Technology Companies Beef Up Poaching Tactics To Score Top Engineers And Developers

March 7, 2011

Close up of technology company job adAs February's Jobs Report pointed out, more companies are starting to hire. As a result, the coveted role of "rock star engineer" has once again sparked a talent war between big name companies and growing startups.

According to CNN Money, although highly skilled engineers and developers have always been a scarce resource, the recent boom in app development has made hiring engineers more challenging than before.

"There is definitely a strain on engineering and developer hiring, especially mobile developers," said Gowalla founder Josh Williams. Gowalla created a location-based check-in application that relies heavily on developers with mobile coding expertise. "Those positions still take us the longest to fill."

The need is definitely apparent. As CNN Money pointed out, on any given day Twitter is flooded with tweets advertising job openings for "rockstar" engineers and developers. And as Bloomberg Businessweek reported, a Dice survey released in October showed that 57 percent of companies and recruiters that hired for mobile-related jobs last year are looking for more such hires this year.

"Prices are going up, competition is heating up and there's a much lower supply of engineers on the market," said CEO Rand Fishkin, whose company SEOmoz, now offers a $12,000 reward for a referral that leads to a hire.

While tech companies battle it out for top talent, retention becomes a big concern, noted John Helyar and Douglas MacMillan in another Bloomberg Businessweek article. Companies and recruiters are turning to the time-honored practice of poaching and a report from compensation consultant Radford showed that voluntary turnover is up 27 percent at 616 U.S. tech companies and shows no sign of slowing down.

Rapidly growing startups, such as Zynga and Twitter, are strategically going after top engineers. Big companies such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon are particularly vulnerable as these companies have invested time and money to recruit and train employees who have proven that they can successfully navigate the ever-evolving tech world.

Danielle Deibler left her engineering product manager position at Adobe Systems after four years for a VP-level role at a 14-person gaming startup in San Francisco. After turning down several cold calls from recruiters, Deibler took a pay cut and relinquished Adobe stock options for a chance to play a bigger role in heading a company's future.

"In a large company, it's hard to have a lot of impact on the direction of a product or the strategy," she explained.

As the economy picks up and more skilled engineers are plucked from the talent pool, poaching is only expected to rise.

"Hide your designers, hide your developers, because we're recruiting everybody out there," said one New York entrepreneur in CNN Money.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Google's Android Spurs More App Jobs Than iPhone," businessweek.com, March 3, 2011, Douglas MacMillan

"Tech companies desperate for 'rockstarninja engineers'," CNNMoney.com, March 7, 2011, Laurie Segall

"Techdom's Talent Poaching Epidemic," businessweek.com, March 3, 2011, John Helyar and Douglas MacMillan

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