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How to Lure Top-Notch Talent in a Competitive Market

The founder of one San Francisco startup plans to double his work force this year--and he's not worried a bit about competing with Google and Facebook for talent. Here's why.
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Anthony Smith, founder and CEO of Insightly, a customer relationship management software startup based in San Francisco, plans to more than double his 34-employee roster this year. It's easier said than done, though, given that his company has to compete with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter for local talent.

Smith says he's not worried. He says in the two years Insightly has been in the Bay Area, he has nailed the art of attracting top-notch developers and testers. Here's his advice.

Hire an In-House Recruiter

If your company is scaling and needs to bring on more than a few new faces, it only makes sense financially to take this step when you consider that an outside recruiter is going to charge somewhere in the ballpark of 20 percent of a new hire's base salary.

"If you do the math, that's a phenomenal amount of money," Smith says. "But also we've found the hiring process is much better if you've got recruiters embedded within the company and they're much more proficient in telling potential employees about some of the benefits and the way the company works and really playing up the positive aspects rather than just saying, 'OK, here's a list of five companies that are hiring at the moment; we're happy to make intros to you.'"

Sell Prospects on the Opportunity to Make a Difference

Insightly offers its team members typical Bay Area perks such as free massages, food, and beverages. Even so, what Smith sees they really appreciate is having the opportunity to make a difference, help others, and guide the course of the company.

"We actually give our software away to nonprofits and charities, so we've got over 600 charities that use our software for going out and doing good in the world," he says. "We try to instill in people that we talk to that they're going to be important, they're going to be a part of a cohesive team, and the software that we helped create really does make a difference in the world."

Hire Remote Workers

Whether it's collaboration, chat, or video software, tools for managing a remote work force are plentiful and cheap (sometimes even free).

When finding talented local developers who could code for iOS and Android proved to be difficult, Smith looked to Colorado, the Midwest, and Florida for a cadre of workers who use technology to feel part of the Insightly team.

"We decided we could fly them in every quarter and bond with the team, and also we provide them with extra services to make sure they feel like they're a part of the company and a part of the goings-on here on a daily basis," Smith says. "We provide online chat rooms that all the developers in and outside of our office can contribute to and make sure that they're really involved in videoconferencing and things like that."

Leverage Your Small Size

Working for behemoths such as Google and Facebook obviously has upsides, but there's something to be said for being small and nimble. Smith likes to emphasize the fact that at a smaller company, there's more opportunity to make an impact and less bureaucracy to deal with.

"You have to play up that aspect of the business [and tell a prospect] you're going to wear quite a few hats," Smith says, unlike in a big company, "where you might be siloed into one specific business area, and there's a whole bunch of rules and regulations that you have to abide by," Smith says. "We're a lot more flexible in what we allow employees to do, and that certainly appeals to a large section of individuals that we talk to."

Last updated: Feb 7, 2014




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