While there are common elements to building and retaining a team regardless of experience level, there are some unique considerations involved in recruiting and retaining your experienced team members. Here are some tips for recruiting and keeping your high value, senior engineering talent:
1. It’s Your First Level Network
An individual’s personal network is not a thing that is built overnight. It represents the value of your relationship with people over a period of years or even decades. This is immeasurably more useful than old-school recruiting methods using agencies or open job postings. When you have worked with someone in the past, you know their technical job knowledge, for sure. However, you also know about the other aspects of job performance which can be critical for a fit with current needs.
How do they respond under high pressure? Are they able to collaborate with their peers in a productive way? Do they meet their commitments? Are they creative? How do they impact the morale of the team around them? You can probe and prod such questions on an interview but nothing beats prior working experience with the individual.
And, if you as their previous manager or co-worker left a good reputation in your wake, they will be more likely to take an opportunity with your current firm.
2. It’s Your Second Level Network & Beyond
Once you have leveraged your first tier network relationships, the next step is to ask your best players to help work their networks. Almost universally, your best players will only want to refer in other staff members who they think have the “right stuff” to fit in. After all, if they are hired, it’s likely they will be working together. Nobody wants to have a team where they cannot count on their teammates to carry their share of the load.
Even folks in your network who are not part of your team can provide referrals. If you have built good first tier relationships, you know you can have reasonable confidence on a referral from them.
After reaching out to all the first and second tier resources, the next step is expanding your sphere. We often use LinkedIn to target specific companies where we suspect the right kind of individuals may be working. Then, we look to see if we have any first or second tier relationships we can leverage for help with an introduction to a potential target candidate.
Another technique to expand the network is via extra-curricular activities. Attending conferences, meetups, university relationship are all good ways of getting to know more people in an informal, easy-to-reach format. Through this kind of outreach, you can expand your first and second tier relationships.
3. Let Some Team Members Stay Where They Are
What is more important when it comes to a top level person you want to bring aboard: their location or their competence? It is not necessary for everyone to be in the same office every day. There are lots of ways to build a strong team of engineers where some of the individuals are not