Hiring Technical Talent

What every company should know about hiring tech talent

Written By Vivek Ravisankar | December 1, 2014

Vivek Ravisankar is the CEO and cofounder of Y Combinator alumnus HackerRank — a tech talent community for developers and companies that hire developers.

The world is speeding up. Today, every company is a software company on some level. Developers are pushing the envelope, creating, iterating and scaling faster than ever before. Regardless of the industry your company is in or its size, hiring talented developers is critical for business to thrive.
Here are three tips to push your business into hyperdrive by attracting awesome technical talent.

1. Set company practices that fuel creativity and entrepreneurial passion

Developers are in high demand, and not easily wooed by free lunches or weekend getaway retreats. For most developers, passion is the most significant contributor to job satisfaction. They want to build things they believe in and feel that their work has an impact.
Devs also want the freedom to push boundaries, be creative and feel stimulated by their work. In a survey of 17,000 IT professionals, tech employment site Dice.com found that retaining developers requires a progression of “more interesting or challenging assignments.”
Attracting the best-and-the-brightest isn’t about superficial perks –  it’s about creating a professional environment where talented people can reach their full potential. Any company that hopes to hire and retain top developers should keep these things in mind.
Google is well-known for its impressive technical arsenal. One tactic the search giant employs to keep its engineers around is granting them 20 percent of their time to work on projects, outside of their normal workload.
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This appeals to their creativity, curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit, and Google knows that passionate engineers make great employees. With the freedom to pursue their passion projects at Google, there is no need to leave Google to pursue them.
Another wise strategy comes from 500friends. This company promises that after two years of employment, engineers are eligible for up to $50,000 in seed funding to found their own startup (if they so desire.)
This tactic encourages engineers to imagine and develop their own company, while also channeling that passion into their work at 500friends. It keeps them excited about the tech industry, eager to follow market trends and guarantees they stay around for at least two years.

2. Make referrals part of the company culture

Despite all the fancy HR and recruiting platforms out there, referrals are still the best method for hiring quality candidates and shortening the time spent looking for them. Companies can show their employees they are serious by offering a referral bonus. Yelp, for example, offers $10,000.
You can also take a non incentive-based approach to referrals. The goal here is to nurture a company culture where every employee contributes to building the organization. They seriously consider who they want to work with, and what characteristics create the strongest team.
This ultimately leads to a powerful sense of community. LinkedIn accomplishes this by encouraging its employees to hire at least one friend. Box sends its engineers off to network for new hires, and celebrates them when they bring on new team members.
However, even technical candidates with winning, personal recommendations should still go through a screening process. This helps create an environment where all recruits are on the same level, no-one has an unfair advantage and everyone is judged by their skills.
Relate IQ accomplishes this by having its well-qualified referrals go through code challenges, just like the other candidates. Code challenges are a great equalizer, and that’s what we enable at HackerRank. We make it easy for employees to test their candidates’ prowess, in a way that is flexible, fun and revealing.

3. Go to your hires where they are

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Finding talented developers can be like finding a girlfriend or boyfriend – you have to be smart about how you look. If you want a significant other who loves to read, a bookstore or library may be a good place to start. Similarly, employers should think thoughtfully about where there is likely to be a high concentration of promising technical hires.
When 500friends was looking to scale its team, the team recruited internationally and found hires on sites the founders themselves loved, such as HackerNews. Yelp recruits heavily on college campuses, with an eye towards young and energetic engineers who are willing to learn.
Charlie Wenzel of TalkBox took a food truck to the Yahoo building right after it laid off a significant number of people. He offered free food and a menu featuring open jobs at TalkBox. This approach meant Wenzel was not only knee-deep in a flood of technical talent, but also created a positive and memorable impression. Nothing cheers up the recently let-go like job offers, free food and a bit of humor and support.
The importance of a strong engineering team is only continuing to grow. Whether you run an organic bakery or an international B2B marketing corporation, quality developers are necessary to move your business to the next level. Developers may be in high-demand, but they don’t have to be elusive. These few, simple steps are all it takes to find the right people.
What tactics and have you seen help attract awesome coding talent? Are referrals important in your experience? Are referral bonuses just as effective as a referral – encouraging work environment in your experience?
The above points are just a jumping off point; let’s have a conversation about the best ways to attract technical talent!

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