Want to Find Stellar Software Engineers in the Midwest? Here’s How

Opinion

It may seem obvious that companies in the Midwest face challenges attracting and retaining talent, given our weather and location far from the coasts. One need only to look at college football recruiting, after all, to see how the average annual snowfall on campus matters almost as much as last season’s win/loss record.

To some around the country, it probably didn’t come as a surprise that Amazon cited concerns over a lack of available workforce talent in its decision to pass on Detroit for the company’s new headquarters, or HQ2. But others who live and work in the Detroit metro area consider this perception of the region to be outdated, if not completely off base. In fact, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, backed Detroit as a viable option and later suggested that Amazon’s decision had more to do with the region’s reputation than an actual lack of positive qualities. According to Gilbert, there is, in fact, no shortage of tech talent here at all.

Consider, then, the reported  “mass exodus” from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and trends showing that talented tech specialists around the country are looking for alternatives to the places we’ve historically considered the epicenters of technology and creativity. They’re making career decisions that take cost, convenience, and congestion into consideration, and they’re looking for creative new alternatives.

Here are a few ways to steer them to Detroit’s door:

Think about geography

Just as it’s increasingly clear that it may not be necessary to base your tech company on one of the coasts, it also may not be necessary to plant it in the heart of an urban center to accommodate the majority of your available talent pool. In fact, renting  office space in a trendy neighborhood or town outside of a city’s core gives employees more flexibility over where they live. They can reduce their commute time and opens road space for others who enjoy “reverse rush hour” trips into the city to live or play after work.

Set yourself apart

Standing out as “different” in your posted job descriptions is critical. Whether you’re emphasizing your unique company culture (ours “celebrates failure”), an emphasis on work/life balance (unlimited vacation, anyone?), or a chance to make a visible and significant contribution to the eventual success of the team, marketing is as important to selling your company in a job listing as it is to selling the products or services you offer your clients.

Give candidates excuses to stay or return

At Tome, we’ve found great candidates by mining coding bootcamps and getting involved with local university programs that connect students with companies. For entry-level candidates, a desire to utilize and explore the attractive, cutting-edge technologies we use every day may be particularly important. For senior-level candidates that may be returning to the area after years away, we may offer an opportunity to continue down a career path with a lower cost of living, or a chance to live closer to family members.

Offering opportunities to stay or return to the Midwest, making smart and strategic decisions about where to hang your office shingle, and marketing your open jobs by spotlighting your company’s distinguishing characteristics lets software applicants that are already local, or may be looking for a change of scenery, find their own fit within your organization. Remember, they’re looking for smart ways to grow their own careers but finding good prospects will greatly enhance the collective skills of your team.

Phil Danne is the Director of Engineering at Tome Software. Follow @

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