Finding 10X Engineers is Easy

At Originate, we have worked really hard to build a world-class team of software talent spanning product, design, engineering, and strategy. As the person primarily in charge of recruiting and hiring at Originate, I’m often asked, “The market is so tough right now!  How do you find great engineers?”

My initial response is always “Finding great engineers is easy.  Finding them at the right time and hiring them is the challenge.”

While I agree with A16Z’s assertion that “we are rapidly hurtling towards a world with a software foundation”, we are not yet close to just snapping Lego’s together. The market is absolutely as tight and candidate driven as I’ve ever seen in over 15 years of recruiting software professionals. However, we live in a time when information is pervasive and everyone has access to everyone.

Finding elite level engineers is pretty simple:

  1. Go to, type in your favorite company that is known for great engineering (Google, Twitter, Facebook et al.)
  2. Do a quick sub-search for your favorite school (MIT, Stanford, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon)
  3. BAM, you’ve just found at least 100 awesome engineers.  Simple, right?  Now what?

Do you send an inMail, find their blog and comment on their latest Scala, iOS, or scalability article?  Do you find alternate contact info, GitHub, Twitter, AngelList?  Do you stalk them on Meetup and find out which Android group they are speaking at next week?

The answer to most of those questions is “maybe, but probably not.”  You will spend a ton of time sending well-crafted notes through different social media platforms and after 6 months of dutiful message sending, you’ll realize that you have interviewed perhaps 20-30 people who are mostly perfectly satisfied with their current positions and you’d need to offer them an unsustainable amount to even get their attention.  Sure, you’ll hire one or two people, but that’s a lot of effort for limited results.  People who fit the “awesome school and awesome company” criteria (AKA perfect on paper) are the easiest people for every recruiter in the world to find.  Their inboxes are so full of inMails and cold emails to their Github account that they stop even looking at them.

“If I can’t find and contact elite-level engineers through “normal” social channels, then how do I build my engineering team?  I have funding in the bank and no one to write any code!”

The key to recruiting is actually quite simple.  It’s human connections and relationships.

Allow that to sink in for a minute.  

All the technical and social tools at our disposal and the constant barrage of information we face every day can never replace face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication.  This form of communication hasn’t really changed since the famous words, “Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

All software engineers who are incredible at what they do can literally do what they do anywhere.  They will never be unemployed (for long).  Where they work and who they work with is 100% on their terms.  It’s all about people, relationships, culture and team.

No, it’s not tricky and it’s not super-sexy.  There are no silver bullets.  It takes time, effort, and dedication to build and foster real relationships with people.  

Many people think recruiting is a black box and if they only understood how to find people, they’d be great at recruiting.  Many executives and hiring managers think recruiters have this magical ability to locate and dig up great candidates.  Sure, we have a few tricks up our sleeves, but sourcing and locating the right person is way less important than most people realize.

The most critical component to hiring incredible people is an organization focused on authentic relationships built on mutual respect, transparency, honesty, and trust.  

If you can successfully build that type of organization and foster that type of culture, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to attract like-minded people.  Internal referrals will flow, awesome people will find you through social channels, the candidate funnel will turn the other direction, and the timing will always be right.

As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.”  

At Originate, we set out from the very beginning to build the ideal place for brilliant, entrepreneurial-minded people to congregate and work together to solve difficult problems.  We had a pretty good feeling that if we built a “Field of Dreams”, we’d do alright on the recruiting front.

Once you’ve built that, then we can talk about some of those tricks up the sleeve!

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