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More Than Just Money: Tips on Coaxing Top Engineering Talent Out of Hiding

Move past the money, and place your focus on how they can help you change the world.

It’s a hard time for many companies. The whole world gets turned upside-down when events conspire to create an environment where people aren’t lining up (or even available) to work for you. That may be a permanent paradigm shift for information-based businesses. The value of digital products has eclipsed that of physical products, and the best engineers – the core creators of these products – are less likely than ever to be knocking on your organization’s door.

That is, unless you retain the right recruitment firm to help you reposition the paradigm. These recruiters come armed with effective ways to coax top engineering talent out of hiding. But you’ve got some work to do, as well. These tips apply whether you work with a recruiter or decide to go it alone:

Invest in the recruiting process

Don’t give yourself a checkmark because you say you already do this. A recruiter can give you an exact value of the cost of their services, but can you do the same for both your money and time devoted to recruiting?

If you’re objective with your answers, you may see a conflict in the statement that your employees are your most important asset if your approach to hiring them isn’t supporting the process.

Hiring talented engineers for your top positions is a result of your overall philosophy about employees. Validate your approach by looking at your recruiting budget. If you can’t nail the numbers that will make it happen, you’ve got some work to do. It’s not simply about money, it’s also involves identifying and quantifying the full amount of resources (including systems and time) that you devote to hiring talented people.

Know your brand

Why do companies like Google and Apple have no problems finding top engineering talent? One word: Branding.

Business Insider estimates Google’s annual marketing budget to be about a billion dollars. It’s about the same for Apple.

Should you spend a billion dollars? You could if, like Google, you generated $74.5 billion to justify that budget. But you didn’t come here for a lecture about how much to spend on brand identity marketing, and it’s also not just money that fuels brand creation.

Know who really owns your brand

It’s not you.

Google and Apple don’t own their brand, either. A company’s brand exists in their customers’ minds. Few people explain this better than Seth Godin. Any brand can be distilled down to a story that customers tell themselves so that a product or service fits into their worldview.

Employees own your brand, too. The engineers who work for you own the brand. They help to create it, and it’s part of the reason why some companies can retain senior engineering talent. Those employees started with the company, and they’re still there today because they feel a sense of ownership.

No one will argue that recruiters who represent A-players get to hire A-players. But recruiters armed with the story of what your company plans to create for the world also have an ace up their sleeve, if it’s a story that top engineers can fit into their worldview. That’s how Google assembled their talent – they had a mission statement that brought people to attention.

Candidates want to hear amazing stories, and they want to be a part of an amazing story even more. What’s your story? That’s your brand. It either already exists, or you’re going to cultivate it. Does it resonate with talented engineers who’ll want to help you build it?

Be ready to talk about transformation

You’ve heard about the difference between selling features and benefits. While benefits are valuable, you won’t simply lure top engineering talent with a generous vacation schedule, or any other perks, for that matter. The power of transformation is even more attractive to today’s prospects.

Go ahead and roll your eyes at the Tony Robbins-esque qualities this registers, but pay attention if you want to attract tech talent. Money isn’t the only avenue to a signed employment agreement. When qualified people can pick and choose jobs, their selection criteria changes quite a bit.

It’s no longer just a high salary figure, it’s the ability to participate in making the world a better place to live. It’s about transformation. Can you articulate how your company will do this, or is doing this? Many engineers are drawn to employment opportunities where they can participate in visionary or disruptive efforts. Uber and taxis and Tesla and the automotive industry, for examples.

Offer personal growth opportunities

They may be at the top of their game, but everybody in the tech field knows it takes constant educational upgrades to stay there. How will you help your new top engineering talent remain on the cutting edge?

It’s more than showing them you’ll be their partner in self-improvement. They’re looking for ways to pay it forward. How can you allow them give back to the developer community? Engineers love challenges.

Make everyone in your company a recruiter

Six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon isn’t just a game, it’s an instructive recruiting lesson. You don’t know whom your employees know, and their associations can produce interesting connections. And you’ve got to make them part of your recruiting process if you want them to activate those connections.

If your efforts involve the HR department pushing out an email message about referral bonuses, back to the drawing board. That’s a feature, not a benefit. Go further. Help your employees by providing them the information and engagement they need so they truly feel like company ambassadors.

Understand the motivations of top talent

The truly talented team members are not “I just work here” people. They’ve already enjoyed success, and now they’re likely more interested in the pursuit of other types of satisfaction. They’re looking for challenges and they’re searching for ways to contribute: both back to their own community of engineers, and society itself.

Psychologist and best-selling author Shawn Achor does an excellent job of explaining what he calls, “The happy secret to better work,” in his TED Talk: “I think that more than success, people need to strive for something far greater – significance. When everything has been said and done, what has been your one positive contribution to this world?”

There are more jobs available than there are engineers to fill them. You’re competing with all the other companies out there throwing lots of money at top talent in the hopes that they can be convinced to switch employers. Then a startup nobody’s ever heard of, with a precariously small amount of seed money, reaches out and snags the engineer who showed no interest in your employment offer. Why?

It’s not all about money. It’s also about culture and meaning. Happy hunting.

If you need a partner who can help align your recruiting process with obtaining excellent employees for your business, Capital Markets Placement can help. We’ve worked with thousands of qualified professionals – and we know what they are looking for in their next opportunity. Contact us to get started.

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