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How to Attract Tech Talent in Seattle (When You Aren’t Amazon)

searching-telescope-1Seattle is the second-largest tech market in the United States and demand for individuals with technology skills is currently outstripping supply. Last year, there were 4,000 jobs needed in Washington for those with computer science degrees, but only 500 university-credentialed candidates. The remaining 3,500 workers had to be found outside the state.

Four of the five top employers in Seattle are large tech companies. This includes homegrown companies Amazon and Microsoft, followed by Google and Facebook. So, if you are a smaller tech company based in Seattle, how can you compete for much-needed talent with behemoth companies from all over the country moving in and setting up engineering outposts? In a market that is already tight?

Unfortunately, most candidates seeking employment often overlook smaller employers and focus their efforts on larger firms. Ignoring the fact that 101 of the top 5000 fastest growing small companies in America are located in the Seattle metro area. Candidates tend to seek out an employer based on name recognition instead of the actual work they will be doing.

As a Managing Director in the Seattle market, I often have clients that come to me with the same problem. They are in need of tech talent, but they aren't one of the big IT shops. Now that it looks like all of Silicon Valley is eyeing up a move to Seattle, it's important to understand what will lure candidates' wandering eyes away from larger companies.


How to Lure Candidates Away from Larger TECH Companies 


Work-Life Balance

Tech companies, particularly startup tech companies, are well known for having a horrible work-life balance. If you want to stand out against your big-name competition, prove to your candidates that your company doesn't fit that stereotype. Things like flex time, the ability to work from home, job sharing, or shorter work weeks can undoubtedly turn heads; while incorporating casual atmosphere that welcomes new hires with personalized onboarding experiences remind them that they aren't just a number (like they can tend to be at larger companies.)

Popular perks like free food and onsite health facilities can be significant bonuses, but aren't the be-all, end-all for tech jobseekers. In the conversations I have with top candidates, it often comes down to flexibility.



Since the big tech boom, Seattleites have openly complained about traffic and parking difficulties. Bringing 50,000 new jobs to a single city can easily cause these headaches. So, what can you do about it? Offer flexible hours or compressed schedules so that people can come in at off times and avoid peak traffic times. You can also offer parking incentives such as discounted or free parking or transportation passes to make the commute less of a headache.

Don't underestimate what a big deal this is in Seattle. It's a serious enough issue that the county has a webpage dedicated to commuting solutions!


Less Specialized Roles

In a small tech company, candidates can wear a lot of hats and obtain a variety of experience to build up their resume. They can learn a lot very quickly in a unique environment where there is more room for innovation. They are provided an opportunity to show off their skills where people can see and acknowledge them on a personal level.

Committing to having good management and leadership to nurture this innovation can make your company a fun place to work every day, and candidates can feel like they are actually contributing. They like to know that people know what they are doing and how they are contributing to the company's growth. And with more of a 360-degree view of company-wide operations, they will have more of a chance to get the most from their position. This keeps their work stimulating and helps keep them engaged and excited about their job.


Training and Upward Mobility

The #1 question asked by tech candidates that I speak with is the topic of training: Will training be provided? Will there be any chance for upward mobility?

With small companies and start-ups, this can be complicated. If you don't have a training program, you will need to invest in ways to provide them with ongoing training to keep employees skills sharp and moving with the speed of technology.

From there, you will need to help the candidates understand why taking a job with you will help their career path within the company. What else can they do within the organization? Highlight the fact that employees have more visibility within small companies, so it is often easier to advance. Advertise to them that smaller businesses grow individual talent and encourage flair and entrepreneurial skills. Promote from within as you grow, because doing so is great for retention, motivates employees, and enhances your overall employment brand.


As cities like Seattle experience tech job influxes, big name tech companies will always come lurking. To prevent them from taking all of the good candidates, advertise the strengths that working with small tech companies can provide openly in your job postings or on a dedicated page of your website. Not every talented candidate is designed for working in a large corporation, and you need to work hard to show them that.


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