Know Your Competition When Hiring

Know Your Competition When Hiring

Hiring software engineers hasn’t gotten any easier or cheaper since I posted this in June, 2015. I’ve always been interested in the recruiting space, and I continue developing open source tools for job seekers and recruiters at

I was talking to a technology recruiter yesterday and he gave me a couple off the cuff statistics that weren’t particularly shocking, but were telling of the state of hiring right now:

  • There are roughly 4 open jobs for every developer in the city of Chicago
  • Developers stay an average of less than 3 years at every position they take

This means we’re always hiring, but so is our competition

What this means to me as the hiring manager of our engineering team is that we’re always hiring, and that I have to realize our competition is as well.

But, our competition for selling textbooks at Packback isn’t the same as our competition for hiring developers. Our competition for hiring is every company hiring developers with the same skill-sets we want (which are PHP, Laravel, Javascript, and Angular) in Chicago, but possibly surrounding markets too.

So how do you know your competition?

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Before the time comes that I need to hire someone, I want to know who I’m competing against; who else is looking for the same devs as me; and who else currently employs the developer I’m going to hire.

That’s right, competition means someone loses

As someone who doesn’t particularly like confrontation, I wish it were possible to hire only people who were currently taking a nice three month break between jobs, but the reality is that with 4 jobs to every developer, we’re going to have to steal someone else’s talent.

So knowing your competition means knowing where you can poach talent

I don’t like the word “poach” a lot, but it does accurately describe what we all have to do in the industry. When my company needs to grow, that talent has to come from somewhere, and my best sources are finding devs currently employed by reputable companies where I know they were well-trained but may be lacking something. (Finding out what that “something” is can be tough, but that’s where things like a casual culture, remote work options, or the best pay in the market can come in handy, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)

The truth is though that even if you’re super in-tune with the hiring landscape in your area, hiring in tech right now is tough. I’m not against working with recruiters, especially if you’re a small company, but you do have to keep in mind that they’re going to charge you $15,000 to $50,000 to (theoretically) find you that perfect person. The more you can easily do on your own to know the hiring landscape, the better.

So how do you keep up with who’s hiring in your area? Do you find meetups, online tools, or Linkedin helpful?

PS: I run a free service to help hiring managers and recruiters find out more about who’s hiring in their area. Sign up if you’d like to try it out and let me know what you think.