Thanks to the Omicron variant it looks like many of us aren't going back to the office anytime soon after all. That's hugely annoying for leaders trying to pin down long-term plans, but it has one big upside. Now that your people can work from, basically, anywhere, you can also hire from anywhere, including for incredibly competitive technical roles. 

So where should you go looking for engineers besides your own city and competitive, high priced tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York? Karat has a few suggestions. 

Where to go hunting for remote tech talent 

The unicorn startup runs what it calls "the interview cloud," which basically means it helps companies from Palantir and Coinbase to Ford and Deliveroo conduct remote technical interviews. Thanks to its unique position in the tech talent market, Karat has excellent data on the quality and availability of engineers in various cities. And they just released their latest ranking of the best places to go hunting for remote tech talent

First off, Karat notes that there's an increasing amount of top talent available to companies out there. Candidates whose performance was "good" or "excellent" on the coding portion of their technical interviews spiked in early 2021 as top engineers eyed companies' remote work policies and decided to go searching for new opportunities. 

"Based on the current hiring trajectories we've observed, we expect that there will be another Q1 spike in 2022 as more companies seek to add headcount and bolster their engineering teams, while more candidates will begin seeking new positions early in the year," Karat predicts. 

Where are all these restless, high-quality engineers? Outside of major tech hubs like Silicon Valley, these are the top ten cities with the highest pass rates for Karat's technical interviews. 

  1. Pittsburgh. "Pittsburgh maintained its top spot on this list, with 40% of candidates passing their Karat interviews - a figure comparable to New York City and trailing only the Bay Area and Seattle among major metro areas," notes Karat, which cites the location of several top CS programs as well as the comparatively low cost of living in the city as reasons for Pittsburgh's continued dominance. 

  2. Washington, DC. "Amazon's rapidly growing presence in the region has helped establish DC as a veritable tech hub in its own right, with a 40% pass rate just behind our top spot," says Karat. 

  3. Los Angeles. L.A. offers a lower cost of living than Silicon Valley up the coast, but also boasts "a higher proportion of minorities underrepresented in tech." The city also saw a "+4 pt increase in pass rate in 2021," Karat points out. 

  4. Portland. Portland "was the biggest mover on this list, jumping up +19 pts to a 40% pass rate," says Karat. It's also much cheaper than other west coast cities and "has seen a recent resurgence in tech IPOs from Expensify, Vacasa, and ZoomInfo." 

  5. Atlanta. Karat calls Atlanta "a tech hub for engineering talent in the southeast." The city has benefited from "major investment in its tech scene recently from companies including Airbnb, Google, and Meta," while also offering lower cost of living and higher population of minorities than many other tech hubs. 

  6. Houston. Houston's pass rates dropped one point from last year but remains a very respectable 35 percent. 

  7. Austin. "While a lot has been made about some high-profile tech leaders moving to Texas, we saw less of an increase in Austin's performance compared to the traditional tech hubs. Nevertheless, a 33% pass rate keeps Austin in our top 10," says Karat. 

  8. Boston. No bonus points for recognizing why Boston might be a hot spot for tech talent. The city is, of course, home to some of the world's most celebrated universities. 

  9. San Diego. "San Diego's 29% pass rate is another proof point that engineering quality in SoCal is on the rise" says Karat, which attributes the region's increasing pool of tech talent "a growing presence from tech giants like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Walmart Labs, as well as a thriving startup community." 

  10. Chicago. "Chicago had nine tech startups achieve unicorn status in 2021, while also boasting the highest proportion of women-founded startups in the world, according to TECHicago," Karat notes. The city's unicorn count has since grown to 13.

Now you know where to look, how can small businesses hope to compete in an incredibly competitive hiring landscape? Karat co-founder Jeffrey Spector offered some advice. 

"The best thing that small businesses can do to stand out in a candidate-first world is to demonstrate a more flexible candidate and employee experience. The good news is that you can personalize your approach because it's less about hiring at scale and more about figuring out what works for you," he told in an email.  

Being highly responsive to candidates, flexible in your interview process, and committed to long-term remote work, can help demonstrate that your business isn't mired in bureaucracy and instead offers talent the chance to get interesting things done in a more human-centered environment.

As one VC reminded founders earlier this year, startups often have unique advantages in terms of culture and mission that can help lure in-demand talent. Widen your search area to unexpected locales and shout your company's virtues from the rooftops and you'll be better placed to land the technical talent your business needs to thrive.