There are certain basics of tech recruiting that apply to businesses both large and small.
Spencer Stuart, the global executive search firm, generally helps large organizations find top talent. But if you're leading a small company, you can improve your recruiting by studying what firms like Spencer Stuart have to say.
For example, Spencer Stuart recently published a thorough report about how large retailers are landing top tech talent. Some of it doesn't pertain to entrepreneurs building leadership teams. But much of it does. Here are three highlights:
1. For big data and analytics roles, raw tech talent is more important than industry-specific experience. Luxury goods and fashion retailer Saks Fifth Avenue found this to be the case in filling its analytics positions.
But for other e-commerce roles--tech jobs by definition but less, ahem, rigorous than analytics positions--you don't need to splurge on raw tech talent. You can recruit from within and train.
What you're looking for, under all circumstances, is willingness to learn. "I believe that smart, driven people who want to be successful will be able to thrive and move industries and it's not necessary for them to have that domain experience," is what Michael Burgess told the report's authors.
He would know. He worked at FTD and Teleflora before joining Saks Direct as President. More recently he became president of HBC Digital at Hudson's Bay Company.
2. Forget the notion of finding one analystics/tech guru who can solve all your digital problems and inspire a team. Talent like that is hard to find. Not just for small businesses. For everyone. "Many retailers are struggling to find leaders who are strategic, analytical, able to manage a team and influence change in a compelling way," deadpans the report.
What can you do? Two things:
- Embrace the idea that you might need to hire more than one person. If you can only hire one, prepare to use freelancers or outside partners in order to bring the complementary skills to your organization and its projects.
- Accept the shortcomings young tech/analytics stars might have in other areas (such as industry experience). "I hired a younger executive with experience in search engine marketing from one of the biggest global airlines and global hotel chains," noted Guenther Trieb, CEO of luggage company Delsey, in the report. "He's not the classic marketer, but he is good, not only in building up a very analytical framework early on, but also great in understanding how to use creativity in areas where traditional marketing skills quickly become obsolete."
Trieb's insight here is one entrepreneurs know well: The upside of inexperience is often a fresh, creative perspective.
3. What you might not be able to offer in compensation, you can offer in opportunity. If an experienced superstar is out of your reach, give a young, hungry talent a chance to grow into the position. "It’s really a question of our maintaining avenues of opportunity for people who have proven themselves, even if it means they don't have the perfect resumé for it and must learn to get there," explained Lisa Bisaccia, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at CVS Caremark Corporation.
Even at large companies, talented recruits are often "drawn to certain situations, specifically those where they feel they can make a tangible difference," concludes the report. For example, Trieb believes that Delsey's digital group, which he calls "a startup within a global company," attracts candidates with entrepreneurial energy.
Imagine, then, how these candidates would feel if you presented them with the chance to work for an actual startup? Winning the talent wars is never easy. And it's seldom cheap. But as the leader of a growing, entrepreneurial company, it's possible you have more recruiting advantages than you realize.