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2 New Tricks for Hiring Tech Talent

There's a war for tech talent. Here's how you can get creative about finding and training coding ninjas.
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Talk to any entrepreneur looking to hire technical talent and they'll tell you its insanely tough out there, with companies facing a dire shortage of trained engineering and design talent.

Sure, you could always steal the competition's talent, or look abroad for salvation. But both approaches have obvious costs. So as we've reported here before some businesses are trying a third way: growing their own tech talent through apprentice style programs.

Video gaming-focused media company IGN, for instance, is augmenting its traditional recruiting for the second year in a row with a "no resumes allowed" alternative. Their Code-Foo program selects participants by setting hopefuls up with online coding challenges and asking for a statement of passion about the company. Those that succeed aren't asked to produce diplomas and sit for endless interviews. Instead, IGN brings them to a six-week training boot camp. If an individual impresses, he or she gets a job—without ever having to say a word about their work history or educational background.

So how did that work out last year? "We ended up with 30 people," Roy Bahat, the president of IGN, told Inc.com. "Our guys thought we were going to hire one or two—a third of them didn't even go to college, a third had non-technical degrees. These were not the people you would have even interviewed on the basis of their resumes. And then lo and behold, a third of them were meeting our bar and the best of them were running laps around much more 'qualified' candidates. We were thrilled." Ten were hired and Bahat says, "on average they've worked out better than hires from a traditional hiring process. The best few are among our highest potential talent."

Code-Foo and other training schemes outside of the academy aren't just a good bet for smaller companies looking to recruit, but also something Bahat sees as having larger social benefits. "One of my personal passions is teaching young people coding skills because I think that it is the fastest path towards not just economically rewarding work but creatively rewarding work. It's not as hard as people make it out to be—it's like being an auto mechanic of the 21st century," he said. IGN is accepting applications for Code Foo until April 30.

Meanwhile, online marketplace Etsy isn't just trying to nurture tech talent in general, but female tech talent in particular. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Marc Hedlund, Etsy's vice president of engineering, noticed that in his career he's hired men by the hundreds but only a handful of women. To even out the gender balance, the company is hosting the summer 2012 session of Hacker School at its New York City headquarters and offering women who want to participate $5,000 grants to help them support themselves while they learn to be code ninjas.

"Our goal is to bring 20 women to New York to participate, and we hope this will be the first of many steps to encourage more women into engineering at Etsy and across the industry," Hedlund commented. Which is a good thing, as so far only one woman has participated in Hacker School since its founding last year.

Last updated: Apr 12, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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