Want To Successfully Recruit For Your Startup In 2013? Focus On Developers, Data And Big Problems

Editor’s note: Dan Portillo joined Greylock Partners as vice president of Talent in 2011. John Schmocker is on the Greylock Talent team and works closely with portfolio companies to help them build out their core engineering teams.

Talent makes or breaks a company, particularly a new one that’s just finding its feet. Landing the right engineer on your team can make all the difference; likewise, missing out on the UI/UX talent you need can be devastating.

Finding, attracting, and retaining top talent is at the top of the to-do list for any ambitious startup. Building your team is an essential pillar of building your company, and it often requires expertise that’s outside the comfort zone of a founding team. It’s essential for startups to find help where they need it: identifying the right talent and great sources of talent (not just candidates, but also recruiters and recruiting agencies), implementing and managing the recruiting process, selling and closing great candidates and on-boarding them effectively.

The Core Talent team at Greylock focuses on technical talent for our portfolio companies. We focus on introducing great talent to the portfolio and help to create strong recruiting machines inside those companies. We continuously interact with the talent marketplace – what companies are looking for, as well as what’s most appealing to the strongest candidates. Below are a few trends we anticipate for 2013, but keep in mind that the dynamics are constantly in flux, especially in technical arenas.

1) High-Demand Skills

The skills in highest demand in 2013 are those from developers with expertise in fast-growing platforms and environments, including: iOS, Android, Scala, Node.js and full-stack Python developers with experience building applications that scale well.

In enterprise environments, it can be especially difficult to find engineers that love deep technical challenges. For consumer applications, look for candidates adept at a high velocity iteration of code.

2) Roles To Fill

Some of the toughest roles to fill will be those that didn’t really exist a year or two ago. These roles include:

  • Big-data analysts and developers who can build appropriate data infrastructure and algorithms that efficiently analyze and leverage that data
  • Growth hackers or growth engineers that can drive viral features within a product (which is increasingly becoming just as important in the enterprise as it is in the consumer market)
  • UI developers who know how to design and code for enterprise environments

Not only are experienced candidates tough to find, but it may be difficult to assess the candidates you do find. Even the best candidates won’t have as deep a track record in these areas as you’re accustomed to since they won’t have been at it for very long.

3) Quantitative Analysis

A knack for quantitative analysis may once have been a plus in roles outside the engineering team (such as marketing and communications), but in 2013 most, if not all, functions will require quantitative skills. Introducing quantitative skills into functions that currently don’t focus there is a major challenge. It takes time and requires some creativity. Kickstart a new quantitative function with stars from other areas in the company. Get your data scientist to introduce candidates and interview other candidates. Don’t underestimate the challenge.

4) What Makes You A Draw?

What will make you a compelling draw for top talent? Here are some attributes that we see the best talent drawn to:

  • Small (10 people or fewer) companies with compelling founders and executives
  • Interesting and well-articulated engineering challenges 
  • The opportunity to make an impact – the sooner the better
  • A demonstrably compatible culture and organizational mission
  • A convenient and desirable location
5) Entice Your Recruits

You can’t be sure the prospects you want will accept your offer, but you can boost the odds by bringing your A-game, and the right mindset, to the recruiting process. Don’t forget: You’re selling every prospect on your company just as much as they’re marketing themselves to you. Are you grilling them on their past accomplishments before you’ve got them gung-ho at the prospect of working for your company – and for you?

Here’s one more tip for your 2013 recruiting strategy: Stay on top of the recruiting landscape. The most effective strategies and the crucial insights are a constantly moving target. After all, last year’s recruiting strategy and tactics are … well, so last year.