Finding Balance While Recruiting in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley, California is one of the most competitive recruiting environments anywhere. And if you’re a recruiter there, the competitive pressure can make you lose perspective and make you terrible at your job if you let it get to you. The opening keynote from Carol Mahoney at the Seattle SMA Staffing Symposium was both inspiring and cautioning in its message today.

I had the chance to catch up with Mahoney (who’s speaking this Fall in Florida) after her presentation to talk to her about recruiting in Silicon Valley, getting out of the rat race, and finding perspective to recruit better.

How the Recession has Impacted the Valley

Mahoney, who was the VP of talent acquisition at Yahoo, said that the first part of the recession locked up talent in their current companies, but after that, an infusion of venture capital started getting people moving from their companies. “After that, the dominoes started following and people started moving,” she said.

Even being a big brand has its challenges. While smaller companies sometimes disregard the results of large, recognizable brands, the recruiting atmosphere in Silicon Valley is so competitive, there are no guarantees. “These people might be getting picked up by Google, Yahoo, and Facebook,” says Mahoney. “And there might be smaller companies that can offer more as far as equity or experience. It’s still a horse race.” The best part about being a larger brand, she says, is that you will get a call back; you still have to make the hire.

Losing Perspective

We also talked about how small to mid-sized firms (the size of firms she works with at her company, Talent Acquisition On Demand) have a hard time looking past the challenges of today. “Emerging technology firms are looking for talent that can fulfill their need to ship,” Mahoney says. “They aren’t looking past that.”

But even larger technology firms can push your perspective. Mahoney said during her presentation that she had a hard time getting her head above water when she worked as a corporate recruiter. For 11 years, she never took more than a week off from work (and even then, she was always connected).

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When she realized she needed a break from the rat race, she realized how the constant push-push nature of the tech scene had pushed her out of balance and made her a worse recruiter for it.

Finding Balance

Mahoney doesn’t believe you need to take a sabbatical or a long break to find this perspective. She presented the way she daily keeps things in check through planning her schedule to start the day, reading the news, and getting social media updates before she starts working. “It takes discipline to do it,” she said. “But it’s possible.”

She feels as if recruiters get stuck in this rut easily as well because they can be so focused on what is in front of them. And especially in the hyper-competitive tech industry, recruiters have to find ways to get the broader perspective.

Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
 
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.

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