SF Startup Takes on Recruiters By Upping Referral Ante

Jun 23, 2014

20k employee referralWith a shot over the bow at recruiters, a Silicon Valley startup looking to hire software engineers — and not just any kind, but those with special experience in search, especially those coming from Google — is offering one of the richest hiring bounties in the industry.

For referring an engineer hired by ThoughtSpot, the company will pay $20,000. The deal is available to anyone working for the company, or not, including “friends of the company” and employees’ family.

“Our thinking was people don’t listen to recruiters,” CEO Ajeet Singh told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But they listen to their friends.”

The very pricey referral fee — richer by a factor of four or five or six over what most others pay — is less than recruiters charge, Singh said.

Vibor Nanhavati, a company team leader explained the rationale to CBS: “What we have found is that a candidate is most likely to trust the word from a friend or a friend of a friend rather than a recruiter.”

“We want the best of the best,” Singh said, adding that the bonus was big enough to attract attention, but less than a headhunter fee.“We thought $20,000 was an interesting enough number that a lot of people might actually refer people to us.”

By no means is this the first such juicy referral bonus. Writing on our sister site,,  Dr. John Sullivan noted a similarly pricey reward for referring a software engineer in a post two years ago. Other companies, desperate to hire workers with hard to find, in-demand skills, have offered similar rewards. But for some reason, ThoughtSpot’s program caught the attention of San Francisco media, which featured the program a few days ago and the news spread rapidly across the country.

There’s an interesting question that comes up during the interview about the potential for poaching from some of the Valley’s “biggies.” “We’re too small,” the CEO says. But if the program succeeds at ThoughtSpot — and already the company has hired a few engineers through the program — it could turn employee referrals into the equivalent of en employment arms race.

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