Now hiring in tech? Pony up the perks

At a time when millions of people are grappling with unemployment, many technology companies are actually desperate to hire as many new employees as they can. With tech industry investments frothing up once again, folks with skills such as software and web development are in high demand nowadays — especially in Silicon Valley. I talk daily with company founders who tell me they’re keen to hire as many good engineers as they possibly can.

In a stiff hiring environment like this, once-uncommon perks like free lunch, snacks, massages and foosball tables are practically required. How can a startup, or even a larger tech firm, attract top engineering talent? Here are a few ways that companies are trying to set themselves apart:

  • Matchmaker, matchmaker: Anyone who applies for an engineering position at online dating site Zoosk between August 3 and September 30 and gets hired will be put into the running to win a date with either Samantha or Steve, two actors who starred in recent Zoosk TV commercials. Zoosk says it will cover all of the costs of the date, including a round-trip flight to Los Angeles, a chauffeured limousine and dinner. Sure, it’s gimmicky, and it plays into the stereotype of the dateless programmer — but it does sound like fun.
  • All vices welcome: Remember the days when hosting an open bar was enough to get a roomful of tech industry talent? Nowadays, event organizers have upped the ante significantly. Take the super luxe party Silicon Valley event planner 50Kings is throwing the night before the Techcrunch Disrupt conference opens in September. From the invite: “We’re taking over the home of a prominent member of the Paypal Mafia and turning it into our very own private casino. Real tables, pro dealers, cocktail waitresses, strict security and high-stakes play. Serious tech players are flying in from Seattle, LA, Las Vegas and we even have an RSVP from an NBA All-Star. The party is on us, but there is a significant minimum table commitment.” Work hard, play hard, indeed.
  • Entrepreneurship 101: It seems counter-intuitive, but several startups have taken to providing their employees with classes on starting their own companies. The New York Times has reported that real estate website Redfin gives regular classes on entrepreneurship at its headquarters in Seattle. Similarly Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and the current CEO of mobile credit card processing startup Square, gives his employees regular talks on topics such as how to raise venture capital. The thinking is, savvy engineers are likely to get the itch to start their own companies. Giving them the tools to learn how to do so in house may entice them to keep working as employees for as long as possible before they strike out on their own. And in this environment, whatever keeps engineers on your team is a good thing.

Of course, nothing lures in potential employees quite like cold hard cash. Financial incentives such as high salaries, solid stock option packages and lucrative bonuses are a given — and they’re getting bigger by the day. This infographic from provides a great snapshot of today’s salary situation:

Feature image courtesy of Flickr user Tess Aquarium.