In search of talent

This is a guest post from Ricardo D. Sanchez. Ricardo is a software engineer working for HomeAway in Austin, TX. He is an aspiring entrepreneur working nights and weekends on his software startup, Palo Software. He is also passionate about bringing techies and entrepreneurs together, something he is able to do with his blog and his Co-Founders Wanted Austin Meetup group. His meetup group helps Austin tech entrepreneurs find co-founders and network with other local entrepreneurs and techies.

Thanks for this nice guest post on finding talent, Ricardo!


The talk from Business of Software 2010 by David Russo on why company culture matters, got me thinking about startup hiring principles in general. Below is one of my favorite quotes from his talk:

Don’t hire great people, hire the right great people, they have to fit.

It is not a secret that finding talent is a very difficult task, companies pay extraordinary amounts of money to recruiters and consultants to help them find the right people. Many companies also offer referral bonuses to its employees to motivate them to refer friends or family members that might be qualified for an open position.

Depending on where you live, you’ll find that companies are in need of people with different skills. In cities such as Austin and San Francisco for example, software engineers and designers are currently in high demand. I live in Austin and for the past two years have experienced an increase in the number of companies looking for software engineers, database administrators, UI designers, etc… I have seen how companies are increasing their referral bonuses, sponsorships and participating in more local events and meetups with the goal to gain exposure and hopefully be more visible to those out there looking for a job in the positions mentioned above.

Having a fun and relaxed environment is also something that more companies are finally understanding and many of them are now investing resources to make their companies fun and cool to attract the talent. Culture is an important part if you want to attract the best talent, people in general seem to be attracted to companies where people are trusted and valued for what they are and for the job they do. Companies with a little or no bureaucracy and very little red-tape will be more attractive to bright people as opposed to companies with many layers of management and lots of red-tape.

Companies that encourage their employees to show their individualism and creativity, where dress-code policies do not exist and everyone is treated as adults and are given the responsibility and power to do their jobs usually make for a very attractive place where many people will be motivated to work and on top of that be more productive and be more happy in general.

Given the freedom to do so, creative passionate people will drive innovation in any company out there. Innovation is not something that can be taught or forced in a company, it is the result of people being able to express their ideas and creativity in a way that can be used to improve a product, a service or a process within a company.

Software startups are usually very popular with young talent and entrepreneur-minded individuals due to the relaxed environments with challenging work, high risk and the potential to learn a lot and get a nice financial reward as well. Most software startups fail but people who get a chance to work on one, usually gain very valuable experience and overall the experience can help make their skills more marketable to other companies or startups alike.

However, finding the right technical talent for your company or startup is not an easy task. Established companies offer nice compensation packages, medical insurance and the resources necessary to do the job. Software startups offer big challenges, ability to work with very creative people, and sometimes the potential for a financial reward as long as the startup ends up having a successful exit or becomes a profitable company.

These are some things that startups and companies in general should be doing to make sure they get that person or people with the right talent and personality to get things done. The tips below work very well when looking for software engineers, DBAs, designers and professionals with similar technical skills:

  • Google Groups

Search for Google groups about topics that involve some of the skills that you are looking for, for example, if you are looking for Python developers you should go and look at the people who hang out in these groups, look for the ones that are most active and interested in the topic. Look for top commenters.

  • Technical Blogs

Popular technical blogs are places where technical people go to read and comment on a variety of topics. Subscribing to a few of these blogs will give you the opportunity to find and interact with people who are interested on some of the topics that involve the position that you are hiring for and also the ability to interact with some of them, including the experts who write and also comment in these blogs. Also, having a blog for your startup is also a good idea since you can use it to communicate with potential and existing customers and also as a hiring tool.

  • Twitter and Google+

Not all of the social media sites and services are a waste of time. It turns out that services such as Twitter and Google+ offer a great opportunity to find very talented people and at the same time, you might gain some insight on the personality and experience of people that might be interested in offering a job at your company or startup.

  • Meetups and tech events

If you are not part of you are missing out. Search for meetups targeted to technical people and join these groups to observe and potentially find great candidates with technical backgrounds to work at your company or even help you to co-found a new startup as a technical co-founder. Meetups are also a great way to just be part of a local group of talented people that meet regularly and in-person with the intention to learn, meet new people and sometimes to find a job or join a software/internet startup.

There is no doubt that hiring tech talent is one of the most difficult tasks for startups, with so many great companies working on very interesting problems it is hard to differentiate from all the other startups to attract talent. However, if you go back to basics and offer a flexible schedule, treat people as adults, allow them to be creative and offer them to choose the tools they need to do their job, that by itself will place you close to the top when it comes for these folks to pick a company to work for.

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