Recruiting from Instability

Indianapolis-based ExactTarget was acquired by Salesforce.com a while back.

Upon hearing the news, I immediately leapt to Twitter:

I figured I should expand on that a bit.

Any time a company gets acquired, there are going to be aftershocks felt throughout both companies - but especially the one being acquired. There’s a (hopefully) brief period when the entire staff doesn’t know what to expect. Rumors fly. People worry about whether their jobs will be eliminated, or, in the case of developers, if the parent company will want to consolidate resources in the parent company’s home turf (in this, and most, cases: Silicon Valley).

A few days pass and, in the best circumstances, most of those rumors and worry die off a bit. And that’s what’s largely happened at ET as far as I can tell.

  <blockquote class="twitter-tweet">@chris_vannoy False. Product engineers are all happy thus far!

— Dave Woodward (@futuremint) June 10, 2013</blockquote>  

My initial tweet, though, wasn’t about the here and now. I’m a former (current?) developer myself. I know how the developer brain tends to work.

That initial aftershock from the acquisition will never go away. At a fundamental level, who you were hired to work for is no longer who you work for. In the back of your mind, despite any assurances you’ve had, those initial worries and trepidations will still be there. There’s always a chance that once the acquisition glow wears off, the parent company really will gobble up the development.

For a large segment of ET’s developers, that uneasy feeling is always going to be there. The ground they’re working on has become unstable. And once that happens, it won’t take much for the eye to begin to wander.

Maybe the work shifts, or the company goals, or the perks, or just the work culture (having your HR department on California time can do that sort of thing).

I don’t know for sure if/when the proverbial straw will hit the developers’ backs … but for a sizable percentage, it eventually will.

And once it does, they’ll start sniffing around for what’s available elsewhere. The thing you, as an intrepid hiring manager or recruiter, can start doing now is just to get friendly with current ET developers. Follow them on Twitter, engage in conversation, bump into them at a meet up or two (Indy.js has a high concentration, for instance).

The goal is not to poach. The goal is to form a relationship such that when that eye begins to wander, you’re the one they’re going to reach out to. It’s about raising awareness, nothing more for now.

When they pick up the phone to call around, you want your number to be the first one they think of.

That’s the bet I’m suggesting you take.

And it’s a bet I feel confident will pay off … in roughly a year from now.

Note: This post was originally posted, in a slightly different form, to my personal blog.

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