Kaitlin Pike

Charlie O'DonnellOnly great teams build lasting products and companies. And with a finite number of perfectly suited, talented individuals, businesses must constantly battle to recruit the best: If you’ve been in the web world long, you’re likely intimately familiar with Silicon Valley’s Talent War and similar fights throughout the country.

“For any company, the most important asset you have is your people. Building a great team is the most important ingredient for success,” Charlie O’Donnell of First Round Capital said.

Charlie will speak at Web 2.0 Expo New York this October on how to increase your chances of attracting candidates by using social media and Meetup groups. We recently interviewed him to give us a preview of his talk, and you can read his thoughts below:

Social Media Recruitment Strategy

Blogs and sites such as Twitter, Quora, and Stack Overflow can be used to shed light on aspects of your business prospect recruits may not have known about. “Most PR is about the business itself, not about how the product got built,” he said. Posting about your company’s cool technical projects and dev team can inspire a prospective developer to come work for you.

Birchbox, a beauty supply ecommerce site, is a great example (e.g. team intro post, site redesign post), Charlie said. Not many devs would list working for a beauty company as their dream job, but might change their tune after reading how seriously Birchbox takes its technical projects – and how much fun their team has. Etsy also does this exceptionally well with its Code as Craft blog.

Getting the whole team involved in writing blog posts, tweeting, and answering questions on such sites as Quora is essential to effective recruiting through social media. Having many voices allows prospects to see whom they’ll work with, and if they’ll be a good team fit. Most engineers don’t wake up thinking they’re going to write a blog post that day, Charlie said, and it’s the job of leadership to encourage active involvement through social media.

Silicon Valley's Talent Wars

Meetups as a Way to Find Talent

Attending events is one of the top ways to find great developer talent. Charlie recommends sending your company’s developers to programming language specific meetup groups to mingle with the community. “You have to send one of your Ruby developers to the Ruby Meetup. You can’t be the non-technical founder… If you send a business person, no one wants to talk to them at the meetup.”

Another savvy meetup strategy is simply to start your own group. “If you are a company that manages large amounts of data, then you should be the one running the Big Data Meetup… You should be using it as a platform to reach out to people.”

Well-run meetups on interesting topics can be great relatively cheap PR for companies and puts them in the thick of the community, he said.

How to Get Recruited Using Social Media

Of course, the important inverse question to this discussion is how someone can use social media to get noticed by companies. Charlie said his active blog is one of the reasons First Round hired him. He wrote passionately about the topics they cared about.

If you’re a developer, Charlie said, you can write posts about scaling or code or good instances of development. Thoughtful, interesting posts can help you trump experience in some cases. If you only have two years under your belt, and the job requires five, the manager will likely consider you if you’ve intelligently written something of interest. “If you know something beyond your years, we’re going to bring you in,” he said.

“It’s pretty obvious to see when someone is passionate about an area,” he said. “When you’re talking about user experience in New York, you’re going to think about Whitney Hess…  You visibly see her being passionate about her industry…  If you’re the next great sports fan social media network, then you better keep a sports blog, otherwise I won’t buy it.”

See Charlie speak at Web 2.0 Expo New York by registering now. Use discount code BLG20 to save 20%.


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