Attracting and selecting the right talent is critical to a company’s success. For tech companies, the process is even more critical because it’s the knowledge, skills, and abilities of their employees that determines these companies’ efficiency, innovation, and, ultimately, financial achievements.121 So, how do companies like Google and Facebook, and even IBM and Microsoft, attract the talent they need? As you’ll see, these companies use some unique approaches.
Beware the PURPLE SQUIRREL!
Modis, a global provider of IT staffing and recruiting, has an interesting philosophy about searching for talented tech types. As pressure has mounted on businesses to find qualified employees, the search for the “perfect” candidate has become increasingly competitive. This company calls its search for the perfect candidate “the quest for the ‘purple squirrel.’” Sometimes you just have to realize that, like the purple squirrel, the “perfect” candidate isn’t available or doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try to find the best available talent.
How do some of the big tech names spot talent?
For “mature” tech companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard (H-P), the challenge can be especially difficult since they don’t have the allure of startups or the younger, “sexier” tech companies. So these businesses have to really step up their game. Take IBM, for instance. After its Watson computer beat two former Jeopardy champions in a televised match, the company hauled the machine to Carnegie Mellon, a top school, where students got a chance to challenge the computer. IBM’s goal: lure some of those students to consider a career at IBM. HP is using the pizza party/tech talk approach at various schools, trying to lure younger students before other tech companies and startups snatch them away. Microsoft, which was once one of those startups, has sent alumni back to schools to promote why Microsoft is a great place to take their talents. And it also hosts game nights, final-exam study parties, app-building sessions, and other events to try to lure students.
For companies like Facebook and Google, the search for talent is still challenging because of the increasing demand for and limited supply of potential employees. So even these companies have to be creative in spotting talent. Google, for instance, found that it had been looking at résumés too narrowly by focusing (as expected) on education, GPA, and even SAT scores, trying to find those candidates with the highest IQs. But it found that some of those so-called geniuses weren’t as effective on the job as expected. So, it started looking at résumés differently. Rather than looking at résumés starting at the top and reading to the bottom, it began to look from the bottom-up, trying to find some rare, special attribute that set an applicant apart as a unique talent. Facebook found that old-fashioned hiring channels weren’t getting the talent it needed fast enough. So it tried online puzzles and programming challenges to attract and spot talent. It was an easy, fast, and cheap approach to get submissions from potential candidates. Despite these unique approaches, it’s also true that younger tech companies, like these and many others, have a built-in appeal for candidates primarily because they’re what’s “in” and what’s “hot” right now. Also, in many of the younger tech companies, there’s no entrenched bureaucracy or cultural restrictions. If an employee wants to come to work in cargo shorts, T-shirts, and flip-flops, they do. In fact, what attracts many talented employees to companies like these is the fact that they can set their own hours, bring their pets to work, have access to free food and drinks, and a variety of other perks.
1.What does the Spotting Talent case imply about the supply and demand for employees, and what implications does that have for businesses?
2.What’s the meaning behind the search for the “purple squirrel” in relation to spotting talent? Is this relevant to non-tech companies as well? Discuss.
3.What do you think of the recruiting approaches that Google & Facebook have tried?