How to Compete With Silicon Valley for Tech Talent

We have more processing power in the palm of our hands than NASA had when it put a man on the moon (Source: Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future, 2011). We can now hail a ride to work with a phone, use our voices to order groceries, stream movies, and connect with our friends anywhere in the world.

In this age of technological revolution and sophisticated consumer preferences, every company that wants to thrive in the future must think and act like today’s entrepreneurial behemoths — Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Unfortunately, as organizations adopt this invent-or-die mentality, they’re realizing that the infamous war for talent — especially tech talent — is fiercer than ever. Far too many companies are competing for a limited supply of scientists, technologists, engineers, and statisticians.

To make matters more challenging, most companies are far from the talent-rich geographies of Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Austin, Texas — nearly half of Fortune 500 companies reside in the Midwest, the Northeast, and Texas (Source: Chief Executive, 2016 Best & Worst States for Business, 2016). They’re also not flush with venture capital cash or known for their cultures of cutting-edge technological innovation.

However, companies in “non-tech” cities aren’t forced to settle for lower-caliber talent. Apply these six tips to ignite tech-focused recruitment efforts and compete with the best:

1. Highlight Your Mission

Study after study shows that Millennials want to be a part of an organization with a mission that resonates with their core values and their desire to have a meaningful impact on the world.

Rubicon Global, the Uber of the trash industry, has applied this approach with great success. Its mission — to create a new waste and recycling model that nourishes life — is the fuel for its 200 percent growth rate in employee count and revenues (Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle, Atlanta’s 100 Fastest-Growing Private Cos., 2017). Based in Atlanta, a city not traditionally known as a tech talent mecca, Rubicon is proving that a powerful mission sells.

[Related: 8 Ready-to-Use Templates to Help Improve Your Employer Brand]

2. Showcase the Challenge

Prospective candidates also want to know that their role in achieving the end goal is significant. They want to solve challenging problems that keep them engaged. Thus, it’s imperative that you succinctly describe how their specific contributions will be meaningful to the business’s overall objectives and the obstacles they’ll likely face along the way.

I recently led a chief digital officer search for a $4 billion food distributor out of Chicago, another city not known for its saturation of technologists. In every discussion, I described the vision of the organization and the challenging nature of the role. The candidates, mostly based in Silicon Valley, nearly universally responded with how excited they were about the opportunity to solve big problems. I see this time and again.

[Related: The Ultimate Screening Checklist]

3. Leverage Your Team

We’ve all heard the oft-used axioms “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future,” “Your network is your net worth,” or variations of the same. The wisdom in these adages is profound and true; top tech talent wants to be surrounded by other brilliant creatives.

Thus, there are two great ways you can leverage your existing team, both taken from Google’s playbook. First, ask your employees whom they would recommend for specific roles. For example, you might ask your highest-performing full-stack developer about the best Java developer she knows. Second, highlight your current employees to prospective hires. Show candidates who they’ll be working with, and convince them to join your team by presenting your employees’ résumés and accomplishments.

[Related: Hiring Manager Checklist + Satisfaction Survey]

4. Emphasize Career Growth

The next step is showing candidates how your organization is committed to investing in the development of its employees on a continual basis. To do this effectively, first ask them questions about where they see themselves in five years or what skills they’re looking to develop. Then, give them specific examples of the types of programs you can offer to help them get there and a case study or two of an employee who took advantage of that opportunity and is thriving in the company.

[Related: Recruiter’s Hiring Tracker]

5. Share Unique Advantages of Your City

How have cities like Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Indianapolis been able to achieve some of the fastest rates of growth for tech jobs in the country? Of course, there are many reasons, but of most significance is the allure of low housing prices and costs of living. Consider this: It takes the average Millennial in San Francisco and Austin at least 19 years to be able to buy a home. Conversely, it will only take five years to save for a home in Charlotte and three years in Atlanta (Source: Apartment List, American Dream of Homeownership Delayed for Millennial Generation, 2017). Those are powerful statistics — leverage them to your advantage.

Also, does your city have a vibrant entertainment, food, or arts scene? Showcase that! For example, my town of Atlanta boasts one of the best foodie cultures in the nation (Source: Zagat, 30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America, 2017).

[Related: Recruiting Talent in Today’s Market: Closing Candidates]

6. Be Flexible on Work Environment

Lastly, if you want to compete with the titans of the Bay Area, you must give your employees the freedom to work around their schedules and from environments that inspire them to do their best work. For some, this could simply mean allowing your team members to work from home a few days a week.

For others, you might have to get serious about relocating your offices to a more modern environment. Organizations like NCR have taken this approach to heart. The company recently moved its world headquarters from a sleepy town in the outskirts of Atlanta to the heart of midtown as a way to help in “transforming Atlanta into the Silicon Valley of the East,” according to its CEO (Source: NCR, NCR Officially Opens New Global Headquarters in Atlanta, 2018).

Get creative in your hiring, employ these six principles, and see your recruiting efforts for top tech talent monumentally improve.

Mark Mayleben is a partner at Jobplex Inc., a DHR International company, the fifth largest executive search firm in the U.S. He is also the founder and host of The Talent Desk, a podcast dedicated to discovering how iconic brands attract and cultivate world-class talent and build vibrant high-performing cultures.

 

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