CEO Adviser: Recruiting Smarts

In a crowded market, tech companies must get creative to attract talent.

Seattle is a growing tech hub with a deepening talent shortage. As startups and big tech companies continue to populate the market, they face a dwindling pool of prospective hires. And with many Bay Area giants expanding into the Puget Sound region, recruiting tech talent may become an even bigger challenge.

Industry giants with household names — Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft — may have well-oiled recruiting machines, well-known brands and huge budgets, but that doesn’t mean they will win the talent war in Seattle. Any company can attract tech talent if it focuses on the things that matter most to technical employees and employs the tactics that specifically grab their attention.

The big question is: What do tech employees want?

As job seekers evaluate potential employers, they increasingly value intangibles like a supportive environment, diversified workloads, coworkers with shared values and cities with distinctive appeal, according to research discussed in the Harvard Business Review. Tech employees in particular are interested in challenging work, flexibility around work hours and location, professional development and a fun and exciting atmosphere. 

Here are some specific strategies employers can leverage that will help attract tech talent:

Empower recruiters with business knowledge. Companies that are successful in recruiting tech talent integrate their recruiting operations with their core business operations.  By giving the talent-acquisition team a seat at the table in strategic planning, client team meetings and business development discussions, companies can ensure they’re sending out recruiters who fundamentally understand how the company works, where it is headed and where technology fits. 

Emphasize cultural differentiators. Highlighting qualities that are part of an organization’s culture increases the likelihood of landing the right talent. We regularly ask our tech employees to participate in hackathons to keep them engaged with their work while honoring what makes them unique, even if the hackathon is not directly focused on solving our clients’ business challenges. To attract tech talent to the distinct opportunities your organization provides, emphasize what makes your tech culture stand out.

Personalize the candidate experience. One way to attract and retain home-grown tech talent is by emphasizing local connections throughout the recruiting cycle. Recruiters and hiring managers should get familiar with the work experience and local backgrounds of candidates to make better connections with prospective employees over commonalities like an alma mater or volunteer work. Our bus ads feature local employees only, creating continuity and familiarity when candidates come to the office to interview. Adding a personalized, localized dimension to what can otherwise be an impersonal process builds prospects’ confidence in the work experience you offer. If you are competing for talent from other tech hubs, it helps to emphasize the distinct qualities of life in Seattle such as lower costs of living (vis-à-vis the Bay Area) and healthier work-life balance. 

Focus on smaller, more intimate events. To tailor the recruiting process most effectively, it helps to have talent-acquisition managers who understand that the role encompasses more than just selling the company. It also requires empathy, honesty and an ability to communicate with candidates on their terms. It’s important to bring these qualities to your recruiting events. We’ve done this by shirking traditional networking events in favor of gatherings where candidates can talk one on one with executives and team members they’ll be working with. We also think outside the box with events like our food-truck takeovers, in which we use social media to target tech recruits for free lunch. 

As companies like Amazon continue to build out their Seattle presence, the city’s market for tech jobs will only become more crowded. By adopting an approach to recruiting that prioritizes personalization, transparency and culture, employers can attract the best and most talented tech talent.  

BRIAN PAULEN is managing director at West Monroe Partners in Seattle. Reach him at

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