Attracting tech talent today is a challenging, costly business, especially for entrepreneurs who may be big on ambition but low on money.
Although the tech industry is undergoing a turbulent period, with massive layoffs at industry giants such as Meta and Twitter, that doesn’t necessarily mean Wisconsin tech startups will reap the labor-market rewards.
“Discoverability is huge,” said Keith Fuller, whose firm All About EX aims to improve the employee experiences for fast-moving tech startups. “If I find myself unemployed from Meta, then how do I find a place such as yours?”
Fuller and other panelists spoke on the issue at the Wisconsin Technology Council’s Early Stage Symposium in Madison last week.
Fuller suggested that 8 of every 10 tech job listings fail to answer fundamental questions about the job. They’re often not clear on whether the job is remote, what salary is being offered and who the boss is.
“Tell me why you need the job filled. What’s the business purpose?” he said, adding that the postings should also include five bullet points that tell applicants how they can know they’re successful at the job if they’re hired. “If you can do those things, you’re in the top 25% of job postings immediately.”
He also advised being honest about the nature of the job, both with applicants and current employees.
“They want clarity,” Fuller said. “If you’re a meat grinder, tell them that. Maybe I want the upside of enormous stock options and I don’t care that you’re hiring me to work 100 hours a day. … But if you’re a company that actually wants people to survive into middle age, then put some things in there to that effect.”
Rosalinda Fowlkes, chief talent connector at Colorful Connections, said her Milwaukee-based diversity recruiting firm has had success recruiting with simple approaches such as Craigslist ads, free ads in Facebook groups, and Slack groups.
Once the resumes roll in, filtering them is always a challenge.
“We use a site that’s called TestGorilla,” she said. “You can test the candidate during your application process. …You can make written questions, you can do code, sometimes you can even assign a GitHub, go into the community and say, ‘Hey, I have this problem, can you give me a solution?’ ”
At Headway, a Green Bay–based digital product studio, CEO Andrew Verboncouer says that in addition to tech tests, the company takes a personal approach on potential hires.
“We’ll do a full day of paid exercises alongside our team, check-ins just like you would on a normal client day and make sure that it’s a mutual fit,” Verboncouer said. “The worst thing that can happen is you make the investment to bring someone in, get them onboarded, and two months later they go, ‘Well, it’s not really what I thought.’ It’s really about alignment.”
Applicants there have interviews with company leadership and with their prospective teams to ensure they are a good fit for the job, he said.
Another hiring route involves taking on paid student interns. Fuller said he has some clients who have had “phenomenal success” bringing in talented university or even high-school students.
“There are folks who come out of high school able to put up apps on the App Store by themselves,” Fuller said. “Don’t undersell folks because they don’t have undergraduate degrees.”
Verboncouer also advised startups to avoid rushing into making hires and building software before they test their business concepts from customer-facing and design standpoints.
“You don’t need developers to launch your startup,” he said. “If you hire too early, you could blow all your cash. … If you do it manually, you get yourself more adept, you get to work with customers, learn from them and get more feedback quickly versus going into scalable dev code right away.”