with less sex appeal or one entering a crowded space, positioning and branding becomes important for attracting both talent and customers.
Your product is your product, and there’s a reason you chose to pursue its creation. But when putting focus on how your product is viewed, consider this as a talent acquisition tool as well. Positioning and messaging can have the same impact when attracting tech talent as it does for attracting customers and users; they are all parts of your audience.
2) The Company: Beyond the product, tech talent is going to research your company with whatever resources are available. They will Google you, sift through TechCrunch, Mashable, and Wired to find mentions of you, and find you on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. They will check you out on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and any other network that they share with you. And they will inevitably end up on your website.
There are two pieces to this puzzle, depending on your company’s status, that need to be addressed. The first is the maintenance of and promotion through these locations. You don’t need to be in every place or have an account with every social network, but you do need to pick locations that make sense and begin monitoring and using them actively. Most of your brand in today’s landscape will be represented online, so remaining active and engaging your audience is critical. This is especially true for attracting tech talent. So begin promoting to tech publications. Get your current staff to post about their experiences on job review sites. Pick your social channels and start pushing the right content out. Build an online presence that would make your future tech hire say “I really want to work for these guys.” And of course, get the website in order.
The second, should it apply to you, is triage. Hopefully, you can skip over this piece, but if not, you may have some work cut out for you. The longer a company is present on digital airwaves, the more likely something will appear that damages your reputation in some way, whether it’s a disgruntled ex-employee, an unsatisfied customer or critical user, or a social non-enthusiast of yours. Whatever the case may be, you need to know about it, and you need to address it. This doesn’t always mean getting something taken down or taking legal action, which much of the time can be less than successful, but if you can and it makes sense from a cost-benefit perspective, you should certainly consider it. But the reality is that, in a digital world, fighting against your critics online can get ugly. So how do you combat such nemeses? For most companies, it really goes back to great PR, a fairly robust online presence with a high level of engagement, and the realization that what you do offline will inevitably end up online. At a high level, the way you run your company will impact your ability to capture talent. Keeping this in mind can go a long way.
3) The Leadership Team: Great companies are built by great people. Beyond looking into the company as a whole, high caliber tech talent will do their research on you; the founder and the C-level staff. They will look into your history, what you did before you started or joined your company, the roles you served in, the success you saw, and the results you created. You know this, because you are here, reading this article, strategizing on how to attract the right talent. Top talent knows this, too. Tech talent realizes the dramatic impact that leadership has on the success, or failure, of a growing technology company.
In this regard, attracting top technical talent goes back to the way you run your company, and more specifically, who surrounds it early on. Building a solid leadership team is critical, not only to the overall success of the company but to your talent acquisition success.
Robust social profiles for your leadership team are highly recommended. When talent is looking for your executive team, you want them to be found, and you want them to impress. For this purpose, LinkedIn is especially powerful. If you choose nowhere else to display your mojo, be sure you and your team have well-crafted profiles on LinkedIn.
4) The Funding: Capital from your investors becomes more than just money. It becomes an endorsement. The money put into your company is a vote of confidence in your product, your company, your leadership team and your future. This endorsement becomes even more powerful when provided by a bigger player in the industry. An investment from Andreessen Horowitz or Benchmark Capital will go way further than one from smaller firms or private equity companies because they are leaders in venture capital and the technology industry. The same goes for the programs you may have completed like Y Combinator, 500 Startups or Kairos Society. This is even true of your advisors if they are heavyweights too.
Of course, you are already trying to get funding, find the right advisors and mentors, and considering or moving beyond accelerators. And you probably work pretty hard for all of that, so make sure that you’re capitalizing on it. Can users easily find this information on your website? Can potential employees? If not, they should be able to. Especially for early stage companies in the pre-product launch stage, the only major credibility you have is determined by the investors and people willing to put their name next to your company and product.
And yes, tech talent wants to know that you have a runway. You know, so they can eat and stuff.
5) The Traction: Traction becomes more important as you get further away from your product launch. No surprises there, but remember that tech talent will show interest in your progress just like your investors. Positive movement thus far implies positive movement in the future as well.
Once again, it’s not like anyone was waiting around for an “Aha!” moment to start working towards this. But whatever progress you have made, make sure you are demonstrating it to your future employees. In the news. In new funding rounds. On your website. And when you speak to people.
The impact of these and other items is not felt exclusively by your hiring efforts. Like most parts of your business, everything ends up interconnected. Everything we listed above has a large impact on the entire scope and lifecycle of your startup, from the definition and execution of work, fundraising efforts, and your talent acquisition success, to the overall survival, growth, and success of your business. In short, putting focus towards these items will help your entire business, including the quantity, caliber, and fit of the resumes you receive.