If staffing up with recruiters is not an option, how else does a brand attract San Francisco area engineering talent?

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If staffing up with recruiters is not an option, how else does a brand attract San Francisco area engineering talent?

Creative ways to recruit top engineering talent in competitive areas include social media campaigns that show company's culture or mission, engaging candidates with challenges, and creating educational programs. Companies can also organize or attend tech events, and involve employed engineers in the recruiting process to better understand what potential hires may be seeking. Additionally, MuleSoft installed billboards with their engineers as superheroes at the Caltrain station in San Francisco and involved them in the launch of the campaign, which resulted in the 66% increase in engineering applications.


I identified the most creative ways to attract engineering talent by reviewing a plethora of articles on the subject in tech and recruiting media and choosing those that were repeated multiple times and/or labelled as especially innovate, creative, and effective. I looked both into overviews of methods to recruit engineers and articles describing a specific case. Please note that I focused as much as possible on examples from the San Francisco area. However, I also included companies that are outside SF and methods that weren't specific to any geography, as there weren't enough examples available. I prioritized those from competitive areas.


Engineers themselves admit that they are attracted by challenges and problems to solve. It can be used in the recruiting process as a tool to make a potential hire interested in applying for a job in a particular company.

The method was used by Neil Pomerleau, the senior software engineer at LinkedIn. He created a regex puzzle to attract engineering talent to the San Francisco Bay Area-based company. According to him, it was a huge success, with more than 5,000 visitors and hundreds of participants in less than a week. Engineers who decided to apply for a job were from different backgrounds, including web, mobile, data, and apps.

Also, Apple (in 2017) and Google (in 2015) both hid tasks for engineers on their websites, instead of posting job openings on career pages. Those who managed to solve it were invited to the later stages of the recruiting process.


As attracting engineering talent gets increasingly challenging, companies become more willing to train potential hires who are fresh out of school or even work on developing talents at earlier stages of education. Growing startups can utilize this tactic by partnering with universities. According to Josh Garber, Head of Talent Acquisition at New York-based NewsCred, the best way to interest candidates is to involve engineers and allow students to meet with them.

Larger companies can create their own programs to attract and train candidates. For example, JP Morgan Chase's "Tech Connect" was an undergraduate program for people with nontraditional programs, who were interested in tech careers. The company had the resources to provide candidates with specialized training, coaching from business leaders, and networking opportunities.


According to RecruiterBox, tech events are among the best ways to recruit tech talent in competitive areas. Please also note that the same article notes that San Francisco is one of the most competitive places for hiring software engineers, which confirms that tips are relevant there. RecruiterBox thinks that hackathons, workshops, Meetup Groups, and other kinds of social events are great for establishing company's presence in the local tech community.

Depending on resources, companies can either participate in the events or organize them. The most aggressive approach is organizing tech events and revealing the intention of recruiting from the start. Such events were held by PayPal and Spotify. Interestingly, Spotify's "Diversify" aimed to attract more women than most tech events, which resulted in 43% female and 57% male participant ratio. Please note that those events were tech, but not for engineers exclusively. I didn't find similar ones for this field only in the industry media.


While this method only appeared in one article, I decided to include it, because it's San Francisco-specific and the source mentions the results of the campaign. MuleSoft decided to get the attention of sales and engineering talent in the area with a bold offline campaign. They installed billboards with their salespeople and engineers as superheroes. Additionally, members of the recruiting team and the company's mascot distributed comic books on the launch day, with a $5,000 referral reward advertisement on the back cover.

The article mentions the first results of the campaign. There was a 20% increase in the traffic to the career page on the company's website and a 66% rise in software engineering applications.


Multiple sources note that creative social media campaigns are a great method to attract engineering/tech talent. They are a great way to interest millennials, especially if they focus on the company's mission or culture. Both of those are among the top reasons why tech people may choose one job offer over another. According to Huffington Post, the example of Facebook's strategy shows that recruitment marketing should be treated like product marketing.

IBM created a video campaign, in which twenty-something employees talked about their workplace. GE utilized the same medium to attract engineers by talking about its vision to bring healthcare remote and help people who don't have access to it. GE also created a Snapchat campaign to bring young tech talent. Their "Owen" series tells the story of a fictional employee Owen, who's just started working at GE.


Some companies decide to involve engineers in the recruiting process, especially in designing the most effective recruiting strategy. For example, VEON invites them to strategic meetings, believing that they know best what talented tech people could be seeking.

Also, according to Clint Boulton from CIO, GE is "winning the war for tech talent" partially because their talent acquisition team includes engineers. They not only designed an interesting recruiting process, which involves solving challenges but also added bonuses and equity to compensation packages. As seen above, LinkedIn's engineers also actively participate in recruitment.


In conclusion, companies can attract engineering talent in competitive areas by including challenges in the recruiting process, launching creative social media campaigns, partnering with universities, and creating educational programs. Organizing tech events or participating in them is another useful method, along with offline campaigns, such as the 2016 talent campaign by San Francisco-based MuleSoft. Also, some companies involve engineers in the recruiting process to better understand the needs of potential hires.