StartUp Nation: Recruiting at SXSW

Events-based recruiting is fun, let’s face it. Sure, it can be hectic and crazy but going to a massive event–like oh, say… South By Southwest Interactive (SXSWi)–to recruit tech talent, marketing mavens, PR pros or product gurus is a super smart move. Overwhelming? Yeah a little, with last year’s capacity at nearly 13,000 people and analyst saying this year will be nearly double, the tech event certainly draws a crowd, making it prime recruiting ground for some very smart recruiters. Here we talk to some seasoned recruiting pros to find out what works when recruiting at large events.

Chris Hoyt is now a powerhouse talent acquisition specialist at PepsiCo but he’s been walking the streets at SXSWi for years (since he was recruiting tech talent for communications giant AT&T). Once at the Austin-based gathering, Hoyt posted his full telephone number and encouraged talent to text or call him directly for an on-the-spot meeting. Brave? A little crazy? Sure. But according to follow-up blog posts, Hoyt spoke to several high-potential hires. And that decision to “move from recruiting people to meeting them” changed how the bleeding-edge recruiting team Chris manages has been approaching SXSWi ever since.

So how do you approach talent at this so-called “digital parade” like a pro? Hoyt says:

1. Plan in advance.

2. Be prepared to measure your activity/success.

3. Take advantage of solomo to connect with the right jobseekers.

4. Ideally lay groundwork weeks before with contacts to help you get your foot in the door with key prospects that would otherwise be cold approaches.

This year, SXSWi is having an actual event for jobseekers–the Tech Career Expo–on the 9th and the 10th. Recognizing that many jobseekers come to SXSWi for the networking opportunities–and plunk down the cash for entrance–gives recruiters a huge pool of both active and passive candidates, and folks that are naturally attracted to startup, entreprenurial and innovative work. Bonus: They’re getting solid digital instruction before onboarding.

Sarah White, whose firm Sarah White & Associates, llc. is consulting on Dice’s social media outreach at recruiting focused events, agrees.  “We really want to get an idea of what employers are seeing, to start building important communities around specific niche technical skills,” said White. “Our last project yielded tens of thousands of hits & provided a lot of information on recruiting best practices.”

During SXSW, White & the team will be interviewing various recruiters, HR pros and candidates to get their take on the talent scene. In addition, they are launching #diceconnect – where job seekers and recruiters can find each other by the color of the bracelets they are wearing and the hashtag’s use on twitter.  Dice, the preeminent technical career hub, is now building social into nearly every product in their proverbial stable and will be sponsoring recruiting-specific events like TalentNetLive and Tech Career Expo, as well as partnering with Mashable as a platinum sponsor of the weekend bash–a must attend event for many recruiters and attendees alike.

BetterWorks, an LA-based local perks and reward platform for companies who care about employees, is not only having their founder speak at two SXSW sessions–they are sponsoring TalentNetLive and partnering with other startups in the world of work space to present the Silicon Beach Showhouse.

“We recognize that SXSWi is a talent haven. It’s a perfect spot to find the best and the brightest, and see how potential hires perform in the total chaos that is SXSW. Our presence across the entirety of SXSWi shows what our  company stands for, what we believe in and who we’re there to support.” Says Nicole Jordan, Communications Manager at BetterWorks. “We want to show recruiters and HR pros that BetterWorks is a very powerful tool for attracting and retaining talent. We also want employees to know that there’s a new option out there for work perks that is customized to their lifestyle, and request it from business owners and HR pros.

And in a nice employee engagement move and a virtual demo of how their service works, Nicole says, “keep an eye out for the BetterWorks SXSW Perks Pass to help your attending employees take care of themselves while they take care of business.”

And as you can see, candidates aren’t the only ones being catered to in this vast digital landscape meets Austin reality, Recruiters and HR pros are seeing more and more events catered specifically for them, including TalentNetLive from Craig Fisher, The Social Siesta with Jessica Miller Merrell and both the BetterWorks and Dice events. Yes, recruiting at SXSWi is in full swing.