Secrets to Finding Niche Talents
9 August, 2021
No team has ever been six feet under because they hired too slow; rather a lot of teams have died because they hired way too fast. When I had to scale a team from 4 people to 20, while responding to some business needs, it did take a toll on me. Since I was given a mission, I had to opt for some aggressive recruiting of very high caliber talent on a relatively niche skill set — i.e., video game industry.
What should not have been a problem still became a problem because we needed experts from a relatively senior level in this field. To add to that, we were on a tight deadline, and previous data with our talent acquisition partner did not point to a very high velocity in that area. Working towards a deadline with a scarcity of talent is the kind of situation that every manager wants to avoid, and in this case, I was dealing with it.
I, along with the team as a whole, became highly involved in the hands-on recruitment process. We wanted to identify our own candidates. Why? Because it was already a very niche talent we were looking for, and when we selected some of the profiles, the challenge was that they were unresponsive. We started to engage with them more directly and organised site events to present the team and present what we were trying to do.
Once we had some preferred unresponsive candidates, we reached out to them personally as tech leaders. Fortunately, we received more responses than the recruitment team ever did, and we started interesting conversations with them. It was pretty hard to work in that area, especially when engineering leaders become directly involved in the recruitment process and have a very personalised discussion and evaluation. However, the interests and the passions of those individual profiles matched very well.
Therefore, matching the needs of the organization with the talent in the market in a personalized fashion proved to be successful. We were able to go over the targets that we had set for 10 people, and we managed to secure the velocity for the recruitment. In essence, we recruited 15 highly talented people within 3 months. Direct involvement and personalised communications with highly skilled and senior talent ensured success for us. We have been able to leverage and execute that talent and deliver for the company.
We had a lot to prove over the deliveries. We even secured additional funding and built trust in the location and increased employer brand awareness in the respective market. Since the market and our team are pretty stable, we have a great possibility of working towards the future. We even brought some critical projects into the team for the company, which exceeded our expectations and confidence.
- When approaching highly skilled professionals, transparency is the key. Keep in mind that candidates would like to know more about the projects, goals and limits, and don’t forget to paint an accurate picture. Don’t just highlight the perks of the job, but also talk about the potential roadblocks. We even managed to build trust-based relations, even before they came abroad.
- Talent will always be there, and the referrals are especially given for high-quality talent. Referrals are critical, i.e., high-quality talent will bring high-quality work. Once we got a few of them on board, we asked them to refer to the others. The top five people knew their career perfectly, and this is how we got quite a lot of leads for the profiles that were not on any recruitment platforms.
- Compensation is not that important. We found that people with similar offers who came from different employers in the markets chose to join the team. They felt they could make a huge difference and the team that was more open to them. The packages were competitive in the market, but we need to start looking at other criteria when there are three similar competitive packages on the table. We did not have to make counter offers or anything like that because we were open-minded. The curve started to flatten the dependency between how much money to pay these people and how much to get out of them. It was not linear from a point.
- The intelligent and talented people needed to be engaged, and they needed to feel that they contributed to the organisation's success and the team. If they understand that motivation comes way more efficiently and productivity comes with inspiration, they will work with highly paid, skilled contractors. They felt that being paid by the hour was not a terrible incentive to excel because they were just contractors, so only bringing regular employees motivated from before proved to be more successful.
Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader
Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, details his journey to improve his personal hiring process and team pitch.
Engineering Manager at Facebook
William Bajzek, Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital, is always keeping his eyes open for ways that he can give his team a chance to learn something new.
Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital
Neelima Annam, Sr Director Information Technology at Outmatch, recalls a time when she had to use non-conventional methods to train her team.
Sr. Director Information Technology at Outmatch HCM
Albert Lie, former Founding Engineer and Tech Lead at Xendit, didn’t know what it takes to become an early engineering hire and not a lot of people around him experienced this unknown and arcane path. He had to learn it the hard way from the pitfalls he encountered along the way and he has been creating numerous frameworks to measure his growth and keep burgeoning in this role since then. He codifies and expresses the systems he put in place surrounding the balance of customer inquiry to product building and growing the engineering team.
Former Tech Lead at Xendit
Deepesh Makkar, Sr Director of Engineering at SunPower Corporation, shares his experience transitioning his organization from contractors to a 50/50 split of full-time employees and international vendors.
Sr Director of Engineering at SunPower Corporation
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.