How to Find Strong Tech Talent Outside Silicon Valley

February 05, 2018
Recruiters in coastal tech hubs have a special set of pain points. Freshly graduated college students with no real-world experience are able to demand sky high salaries. The market is so saturated that when you do manage to hire a star, there’s the risk of them being poached by everyone else. 

Software developers at Microsoft, for example, are constantly being prodded by recruiters from the biggest organizations such as Facebook and Amazon. The old days when tech companies agreed to not poach one another’s staff are long gone. Even if you do find a strong talent who isn’t poached elsewhere, they could end up fleeing the sky high rents of Silicon Valley. 

Or you could hire from the rich ecosystems of tech workers throughout the continental U.S. Cities like Huntsville, Northern Alabama, Indianapolis and Nashville, Tennessee are among a list of growing tech hubs. Tomorrow’s star developer is just as likely to live in a Colorado farmhouse as a Palo Alto condo. 

A perfect storm is currently gathering for companies to expand their development teams into the American heartland. Agile methodologies are shifting to ever-faster timelines, meaning that outsourcing overseas is less and less attractive—and people need workers who are not only in a similar time zone, but are culturally conversant and able to make changes on the fly. 

Here are five tips for hiring tech talent outside of the major hubs:
  • Identify the core competencies for the role: The tech industry is always evolving—so this is about identifying talent within an ever-moving target. You’ve got core frameworks—but as new development technologies come along, it’s important to find devs who can master them. When you’re looking for very specific technological abilities in an ever-changing technological world, you need to look for people that may not necessarily have the skills now but can evolve. So focus on the core development skills needed for the role—what is the essential bedrock of the role?
  • Look beyond the brand names: The best developers living outside of the coastal tech hubs aren’t necessarily going to have the most renowned tech company names on their resumes. Look for significant experience in other big organizations, such as government or hospitals. It’s the experience level that counts the most. 
  • Find the agile stars: If you hire a solid developer, they’ll have the aptitude to learn new languages. You may find a .net developer that can develop on all three tiers but doesn't yet have a speciality, yet they are interested in doing more frontend development work. Your core team in your headquarters will be able to mentor this rising star. 
  • Hire in clusters: If you do find the perfect developer but aren’t able to find enough of them, consider hiring a few people around that person. Make sure they’re solid developers, but allow the lead developer to teach and mentor them as they collaborate on projects. This works particularly well with an agile methodology with daily standups, where teams get together in real-time to collaborate. 
  • Tap into networks: The best hires often have talented friends, so as well as advertising for the role through the normal channels, build a referral program with your staff—with a bonus for those who recommend someone who stays with the company for a set amount of time.  

There are tremendous benefits to building a remote team to work alongside your core team in your headquarters. The costs are lower, which you can pass onto your client. You’re less likely to lose that employee to countless other offers, by virtue of their being outside the bigger cities.  

But the benefits also nourish the entire tech ecosystem. You’re giving opportunities and training to people across the geography of the U.S, chiseling away those massive inequalities. You’re helping to recruit rising stars in less developed ecosystems, and by building remote teams around those individuals, you’re spreading their knowledge to more and more communities across the country. 

Learn more about how to tap into the talents of agile software engineering teams in the American Heartland in our free ebook, Accelerated Innovation

Creative Commons image by Max Klingensmith

 heartland, nearshoring, recruiting