Atlassian’s 5-Step Strategy for Recruiting Tech Talent From Around the World

May 31, 2018

Atlassian, a Sydney-based enterprise software developer, has no shortage of ambition: With products like Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket, and Trello, the company has big plans to grow its global customer base of 100,000+ organizations. 

But to reach its goals, Atlassian needs a lot of technical help—something that Australia is notoriously short on these days. In fact, one prominent technology leader recently estimated that the number of students studying IT Down Under had dropped between 40% and 60% over the previous 10 years.

Because of this issue, Atlassian needs to search globally for tech talent, particularly in senior roles. And although Sydney’s fabulous beaches, temperate climate, and friendly locals make it a top vacation destination, its high cost of living and remoteness make it a tough sell for long-term relocation.

Yet despite those obstacles, Atlassian has developed and refined a highly successful approach for mining talent in noted tech hot spots such as Silicon Valley, Dublin, and Bangalore as well as in less obvious locales like Russia, Ukraine, Spain, and Brazil as it pushes toward its next big goal of 100 million monthly active users.

Here are the five key tactics the talent acquisition team at Atlassian has used to find the skilled and experienced designers and engineers it needs:

1. If you don’t have the home-grown talent you need, find out who does

When a need arises at Atlassian for, say, back-end developers or UX designers, the talent team uses internal data and LinkedIn’s talent pool reports to pinpoint markets where the supply of tech talent exceeds the demand.

“We’ll often turn to LinkedIn to understand the size and the depth of a talent pool in new markets around the world,” says Devin Rogozinski, Atlassian’s head of talent marketing. “That data comes in really handy to help us assess where we should be focusing our energy.” That energy is spent on both targeted online branding campaigns and recruiter outreach.

Jessica Sechi, a senior technology recruiter for Atlassian, says that data can be particularly helpful when she’s looking into a brand-new technology requirement. “The talent pool information we get from LinkedIn Insights is a really great starting point to help direct me to even just where in the world the majority of this talent is,” Jessica says. For example, when the company needed to find software developers, LinkedIn data suggested they look in Spain, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and Israel.

2. Use compelling content to sell your company and culture in markets where you’re looking for talent

In the past, Atlassian grabbed some headlines and a handful of new hires with recruiting drives such as its “Europe, We’re Coming for Your Geeks!” campaign in which the company did a bus tour through four European cities to hire 15 software developers in 15 days. In 2015, Atlassian took a VW Kombi bus with a company-branded surfboard to four European cities for a “UX Surfers” campaign to hire product designers and researchers.

When Devin arrived at Atlassian 3½ years ago to build a talent brand team, he wondered about the ROI on those type of hiring blitzes. “It takes a lot of time to prep something like that,” he says, “and ultimately you’re only getting it out there once.” Devin believed that digital media would allow the company to get its message out more consistently throughout the year.

So his team now creates content—blog posts, social media offerings, and, importantly, videos—that paint a picture of the company, its culture, and its bold ambitions. For example, Devin’s team partnered with the Sydney recruiting team to produce a 9 ½-minute video called “Relocation 101: Moving to Sydney” that features Atlassian employees who came to Sydney from the United States, the Netherlands, Ireland, Brazil, and Russia.

“That’s one where we always see above-average engagement,” Devin says, “and we’ve run that campaign with a couple of different LinkedIn vehicles. When we first started using Pipeline Builder, we ran that campaign over the course of two or three weeks and ended up getting over 500 leads, all software developers from international markets.”

3. Identify companies that are doing things at the same scale as you and have great talent—then recruit from them

Even after a market has been targeted (and properly prepped with winning brand work), recruiters often have some heavy lifting in front of them.

“Once we’ve identified an area and we know there’s talent there,” Jessica says. “Then it comes down to the specifics of what we’re hiring for. For example, if it’s back-end engineers, typically what we’re looking for are people who have worked at the scale of what Atlassian is doing today or even more because of where we’re headed.”

“It becomes a matter of identifying within that geography what are the organizations doing that kind of work today and also have a reputation for hiring great engineering talent themselves,” she says.

To identify the right kind of companies in a new market, Jessica starts by seeing what she can learn with a few straightforward Google searches to find out exactly what was going on in the region she is looking into and by leveraging the knowledge of the multinational team she has helped assemble at Atlassian.

“Wherever it might be they relocated from—London, Ukraine, India—I’ll want to find out who are the people they know and the really good companies and organizations to look into,” Jessica says. After searching for articles in the media that highlight emerging tech companies in regions, she combines that information with other skills and experience Atlassian is hiring for. “Then I can start playing around with those data points in LinkedIn Recruiter and see what comes up,” she says.

4. Highlight your company’s goals and opportunities when talking to candidates

If you’re going to be asking someone to move 100 miles or 10,000, you probably need to offer up more than excellent compensation. LinkedIn research shows that younger employees are particularly motivated by opportunities to challenge themselves at work. And whether you’re using InMail or job boards, you want to be clear about who your company is, what you have to offer, and what you need.

When Jessica reaches out to candidates, no matter where they are, she always leads with Atlassian’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal. “Aiming to grow the user base to 100 million monthly active users is massively appealing to people,” she says. “In my standard InMail template, I also tell them that Atlassian’s goal is to pave the way for how every team works within every business.”

She also tells prospects about the kind of technology Atlassian is getting into (mobile components, cloud development, etc.) and about the opportunity to build things from scratch. “For engineers,” Jessica says, “that’s very attractive, getting to be involved in a lot of greenfield work as well as stuff that hasn’t been done before in a company.”

Jessica is also very clear that she is looking to hire into Sydney, not the candidate’s current location. She touts the upsides of life down under, including the city’s many charms and attraction, and stresses that the company offers a host of relocation services and expedited visas. The long-distance move immediately rules out many people, she says, but it also offers a tempting frisson of adventure and wanderlust to those who just may become the next Sydneysiders.

5. Create a high-touch relocation program that anticipates the concerns of new hires

When a candidate responds positively to Jessica’s InMail, the next step is generally an online coding test. If a prospect aces the online assessment, Atlassian will set up interviews, which are done remotely over Skype or video conferencing. And if those go well, an offer often follows.

“If it’s a yes,” Devin says, “we’d move forward to the hiring stage or the offer stage, put together an offer that we think would be compelling, outline all of the different parts of that package, including relocation.”

Atlassian has developed a high-touch relocation program called Move Happy that provides new hires who are coming from afar with airfare, temporary housing, work visas, help finding schools and permanent housing, furniture and vehicle shipping, personalized welcome gifts, and even pickup at the airport. The company also sets up numerous expat events so that newbies from overseas can meet and mingle with other Atlassians who have made a similar transition.

Relocation from overseas is an enormous commitment for both the employee and the company, so Atlassian does everything it can to ensure the move works for both parties.

Successful out-of-market recruiting can add hard-to-find skills and diversity to your team

It’s only fitting that a company whose name derives from the Titan, Atlas, who holds the heavens on his shoulders has found success recruiting globally. Today, Devin says, Atlassian is relocating more than half of its new technical talent.

This worldwide infusion of talent not only provides Atlassian with the technical chops it needs to chase its ambition, it gives the company vital diversity. One example of that far-flung employee base is Bruno Sales, a senior development engineer who originally hails from Brazil but was found by Atlassian working in Florida.

“People with different backgrounds,” Bruno says, “they have different perspectives about the same problem, and that’s so important to get the best solution for the customer.”

Jess finds it amazing that a lot of the people she’s helped hire had never been to Sydney until after they landed a job with Atlassian.

The amazement cuts both ways.

“I received a message,” Bruno says, “and now I’m on the other side of the world with a job that I love.”

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