What the Hottest Startups Can Teach You About Recruiting Engineers

August 28, 2013

We have wayyyy too many great engineers flocking to work for us, let’s not recruit anymore.

Said no one ever.

There are ten startups in Silicon Valley, however, that can confidently say that they have the attention of a lot of great engineers and they ARE recruiting them successfully. In case you are curious who those InDemand start ups are, here is the complete list.


But what we and you really want to know is: what is the secret recruiting sauce of these start ups? What do they do to attract and close top technical talent?

Here are some of the special tips they agreed to reveal for us:

1. A-players hire other A-players:

The most InDemand startup, Cloudera, sticks by this one. According to them “Awesome engineers want to work with other smart, passionate people. So the most important thing we do to attract top talent is to hire amazing people. We have great engineering managers and engineers so when candidates come in for interviews they are very impressed with the quality of the people they meet, allowing us to be able to attract and hire the best.”

Although this sounds a bit like a chicken and the egg problem, the point is: don’t compromise when it comes to whom you bring on board.

2. Sell the transformative nature of your company:

People work in start-ups because they believe that a tiny no-name company can generate game-changing product or a solution. Make sure that your team and everyone in the company can articulate that this is the case. Engineers are drawn to companies that are “disruptive” and visionary and as Big Switch Networks put it, “Do something people want to be a part of. Be bold and make a difference -- that attracts the best and brightest.”

3. Offer technical challenges and learning opportunities:

Both Cloudera and Box (an alum from last year’s ranking) agree on this one.

Cloudera, for example, gives its engineers opportunity to participate in the open source community and prides itself on matching engineers up with their interests to solve novel technical challenges.

Similarly, Box encourages engineers to dedicate time on innovation, thought leadership, and giving back to the engineering and developer community.

Either way, when you chat with prospects lay out how the job can challenge them beyond the day-to-day tasks and this will go a long way. It may even help you in unexpected ways as with Box: “One of our engineers recently volunteered his time to develop an internal tool that made it insanely fast and simple for employees to generate referrals through their LinkedIn networks.” What a great win-win.

4. Build out a well-staffed and well-oiled recruiting team to provide great candidate experience

The average recruiting team of the start-ups we spoke with is made up of 5 people -- a mix of recruiters, coordinators and an executive. If you can’t afford such a team then you can follow the model of the smallest company on the list – Big Switch Networks. For them, everyone in the company is a recruiter, tapping into their own personal networks.


Once you build out your team, Jawbone advises that you should put a clearly defined evaluation process in place that would allow for quick decision-making.

Finally, it’s important that you create a “candidate first” approach within your team. Nutanix suggests that you should get to know your candidates, build rapport and trust, and most importantly -- listen more, talk less. High-caliber engineers always have career choices. Listen to what their aspirations are, and you have a better chance of finding the right person for the long term.

These are some of the secret ingredients that make startups on our Most InDemand list successful.

And as an encore, here are parting words of wisdom from the number one start-up on the list – Cloudera. “Hire phenomenal people who are going to enhance the culture you've fostered, they'll refer and attract other exceptional talent who will continue to reinforce their environment - never, ever compromise!  Having an authentic culture, interesting challenges and ensuring people will be able to impact the company and grow professionally is a winning combination for success.”

What do you do to attract great engineers? Let us know on Twitter at @HireOnLinkedIn!


* image by Cloudera