“Stanford & MIT” Recruiting Fatigue – Here’s What to Do About It

Monday Jan 27, 2014 by Michael Gaiss - Founder, ThinkB1G

It keeps coming up more frequently in conversations with startups, especially ones with a ton of momentum and a track record of success recruiting on campus:

  • “I’m tired of losing another candidate to Google.”
  • “We’ll fight Amazon, Facebook, Google and everybody else. We may get one hire out of it, but we need 20.”

Everyone holds the upper echelon universities in high regard. Sure, it would be great to hire 10 Stanford computer science students this year.

Unfortunately, when it comes to doing this at scale to support growth, supply & demand is not your friend. Too many companies are simply going after way too small a pool of candidates. In entrepreneurial hubs, that pool is reduced even further by a disproportionately higher number of students choosing to start their own company.

Still game? Be prepared to leverage every angle, continually work it, commit to the long term, and send your best. From the early days of Dropbox, Drew Houston made a commitment to recruit from MIT. He still makes several trips a year to recruit on campus. That’s what it takes.

There will still be early stage startups with strong connections that will be able to surgically hire. There will also be bigger ones that will continue to see success, particularly if they’ve amassed a cadre of alumni on their teams that can be brought to bear.

However, it will be the rare few that yield close to the scale needed to justify the level of extended effort. Even if you’re a typical (in these areas) “well-funded by top-tier VCs” startup, good luck. Seriously. It’s that hard.

The reality is that there are incredibly talented students everywhere. Start with top schools outside the entrepreneurial hubs that require more effort to reach (and usually have larger candidate pools to boot). The big incumbents are still there, but startups are not and the intensity levels can be lower. Or try mid-tier universities, where the caliber of top students is often on par with the best. And don’t forget about other hub schools that may not share the same reputation and can be largely overlooked.

A contingent of companies has recognized this and shifted gears. They’ve either learned the hard way or simply have stepped back to thoughtfully evaluate their best options for success going forward.

Increasingly, these companies are redirecting their resources to the alternative options mentioned above. They realize that there’s an opportunity to grab a degree of ball control and that these schools can deliver the level of talent needed to meet their hiring objectives.

So when the topic of tapping great talent right out of university comes up, and the only answer is – “Let’s grab a table at Stanford’s (or MIT’s) next Career Fair.” – take a minute to step back and reconsider. Is this is the smartest approach to bet your company’s future growth on?

Michael Gaiss is the Founder of ThinkB1G.  You can find this post, as well as additional posts on his blog located here.  You can also follow Michael on Twitter (@MichaelGaiss) by clicking here or sign up for the ThinkB1G newsletter here.

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