Top Tech Recruiting Trends & Strategies: Q&A with Keith Cline

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Tech recruiting expert Keith Cline discusses the latest tech recruiting trends and lays out several keys to recruiting top tech talent.

In the early stages of every company’s development, each decision takes on a magnified importance that can change the course of the company’s future. Hiring decisions at this point can be make-or-break moves that could immediately position a company for success, or — in some cases — doom it to failure. With such a small number of people being involved in such key positions, recruitment and hiring can’t be taken lightly.

Tech recruiting can be a difficult landscape to navigate. Tech professionals with a demonstrated track record of success are in high demand, and leaving an established position to work with a startup or even expansion-stage company carries a certain degree of risk. In order to create the best potential for landing these targets, tech recruiting strategies need to be developed beforehand to give startups and expansion-stage companies a viable shot at building a winning roster.

Keith Cline, tech recruiting expert, principal of recruiting firm Dissero, and founder of VentureFizz, sat down with OpenView to discuss how companies can study and incorporate the latest tech recruiting trends to develop and inform their recruiting strategies. Watch the videos below for his insights and tips.

Keys to Recruiting Top Tech Talent

Every single hire you make at the startup or expansion stage is critical, so you better make sure you’re bringing on the best talent possible. But what should you be looking for in top candidates? And how do you find them?

For starters, you’ll definitely want to build a tech recruiting plan, advises Cline. Just as you developed a business plan for launching your startup, your recruiting deserves a detailed consideration and forethought, as well. Prioritize the key roles you need to hire, Cline explains, and build out an overall plan that will lead to that successful hire. If you can get the word out that your company is an innovative option where employees can excel, candidates will eventually start coming to you.

“Your network is so incredibly powerful, and great people refer other great people to you, so please leverage your network,” Cline says.

Cline also urges founders and/or hiring managers to aim high and never settle. They should focus on hiring the best of the best, and in a startup environment that typically means seeking out candidates who have the ability to wear many hats and have a proven track record of continuous progression and self-propelled success. While it may be difficult to attract top tier talent at first, the good news is that “A” players attract “A” players, so stay as patient and keep an eye out for established candidates and the best up-and-comers who you’ll be able to count on to help you drive you company to the top.

Recruiting Trends and Predictions

What sorts of recruiting trends and changes to the current recruiting landscape can tech companies expect in the near future? What roles will the “War for Talent” be focused on next?

While the overall outlook for venture-backed technology companies is incredibly bright in terms of innovation and funding, supply is going to continue to lag significantly behind demand in terms of several key roles, predicts Cline. Despite strong economic recovery in the tech sector in 2010 and 2011, a large number of companies experienced an acute need for software engineers in particular, and thanks to the resulting competitive market conditions, many found it difficult to win the “War for Talent” for engineers.

“If you look at our school system from colleges, the number of students that are entering into computer science and engineering programs still does not outweigh the demand that is out there,” says Cline.

That trend should continue in 2012. On the bright side, it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur, with innovation growing and funding continuing to be made available. Founders and CEOs may just need to accept that they have to make their own smart investments of time and resources into landing the best software engineering talent possible.

Addressing the Risks of Working at a Startup

Many young potential hires may be concerned with the risk factor involved in working at a startup as opposed to an established company.

But what they need to consider, argues Cline, is that any risk is diminished by the wide breadth of opportunity and experience a position at a startup provides. Potential new hires should do proper due diligence, of course, making sure that the company has a compelling business idea and a great founding team backed by esteemed investors, but considering the challenges they will be exposed to and the skills they will pick up, the benefits of working at a startup often outweigh those of working at a larger company.

“How much more marketable is your experience for other companies? How much more experience have you gained that will further propel your career to that next level?” asks Cline. “That’s what you really need to focus on when you’re thinking about joining a startup.”


keith clineKeith Cline is founder of VentureFizz, a destination website where you can find all things buzzing in Boston’s technology community in one spot, and Principal at strategic recruiting firm Dissero.





Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from a video series recorded with tech recruiting expert Keith Cline, Principal at Dissero and founder of VentureFizz.