Secrets to Competing with Google & Facebook for Top Technical Talent

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

When it comes to recruiting software engineers and developers, competing against the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple isn’t easy. These talent magnets have built robust brands and have become experts at enticing a new generation of contract and full-time workers.

Competing for top technical talent

Before you raise the white flag, consider that several engineering managers have managed to recruit and assemble world-class teams right in Google’s backyard. Is there a dragon you need to face? Perhaps. Here’s a look at their winning formulas.

Begin with the End in Mind

You have to think about closing the deal from the very beginning and throughout your interactions with every candidate – according to John Ciancutti, who described how he built the engineering teams at Netflix and Coursera in an interview with Fast Company. Why? Because you need to “treat every candidate as the candidate” to prevail when you’re an underdog.

“Candidates are evaluating every interaction they have with you, with your team and with your company,” he said. Every member of the hiring team, and your staffing partner, need to convey the same value proposition and message to the candidate throughout the entire process. Every touchpoint and step should drive the process and candidate toward a successful conclusion.

Take the Reigns

Engineering managers should play an active role in sourcing candidates, Ciancutti says. It’s one way to differentiate yourself from the big guys – and a candidate’s relationship with a prospective manager influences their decision to join a company. Plus, tapping into your personal network is a cost-effective way to find referrals outside Silicon Valley, according to former Google exec, Douglas Merrill. A good recruiter maintains many of these connections; try to find one that specializes in your industry or discipline to leverage a much broader network.

Did you know that even President Obama has been personally recruiting top talent from Google and Facebook to build next-generation government services? So what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and connect!

Find their Hot Buttons

To convince a tech pro to choose your firm, you have to uncover their career goals and desires, and show them how your opportunity will help them achieve their objectives.

Of course, you may alienate a hot prospect if you pepper them with questions right off the bat. You must first establish trust by getting to know him or her outside of the office walls. Going for coffee is one great way to go deeper on their personal motivations and past decisions, Ciancutti says.

It may take several outings, but once you’ve established mutual interest and confirmed the fit, moving from coffee or lunch to an interview should be easy. And all the while, you’re inching closer to an offer and the chance to hire the best.

Vive la Différence

You’ll need to communicate what sets your firm apart to compete against a tech powerhouse. Do you offer creative control? Upward mobility? Less bureaucracy? Better work-life balance? Interesting projects? Small teams? The opportunity to work with cutting edge technology? Articulating your advantages helps you better convey what differentiates your firm from others.

If you can’t compete on salary, offering flexible schedules, telecommuting and promotional opportunities may give you an edge. According to a survey by Mashable, 75 percent of the most skilled employees aspire to reach senior management or executive positions. An IT pro may be interested in making a change if their path to promotion is blocked at their current company. And a survey by Harvard Business Review found that 33 percent of IT workers would take a 10 percent pay cut for the opportunity to work remotely.

Move Quickly

Once you and the candidate have decided to move forward, there’s not a moment to lose. Conduct consecutive interviews with members of the hiring team over the course of a day. Create an agenda and use a structured interviewing process so candidates transition from technical evaluations to meetings that focus on cultural fit, and to discussions about benefits and career pathing with human resources. Gather feedback along the way so you’re ready to meet with the candidate and extend an offer.

After you’ve shown your hand, there are several other things you can do to tip the scales in your favor, Ciancutti says. Ask the other interviewers to email the candidate or invite him or her to coffee or lunch.

“They should all make themselves available for follow-up conversations, but don’t let the process drag on. Time-bound it to a few days or at most a week.”

By focusing your efforts and quickly building relationships, employers can give their company a hiring edge over the competition. Even when that competition is Google, Facebook and Apple.

Other information of potential interest

Compensation Planning 2016: 4 Forecasts and Trends in Engineering

It’s Time to Re-engineer Your Relationships with Recruiters

5 Ways to Get an Engineering Contractor to Accept Your Offer

Modern Tools for Managing an Engineering Team

Staffing Firms vs. Independent Contractors: What Engineering Managers Should Know

How to Engineer a Just-in-Time Talent Pool

Engineering Solutions to Today’s Talent Shortage

What to Look for in Contractor Engineering Resumes

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