For startups & game companies, it IS a war.
One fought with stock and salaries, massages and medical plans.
At an event in San Francisco last week, chat swung from banter to business when one of the group started an eager pitch to another, a talented game dev. The rest of us slunk away like friends leaving a flirting pair in privacy.
Back in Hong Kong it’s less crazy, but demand for quality talent still exceeds supply.
So how to compete?
Earlier we tried hiring an engineer position the time efficient (ahem…lazy) way - throwing up a vanilla job ad and waiting for CVs to roll in. We only received 8, none up to our standards.
Now with several positions to fill, fast, we resolved to do much more this time around.
Here are 10 tactics we used:
1. A fun referral program
We decided to slipstream off the recent Retina Macbook Pro launch by offering a new Retina iPad as thanks. It seemed to work, with several folks getting in touch and introducing their friends. We even had a random person coming to the office to drop a CV which was a first for us.
2. A personal email blast
To help spread the word, we pulled together a mass email to friends and connections we’d met. We started with a large list, filtering out those outside of Hong Kong (exporting from LinkedIn) and culling other game companies (no bad karma).
Whilst I couldn’t track open or click rates as I decided to use casual plaintext, the number of people who replied was over 15. So for a cost of around $5 it was a good investment.
3. Promote the jobs in-game
Having gained a nice global audience including Hong Kong, we decided to reach out in-game. We have a dynamic welcome message that can be displayed on loading, and we coded it to display the referral program and contact email for those playing from Hong Kong. Sadly it was hard to tell the impact. In hindsight I should have put the call to action as a different address eg- firstname.lastname@example.org to track the impact (note to self for next time).
4. Host and speak at events
One thing we’re doing more of in the last few months is having the team host and speak at more industry events (like one held together with Unity3d at Cyberport). It’s good for the crew to hear from others and share our own learnings, and spread the word.
5. Targeted Facebook ads
Whilst the cost of posting a job on LinkedIn and Monster (not to mention a recruiter) would have been high, we found it more cost effective to do a targeted Facebook run. Of course the beauty of Facebook ads is the ability to hyper target based on location, demographics and interests. It’s something we’ve used a lot for different purposes in the past. Whilst the CTR is low as expected, having it in front of lots of relevant eyeballs helps in background brand building.
6. Give the company a face
A big draw for working at a startup is collaborating with a fun, smart team, unbound (hopefully!) from bureaucracy. A recent post intro’d the awesome new folks joining the Frenzoo family and gave a sense of the vibe. This got good buzz out in the community…
7. Participate in Hackathons and Startup Contests
For programmers hands on events like hackjams and startups weekends are just a whole lot of fun and great chance to meet kindred spirits. Two of our team recently entered and won a Facebook hack day in Hong Kong. Working with an award winning team is one extra draw for potential recruits, and something we now highlight. How much does it help? Who knows but sure can’t hurt…
8. Get press
How to get press coverage? That’s another post which luckily my friends at Buffer have written. You don’t need a million users to get that - it helps, but frankly not as much as an interesting story angle. Startups almost always have compelling tales and takes, so usually there is a pitch that can get coverage.
In our case we recently got coverage by several great blogs. Doing PR costs less and only takes a few hours of creative thinking (more on that for another day)
9. Look at adjacent segments
If the need is niche and competition fierce, it may be better to look out to adjacent fields and skillsets. One of our shortlist game designer candidates ends up being someone from the fashion industry and she just loves playing all sort of social and mobile games. A reminder it always pays to…
10. …think outside the box!
You may not come up with something that makes the front page of Hacker News and a gazillion page views, but chances are just by making an attempt you’ll end up doing more than the other companies, which is half the battle.
And our result?
Going beyond the usual job ad generated more than 200% more candidates, at approximately 50% extra cost. Whilst it’s hard to isolate the impact of some of the tactics (mostly my bad!), all up it was worthwhile.
We’re able now to fill two of the three open positions. Still have to work hard to fill a final programmer position, but we’re in much better shape.
Lesson learned - when hiring, you usually get what you put in. Getting more creative and trying more things helped turn around our first failed attempt.
ps - for friends reading this in Hong Kong, we’re hiring and giving iPad’s for successful referrals… but you knew that already ;)