Help Wanted: Houston vs. Austin and the Search for the Best IT Talent

12/31/13Follow @shiondev

Last May, we announced that we were moving Datafiniti to Austin. A big reason for our move was the lack of a suitable talent pool from which to hire. There was a lot of skepticism—perhaps surprisingly so—around our reasoning. At the time, we provided what I thought was a healthy dose of data to back up our belief that the move to Austin would help us out. Now, after eight months, I can provide a full breakdown of how our move to Austin has benefitted our hiring process.

Datafiniti You can see (pictured, left) a conversion funnel for our hiring process. Once a candidate shows interest in Datafiniti, we have five steps to recruit and screen them.

Intro call: A 30- to 45-minute call to tell the candidate a bit about our team and what we do, as well as to learn a few basic things about the person’s experience and personality.

Fizz buzz: A small quiz that tests basic programming concepts.

Coding challenge: A one- to two-day programming challenge that lets us evaluate someone’s coding style and knack for algorithms and data structures.

Interview: An in-person, half-day interview that serves as a deep dive into someone’s technical abilities and cultural fit. We also give the candidate plenty of opportunity to learn as much as possible about Datafiniti. Interviews are two-way streets.

Hiring: If a candidate makes it this far, we’ve extended them an offer. “Failure” here means they did not accept the offer.

Between May and December, we converted 39 interested candidates into three hires. All of this was done without paying for any recruiting services, including job listings.

The main difference between Houston and Austin is a larger, more competitive recruiting environment This is intuitive. There are more developers in Austin, but also more companies trying to hire the same people as we are. Because of this, we found more people that matched the listed skill sets for our job openings, but we saw greater drop-offs through the hiring process as compared to what we experienced in Houston.

In Houston, we separated ourselves from other companies hiring developers by pitching ourselves as offering a unique (for Houston) tech startup environment. That was obviously not unique in Austin, but we found that we still offered a unique, albeit different, environment here. Simply put: we offer people the chance to work with a small team that works on big problems. We’re still around 10 people, but we process billions of data points every day. We also offer developers the opportunity to work with and be exposed to a wide variety of technologies. We use multiple programming languages, databases, and algorithms. Our developers get to touch any or all of these tools if they want. All of that is awesome and exciting to candidates.

We realized that our hiring process was taking longer than we wanted so we looked to streamline the process. Obviously, we wanted to do a sufficiently thorough job of screening people, but we felt that for certain candidates, every step wasn’t necessary. It could even be a hindrance to keeping a candidate engaged. When a candidate had a fairly active public code repository, we sometimes skipped the coding challenge. When a candidate came from a very technical background, we sometimes skipped the fizz buzz. We always made sure to test these same concepts during the in-person interview, so we never “degraded” the comprehensiveness of our screening. We just made it faster when we could.

Hiring in Austin is harder than it is in Houston. It’s also more rewarding. We learned a lot about what made us unique. We evolved as a team and everyone learned how to be better recruiters. Most importantly, we’ve constructed a team that will help us serve our customers and grow our business better than we ever have before.

By the way, if you’re interested in finding out more about what makes working with us so awesome, check out our latest job postings and contact us if you feel like you’d fit in.

Shion Deysarkar is the CEO and founder of Datafiniti, the search engine for data. Follow @shiondev

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