As the economy improves, the competition for talent is increasing. That goes double for IT professionals, who are always in demand and who often look to the Googles and Microsofts as their ideal workplace. How can less flashy tech companies hire tech workers in such a competitive environment?
I’ve found the answer in some recent case studies that involve smart employer branding and innovative recruiting. Here are three ways to recruit IT professionals:
It was almost ten years ago that Google launched its clever billboard campaign, which directed job-seekers to a website only if they could solve a complex math problem. The billboard was placed on the 101 freeway in the heart of Silicon Valley, guaranteeing that Google’s “secret” message was seen by thousands of tech professionals as they drove to and from work.
That strategy still works today. CodeEval, “a platform used by developers to showcase their skills,” is looking for tech workers. But because it’s in San Francisco, not Silicon Valley, CodeEval is often overlooked by the very people it’s trying to hire. So the company recently started a billboard campaign on the same freeway Google used in 2004. The billboard directs coders to an online game that requires them to calculate the shortest distance between startup companies in San Francisco.
The message of both the game and the billboard’s location is clear: A job at CodeEval lets IT professionals work near their San Francisco homes and avoid the daily traffic going into Silicon Valley. It’s a one-two punch that’s very clever and effective.
Last February, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer ended the ability of most of her employees to work from home. The announcement proved a perfect opportunity for competitors to steal some of Yahoo’s most talented workers.
Sara Rosso, VIP Global Services Manager at Automattic, immediately took to Twitter: “Disappointed in @marissamayer‘s ban on working remotely. Yahoo peeps, come to @Automattic! :)” Marc Garrett, CEO of software company Intridea, did the same: “Hey #Yahoos: if you’re being forced to quit come work with us @intridea. We all work from home!”
Whatever you think of Mayer’s decision, these two companies were positioning themselves as more compassionate employers than Yahoo. In essence, they were telling IT professionals, “We care more about you than about numbers or rules.” It’s a great employer branding strategy.
This sort of high-touch approach works for fields other than technology, by the way. Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, tweeted an invitation to NBA star Dwight Howard to sign with her city’s team — part of a citywide strategy that eventually convinced Howard to join the Rockets.
When two top neuroscientists left UCLA for nearby USC, they said how impressed they were that the dean of the USC medical school greeted the janitors during their tour, even referring to employees’ personal details. Luring top talent away from brands as strong as the Los Angeles Lakers and UCLA is difficult, but Houston and USC show that it can be done.
Sometimes the fastest way to a tech worker’s heart is through his stomach. Two years ago, Microsoft needed engineers for its Kinect for Windows team. The company hired a food truck to park between the offices of Adobe and Google in Fremont, Washington. Staffing the truck were Microsoft recruiters, who found a ready audience of competitors’ tech workers as they waited for lunch.
BlueCava, which makes anti-fraud software, is expanding and adding hundreds of jobs. It has created a company-branded food truck that parks in front of competitors’ headquarters up and down California. BlueCava trumps Microsoft’s efforts in that the lunches they serve are free.
If that strategy seems too aggressive — or desperate — you may prefer the method used by Risk Management Solutions. To increase employer brand awareness, RMS recently rented a food truck and parked it outside a conference on cloud computing.
As you can see, tech companies both large and small are using innovative techniques for recruiting IT professionals in an increasingly competitive landscape. From math puzzles to personalized tweets to free lunch, companies are reaching out to passive candidates in exciting ways.