How to Find the Right Talent For Your Startup

by Ken Weiner
August 19, 2015

Los Angeles has always been a hub for creativity and innovation. Recently, it has seen a boom in entrepreneurial spirit as more and more startups take root here. Many LA-based startups, however, are facing a unique challenge: acquiring the right college-grad engineering talent.


With so many competitive institutions of higher learning in the area, recruiting talent fresh out of school may seem like a relatively simple task, especially for tech companies who have the funding to pay competitive wages. However, more and more LA startups are finding it difficult to bring in bright engineers who’ve recently graduated. There are a few pretty big reasons for this, some that seem obvious and others that may not be as well known.


The Bay: The Bane of LA

In Mike Judge’s satirical HBO show, Silicon Valley is referred to as “the cradle of innovation.” While that title is obviously meant to poke fun at how Silicon Valley is viewed, it demonstrates a very valid point, which is that Silicon Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area in general, is perceived as the tech powerhouse. Engineer graduates from around the country look to San Francisco as the place to pursue their tech careers, and the ones from LA’s finest schools are recruited there en masse.


College Grads Want To Go Big

There have been a lot of headlines in the past few years about how more and more young people are going to startups instead of big corporations. While it’s certainly true that there is a much greater percentage of graduates choosing startups over bigger companies, many, especially in the engineering field, still prefer to start their careers with a big-name business. To them, a big name isn’t just job security and reliable benefits, it’s a big resume booster. Many graduates figure that it will be easier for them to get their dream job down the line if they have Google, Facebook or Oracle on their resumes.


Planning Ahead

In addition to college grads wanting to pad their resumes with big-names, larger companies have the resources to craft a path for them very early in their careers. Google usually offers summer intern positions in the fall, so for the entirety of that year, those interns have Google on the brain. This leads them to research things like the company’s culture, benefits, overall working environment and makes the idea of pursuing a full-time job there much more appealing. Startups, usually due to budget and planning constraints, usually only hire interns when the need arises.


So, now that we know some of the major problems LA-based startups face in recruiting promising engineering talent, lets look at what can be done to solve them.


The Key Ingredient Is Recruiting

Any engineer can tell you that recruiters are a daily part of their lives. In today’s technology-heavy world, the need for engineers is--literally--in any and every location. Therefore, recruiters are constantly reaching out to them regardless of employment status. This means that, by the time an engineering student has graduated, they will already have a line of corporate suitors waiting for them. To get ahead of this, startups need to recruit early. They need to head over to college fairs and nurture relationships with qualified students.


Be Fair To The Fairs

A big source of recruiting is at college career fairs, which is unfortunately a big area where LA startups are lacking a presence. Even startup-centric career fairs in LA are sparsely attended. You can’t expect top college grads to stay in the city when the companies there don’t seem to be interested in them. You don’t need big booths with lots of swag to give away, you just need representatives there to show college students and recent grads why your startup is a great place to be. Demonstrate the passion that is driving the employees that are there and you’ll have a much easier time getting them on board.


No Experience? No Problem!

There is this idea floating around many college campuses that in order to get hired at a good job, you need a resume as long as Santa’s naughty list. Here at GumGum, we’ve actually found more success in bringing in people with less experience than ones who’ve been around the block. With a lack of experience comes an eagerness to learn and intake knowledge. Professionals with more experience tend to be more resistant to adapting to new workflows or techniques, which can be problematic if your startup is looking to innovate whatever space you’re in. By letting potential candidates know that experience isn’t as important as passion, skill and willingness to learn, you greatly increase the chance that they will join your team and work that much harder to prove themselves.


Send In The Interns!

Engineering interns can be an extremely valuable resource to a startup not just for the work they do, but for building relationships with promising young talent early on. By bringing in some passionate interns from local colleges, you can show them what your startup is all about and how rewarding their work could be, inspiring a loyalty that will not only get them to stay in LA, but also apply their passion and dedication to sharing your startup’s vision.


It’s up to us to show the engineers of tomorrow that LA is a powerhouse on its own. If we can show them what brought us here, they’ll see just how much innovation they can really be a part of.


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