HIRING TECH TALENT IN SILICON VALLEY IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO HIRE TOP TECHNICAL TALENT. WHAT YOU DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW BUT THOUGHT YOU DID—LEARN HOW A TOP TECH MARKET, SEATTLE, IS SUCCESSFULLY HIRING THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST TECHNICAL TALENT.

by JER LANGHANS

Jer-Langhans

Jer has over 15 years sourcing experience at companies like Cisco, Microsoft, EA, Disney, Starbucks, and Expedia. Most recently, Jer launched Hired in Seattle and sits on the Advisory Boards of startups. He is the former Pres. of the NW Recruiters Assoc., and was written up in Forbes magazine for his talent attraction strategies. He's blessed with a lovely wife and 2 amazing kids. Jer loves doing Triathlons and boating, too.

Webinar Transcript

Man: To close out our day, please welcome Jer Langhans. Jer is a co-founder at Paired Sourcing, the new way to source talent. Jer has over 15 years sourcing experience at companies like Cisco, Microsoft, EA, Disney, Starbucks and Expedia. Most recently, Jer launched Hired in Seattle, and sits on the advisory boards of several startups. He is the former president of the Northwest Recruiters Association and has been quoted in Forbes Magazine for his talent attraction strategies.

Jer: Hey, everyone, so I was given this amazing title. It's probably the longest title ever in the history of webinars or speaking engagements that I've ever gotten. I shortened it to Hiring Tech Talent in Silicon Valley Is Not The Only Way To Hire Top Technical Talent. I know that's a mouthful, but hopefully you'll enjoy the presentation, and feel free to comment with #techtalentsummit. So, the first thing is, the rest of the title, the subtitle about what you don't actually know but thought you did. In the last 15-plus years, I worked with a lot of talent practitioners, a lot of engineering hiring managers. And especially in Seattle, there's points in time where we thought we knew it all, but we really didn't and it was very dangerous to act on assumptions.

So hopefully today we're going to be able to avoid a lot of those mistakes. And you can check out my LinkedIn profile which I've included here in the deck. And the idea of why you should care, it's because I've been lucky enough to be on the forefront of different talent [inaudible 00:01:55] strategies from small companies to large, and most recently with a startup that serviced a pretty large portfolio of companies, in fact, over 100 companies in Seattle. And so we've had the opportunity, like I said, to both have wins and have some learnings. And so that's what we'll go through today.

All right, so let's get started. I definitely love giving presentations. If you want to heckle me, so one more point of contact, or if you've got some ideas you want to contribute and have an ongoing conversation, you can find me on Twitter, @majiksourcer with a J. But let's start with point number one. And point number one is really why did certain companies, specifically technology companies, consumer brands that we all know and love that hire top technical talent, why did they set up shop in Seattle, in the greater Seattle area, when they could have just stayed in the bay area, or at their different headquarters?

And there's a few of them that have moved up over the last number of years, specifically like three to five years. We've seen recently Apple has come to town. We've also seen Twitter setting up shop, interestingly enough at first, on Amazon's campus, which is a fun story which I'll get into. Facebook came to town a few years back, originally saying they were going to hire just 20 or 30 web engineers, trying to keep it real low key. And now they've got 300 or 400 people sitting in Pioneer Square. Google was the first one to come to town years ago, probably over the three to five mark I was talking about, but recently starting to expand their presence here in the Seattle area.

Now, why did they do that? So let's pause and think about that. Obviously, it's very competitive to recruit talent in Silicon Valley. All of these companies, as well as other startups, are recruiting talent but also, like what I like to say, exchanging talent. So they go from working at Twitter to working at Facebook, to working at Google, to working at Apple, and repeating the cycle. They were able to break some of the cycle and also derail the competition by deciding to head north to Seattle. And I think there's three learnings that you can take away from this.

Number one, stand outside your boxes. If your box is a geographical concern, think outside that. If you have a company who's in, let's say, Austin marketplace and you're having trouble getting people to come to Texas, open a debt shop where those people are. If it's academic, maybe open it in Boston. If it's web based, maybe open it in Seattle like these companies did.

The second thing you need to think about is, follow where talent will attrit, or where companies will have attrition. So, Yahoo did this back when I was there, where they said, "Okay, we're going to set up shop where some of the bigger companies are going to be losing talent." Same thing happens with Amazon, where Amazon signed about 7,000 engineers a quarter, and obviously about 10 to 20% - 10% if they're lucky, 20% more reality - are going to attrit within 18 months.

So you know that if you're like Twitter, you set up a shop walking distance from the Amazon headquarters, within 18 months, you're going to have 700 or 1,400 or even hopefully more engineers that might be knocking on your door. And that's just a free tip for a channel that just makes sense. So think about what other companies are doing. It's okay to follow suit. One that's not on here is GoDaddy, which recently has come to town. Figure out where the talent is and set your shop up there.

This is a little quote from Michael Jordan: "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." I want to underscore intelligent. We won't have too much time to get into it right now, but have a talent strategy, especially if you're competing with Silicon Valley, that has intelligence, and business intelligence internally  facing, competitive intelligence externally facing, BICI if you want. Think about that in your sourcing efforts, in your internet research efforts. Make sure that your recruiters and your hiring managers aren't out there just willy nilly, banging on doors and playing a contact sport when they should have some intelligence to what they're doing.

The next thing we're going to get into is around attraction, talent attraction specifically to your Geo. So I'm sure a lot of you, and hopefully all of you, but I'm sure a lot of you have talked about EVP, or Employment Value Proposition, with either your vendor partners or your internal marketing team or your head of talent acquisition or your HR partner. But obviously, we all have an employment value proposition that we will use when having conversations with candidates. Whether that's that first initial outreach, or that first phone interview, or that coffee or beer that hiring manager might have with someone further along the process, pre-offer, but they're always going to be speaking to a value proposition. Nine times out of 10, that is just going to be about why you should work at this company. It's not going to be about why you should live in Seattle, for example, which is my GEO.

So you need to have a value prop for your GEO. There's a lot of different ways you can do this. Some of the ways I've done that before is, contact your local chamber. They're going to have a reason they're trying to sell businesses to come to the area, so you can figure out from that what the value prop might be. Obviously, if it rains a lot or if you have a lot of traffic, figure out what the opposite of that is, and go with that. If you are lucky enough to have a great sports team, you might play that up. But your value prop's going to have a lot of different bullets and player's choice, whether you're the recruiter, the hiring manager, with pieces of that [inaudible 00:08:05]. At the end of the day, the bottom line would be tell your own story. Why do you live there?

And so this also applies to within this GEO segment. So if you're looking to relocate people from Francisco or Silicon Valley up to Seattle, or you're looking at relocating people to Austin like we were talking about, it's pretty obvious that you need some selling points. But also think about it like within your same Geo. So if you have a downtown office and a lot of people live out in the suburbs, which is a half hour or two, maybe with hard traffic, like, an hour and a half away, you might figure out what's the value prop to force people to come downtown? Or what's the value prop to make someone get on a bridge, or sit in traffic at rush hour? And if you can't come up with a value prop within Geo segments, maybe you need to be more flexible with their hours, and maybe that's a way that you can be more competitive.

And the third thing is that no matter how much effort you put behind this, how much resources, or how loud you shouted, or how much you forced everybody to [inaudible 00:09:09] candidate to talk about whatever your value props are, they're only going to remember one of them. And you have to say it three times, three different ways, which is just old marketing tricks. So, you say it in the email followup to them. You have one person on the interview mention it, like, "Hey, we have a flexible community, you don't have to worry about rush hour," or whatever that value prop is you're trying to get them to remember.

And then last but not least, and this has been real successful for me, especially when I was at Starbucks, is getting to know your marketing person. So, a quick story there. We tried to answer this question you see here: what does my team enjoy about living there? And we were trying to get technology professionals and supply chain professionals, so two real disparate functions, to come to Seattle. And the way we attracted the technology professionals specifically from the Bay area at the time, was to figure out what do they like to do when they're not at work, besides drink coffee?

We found out they like craft beer, and we found that they liked going to shows, and we found out some of them were really into theater. We played up a lot of that in our messaging. And the way that we learned how to do that was talking to the marketing person. They had a lot of different marketing people, but specifically one that I was able to talk to. And we as recruiters and we as hiring managers didn't really know how to do content based marketing until we spoke to them. So figure out who your marketing person is and ask them some questions. In fact, you could say, "Hey, I'm looking to attract people to our Geo, in addition to our employment value proposition. What would you recommend and how would we support that?"

All right, let's move on. So the next slide really is about doing sourcing. We all know that we need to attract talent to our open propositions, whether that's posting or building lists ourselves. But we need to do more than just put it on our website and put it on a job board. Obviously, we all know this and that's hopefully why we're here, so we need to do more. But we have to do sourcing, sourcing and action strategies.

 

Sourcing's not a concept or a methodology or a set of best practices. Sourcing is an action; you have to do it. And I like to say if you want to be really competitive, you have to be proactive. You have to do proactive outbound sourcing versus just managing and down channel. I break it up here into two buckets. The first bucket is internet research and campaigns. We'll spend a little bit of time here. So what we recommend at my firm, is that for every open profile, whether or not you're going to need to interview five people or ten people, regardless of that, on average, you're probably going to need a longer list of around 200 targeted profiles. And for those, you need to reach out personally, whether you're the recruiter, the hiring manager. You will have better response rates if the hiring manager is involved.

But you need to reach out personally and it needs to feel like it's coming from a person and it's not asking for a favor. Right? So you don't want to send out on the [inaudible 00:12:30]. You wouldn't want to send out 100 emails or 200, is what I'm saying, and say "If you're interested, here's the link to apply." That is just a nonstarter. That is horrible. That's what everybody else is doing. You don't want to do that. You want to be a personal outreach, "Hey, Jer, I hear you're really into talent sourcing. I'd love to network with you." "Yeah, sure, we do have some openings but I'm not necessarily trying to recruit you, but would love to pick your brain [inaudible 00:12:56]."

That is a better recruitment outreach email than a LinkedIn email that says, basically the subtext is, "Hey, I'm reaching out to you. [inaudible 00:13:08] project holder of 100 people," or "I'm going through my first degree" and [inaudible 00:13:12] everybody with a copy/paste that says, "Apply here if you're interested, or please forward this on." Like, really? You just gave me a project out of the blue? I don't need that in my life.

 

The other part of this equation here on the left side is really having a tight hiring manager calibration mechanic. What do I mean by that? Well, when you get your first 50 or 100 names on a list, before you reach out to them, you've got their link to their profile or whatever it is that helps you determine they should be on the list, get with your hiring manager for a quick stand up, maybe 15 minutes, and just show them that link and say, "Hey, would this be someone you should reach out to?" So make sure that you calibrated, and see if you think that this might be the missing piece to your talent strategy.

The second side of the house, if you've already got your Internet researching campaign going, make sure you manage your metrics, make sure you tackle the usual suspects. I'm not saying either side is better. I'm not saying if you're not doing researching campaigns that you need to, and that's the end all be all. And if you're not hitting up the usual suspects [inaudible 00:14:18] metrics, that's the end all be all. You've got to do both. You have to [inaudible 00:14:21]. For the state balance, you have to make sure...you got employee referrals, obviously you hire those people for a reason. Make sure you're minding your ATS and your CRM, if you have one. Make sure it's current and fresh on your site.

But ask yourself this very hard question: is that enough quality talent? I heard a stat recently that most tech firms are getting, on average, between 300 and 350 applies per requisition. And from that, they're only looking at between 15 and 20 of them. And from that, only interviewing between three to five people. And I just don't know if that's enough. If my bar's high, I don't know if that's enough to fill my opening. So, ask yourself those questions: is the missing piece to your talent strategy that you need proactive outbound internet research and obviously the campaign? Do you also know which channels on the inbound front are your best channels? Are you doubled down on those channels? Are you saying, "Employee referrals' working really well. Let's do an internal campaign against that"? Or let's offer, if it's money that's motivating more money, or open up more jobs to the referral bonus.

And then is that enough quality talent? Do you need three or four more people to interview? Make sure you're hitting both sides of the house. And if you do that, honestly, I think you'll have enough in your funnel to fill your opening. So how does Seattle beat SV, Silicon Valley? Well, in addition to the tangible, tactical things I gave you, I really do feel like there are three dynamics and three tips or three learnings or [inaudible 00:16:09] best practices I think you can implore from these dynamics that are happening locally for me and my team. Number one, we have what I'm calling - these are all made up - The Twelfth Man Syndrome.

So really in Seattle, we are lucky to have the Seahawks. They're obviously doing an amazing job as an NFL team. But it's just an expression of what's happening naturally already, which is that we rally around causes, we rally around community. We get stuck on one thing, good or bad, and we are so excited about it. Whether it's coffee or football, or e-commerce, or software, we'll get one thing and we'll get serious about that thing. So for my [inaudible 00:16:54] here, is to find out what you can rally around when you're hiring.

Whatever that thing is, and that's going to be unique to you, and that's going to help you, whether you're in Boston or Austin or Philadelphia or wherever you might be, beat Silicon Valley. So just rally around that opportunity. And then the second thing is to make sure you have street cred. So for us, we found that in Silicon Valley, a lot of people were playing up in their employment value proposition. They were playing up the "it's a cool place to work, and we've got chefs, and you can bring your dog," and all these things, which are kind of cool things. But years later now, they seem to come off hipster in bad way and they seem to come off as being fluffy.

And so I would just encourage everybody to think about trying to promote something that's the opposite. It's kind of like fashion. Skinny jeans are cool and it used to be baggy jeans. And so that's going to switch again. Just think about what works for your Geo, what works for your company, what works for your team, your opportunity. And if it can be different, and literally if it could be the exact opposite of what [inaudible 00:18:06] is promoting, that [inaudible 00:18:10]. So I'll use some examples. Portland, we're talking my craft beer and those kinds of things.

Portland's got a different version [inaudible 00:18:16] hipster of Silicon Valley. And that's them playing up things in their culture that might be different down south.  And then last but not least, this is [inaudible 00:18:28] but the new golden rule. So obviously, we want everybody to have a great candidate experience, but if you're going to beat the Bay, you have to work harder and you have to work smarter. And to do that, one of the smart things you can do is not forget in every outreach, especially if it's hard to fill technology jobs, like data scientists and probably some of the JavaScript right now, is that you should stroke their ego.

And you can do it in an honest way, but if it's going to take you 200 people that you outreach and you really think they're the top 200 people in whatever it is, [inaudible 00:19:10] or angular or whatever you're recruiting for, make sure they know that. Like, "Hey, yes, you've got a sought after still. Don't know if your culture [inaudible 00:19:18] yet. Here's what we're all about. [inaudible 00:19:20] polarizing." But at the same time, make sure you're strict to where you get where they deserve it. That's definitely going to get you more responses, more engagement, and then you should be, obviously, more successful.

So my approach for the new golden rule: source, engage, hand-off. What I mean by that, get yourself a list; that's the source part. Send them all a nice email; that's the engage part. Sidebar here. They don't pick up their phone. A lot of them don't even have a phone at their desks. And then hand-off. Hand-off means if you're the recruiter listening right now, you've got to think about when do you hand it off to the hiring manager? Do just enough to get them on the line, let the hiring manager reel them in. Or if you're the hiring manager, do just enough so that the right type of offer can get pretty close for you. Let your HR person, your recruiter, your talent leader, partner with you and do it. Each person has their part. And make sure you hand off when it becomes not your part. Hopefully that makes sense.

Again, #techtalentsummit is the hashtag. You can always tweet at us. The last thing that I'll mention is, when you do the hand-off, make sure it's clean. You don't want someone to feel like they are being handed around. You just want to make sure that the process feels like, "Okay, now I'm talking to the appropriate person." So sometimes you talk to the recruiter, sometimes you talk to the hiring managers, sometimes you talk to the HR. And that's okay as a candidate, but they don't want to feel like they're being handed around. Yhey want to feel like the process is moving forward. So don't forget that, especially because the Bay ares has figured out how to do that pretty well.

All right. So another point here, and we're nearing the end, don't fish in the same pond. I'll read that again. Don't fish in the same pond. Most people are searching LinkedIn and doing phone screens. And I'm not saying LinkedIn's bad. Obviously I spend a lot of time there. But if that's the only pond you're going to, you know what? There's people out-fishing you. I'm not saying it's neither/or. You don't need to go find this crazy place that's not LinkedIn where you're going to fill all your jobs. But just supplement, find two or three other ways, whether it's [inaudible 00:21:35] partners, or agency partners, or other websites that you find talent on; GitHub, or Stack Overflow or Quora.

There's a lot going on out there, where developers are hanging out and you can go recruit them. Be sensitive, because they're not there to be recruited. So be sensitive of that. But at the same time, don't just fish in LinkedIn. If you do that, you're already beating 90% of the recruiters and hiring managers out there if you start finding other sources. And then it's not just about how many people you can phone screen. I really get tired of hearing this metric like, "Oh, iPhone screens 10 people for every person I hire."

Well, that's nine people that you said no to. So it's your job to go around and make nine people upset just to make one person happy? Rethink that, figure out a way where you can say yes to more people, and really mitigate how many people you're saying no to. So just make sure you're not spending hours scraping LinkedIn, doing phone screens. Because that's what everybody else is doing, and by the way, their positions have been open for six weeks to six months. But we're trying to fix that. And the way we fix that, is to have a really, really good three-prong, concentric circle of overlapping strategy and it's simple enough for one slide. Take a screenshot or get [inaudible 00:22:53]. Tweet at me @majiksourcer, M-A-J-I-K sourcer, I will send it to you. But it's just a simple three things.

Number one, just a summary, identify a big list, like 200. It's hard to fill. If you think it's hard to fill and you got a high bar, and you have a brand that nobody's heard of, maybe it's 400, maybe it's 600. Got to reach out to them, all of them. Don't be worried about which ones are going to make it, because you need to ask them who do you know? This is networking the targeted outreach, which is proactive. You need to invest the time to do this if you want to fill your jobs. Second piece of this, remember left and right sides of the house, you're also advertising on your site. Because the first thing they're going to do is go, "Oh, I got this interesting email. Let me go look up xyz.com. Oh, they don't have [inaudible 00:23:43]. Oh, I don't know if this is real." Make sure because they're going to check up on you.

You advertise on your site, you brand on social. So you're not branding on your site and advertising on social. I'm being very specific with these words. Brand on social: the Twitter, Facebook, even LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest. Wherever you might be in the social world, that's where you're talking about what it's like to work there, your company, that team, that Geo, all of that. And then be consistent. The worst part is you start tweeting and then you stop, and then it just sits out there. And then people look you up because you sent them the outreach, and they're like "No, I'm not going to reply." You don't know why they're not replying, so you keep messing with your template. You keep messing with your list. It's not about that; it's about that dormant Twitter account that people keep finding.

So be consistent. If you can do all that, you can run a clean, quick process. And it's focused on the candidate, not on you. Your focus is on the candidate, the people you reach out to that checked you out on your presence online, that got into your workflow, that started to come through your interview and due diligent and assessment process. If you focus on them, you do it clean and quick, you're going to fill your jobs.

Time's up, so the last slide. Finally, try something new. I didn't cover everything. There's a few things that I left out. Find something new and try it. Track, measure, and evaluate everything. And if you do that, you're going to have awesome success. So again, tweet at us, #techtalentsummit, and happy hiring.