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Strategies for Finding Tech Talent to Drive Startup Success

Attracting tech talent today is a difficult and expensive business, especially for entrepreneurs who may be ambitious but cash-strapped.

Although the tech industry is going through turbulent times, with massive layoffs at industry giants such as Meta and Twitter, that doesn’t necessarily mean Wisconsin tech startups will reap the rewards in the job market.

“Discoverability is huge,” said Keith Fuller, whose company Everything about EX aims to improve the employee experience for fast-moving tech startups. “If I find myself unemployed in Meta, then how can I find a place like yours?”

Fuller and other panelists spoke on the issue during the Wisconsin Technology Council Early Stage Symposium in Madison last week.

Fuller suggested that 8 out of 10 tech job listings don’t answer basic questions about the job. They often don’t know if the job is remote, what salary is offered and who is the boss.

“Tell me why you need the position filled. What is the business objective? he said, adding that postings should also include five bullet points telling applicants how they can know they’re doing well on the job if they’re hired. “If you can do these things, you’re immediately in the top 25% of job openings.”

He also advised being honest about the nature of the job, both with applicants and current employees.

“They want clarity,” Fuller said. “If you’re a meat grinder, tell them. Maybe I want the benefit of huge stock options and I don’t care if you hire me to work 100 hours a day. … But if you’re a company that really wants people to survive into middle age, then put things in there to that effect.

Rosalinda Fowlkes, Head of Talent Recruitment at Colored connectionssaid his Milwaukee-based diversity recruiting firm had success recruiting with simple approaches such as Craigslist ads, free ads in Facebook groups and Slack groups.

Once the CVs arrive, filtering them is always a challenge.

“We use a site called TestGorilla,” she said. “You can test the candidate during your application process. … You can do written questions, you can do code, sometimes you can even assign a GitHub, go to the community and say, “Hey, I have this problem, can you give me a solution? ”

To Progressa Green Bay-based digital products studio, CEO Andrew Verboncouer says that in addition to technical testing, the company takes a personal approach to potential hires.

“We’ll do a full day of paid drills alongside our team, check-ins like you would on a normal client day and make sure it’s a mutual fit,” Verboncouer said. “The worst thing that can happen is you invest in bringing someone in, you bring them in, and two months later they’re like, ‘Well, that’s not really what I’m thought. It’s really a matter of alignment.

Candidates are interviewed there with company management and their potential teams to ensure they are a good fit for the role, he said.

Another avenue of hiring is to hire paid student interns. Fuller said he had clients who had “phenomenal success” bringing in talented college or even high school students.

“There are people coming out of high school who can put apps on the App Store on their own,” Fuller said. “Don’t underestimate people because they don’t have an undergraduate degree.”

Verboncouer also advised startups to avoid rushing to recruit and build software before testing their business concepts from a design and customer relationship perspective.

“You don’t need developers to launch your startup,” he said. “If you hire too early, you could waste all your money. …if you do it manually, you become more adept, you work with customers, learn from them, and get more feedback quickly instead of immediately jumping to rolling development code.

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