In San Francisco? Choose your Hiring Strategy

Full employment is upon us and being felt more acutely in some places than others. In San Francisco, where I've been a Head of Talent at a half dozen seed to growth stage companies, commonly companies don't know what to do. How do you hire and win talent in this environment?

Well, you already know this answer; its the same answer you came to to start the business in the first place: You must have a strategy for communicating value and winning deals. Just like on your revenue side.

To win talent in this environment you must have a Talent go-to-market strategy. From what I can tell, in San Francisco, especially when hiring engineers, you are limited to three options:

  1. Pay absurdly well
  2. Hire folks remotely
  3. Hire and train junior folks

Back in the day, you could get away without really doing any of these, but right now; you must pick one and, to be honest, the big guys (Airbnb, Uber, etc) are already doing all three.

Pay absurdly well: I'm sorry to say, the .5% equity grant isn't going to work here. Public companies are offering million dollar RSU grants and those are pretty much money in the bank. As a small company of startup, you need to at least come in at the same base level as the bigger companies. If you are taking this strategy and you are preparing an offer: Think of the highest most reasonable salary you can and then add on $50k. That's the game right now.

Hire folks remotely: With Slack and Zoom drastically improving the remote employee experience, this has been the most accessible strategy to startups. Its rare to find a company that is 100% in San Francisco and most of those companies are entertaining Terminal to build a Canadian office or are developing truly decentralized teams spread across the US. If you are small, I recommend you take this approach early. Build the right processes and team from the start. It will be your super power.

Hire and train junior folks: This is a hard strategy for a small company to execute on. Without outside help, hiring junior folks requires a lot of time from your senior engineers, bringing development to a stand still. If you have a simple, consumer facing product than this could work. In the future, companies like Modern Labor, may be able to help close the gap here, by providing rigorous, relevant training on demand to teams hiring junior folks, but today, unless you have a team of eager educators, this is unlikely to be a great strategy.

And that's pretty much it. Oh, there is one other thing: Mission. Sometimes if you have a very compelling mission, either doing good (think Kiva) or doing really cool things (think SpaceX) than that can sometimes carry you through to your hiring goals. if you have such a Mission, make sure to operationalize it during the hiring process to maximize the effect.

It's a tough market. Make sure you know what your strategy is before you end up with a bunch of declined offers.

Trent Krupp

Founded Threaded: The personal rolodex built from your existing data. Previously, Head of Product at Impact, a market network serving the entertainment industry as well as Head of Revenue at Triplebyte and Hired. Founded an agency in my 20's, sold it to Hired and became employee 5. Recruited for VCs, growth and public companies. Helped the founders of recruitment tech startups, Trusted Health, Terminal and Beacon in the early days.