Recruiting Designers - By the Numbers

For the last six months or so I've been leading the charge for recruiting design talent at Etsy. We've hired at a brisk pace in that time and I've been asked on a few occasions how we're doing it. And though I'm pretty happy with the results we've gotten so far, I think it's important to share some numbers so that it's obvious just how insanely hard recruiting great talent is. Some of this is approximated (human error ftl), but I think it paints a pretty accurate picture overall. So! Ripped straight from our totally unscientific Google Doc where we store this stuff:

Since October of 2013...

  • We personally reached out to 103 designers. That's 17 per month. Nearly one per working day. Also, my educated guess is that we looked at around 10x that number of portfolios, web sites and Dribbble accounts.
  • 28 people either replied as not interested right now, or simply have not replied at all.
  • We had one to two coffee meetings/Google Hangouts/phone calls with 75 design candidates. That's a lot of caffeine!
  • We brought 14 folks into the office for an in-person interview loop.
  • So far, we've officially hired 8 designers. That's about one a month and ~7.8% of the original 103.

Note: we just hired a couple more designers from the fourteen in-person loops. Updated the last bullet accordingly.

I'm not sure if that last number is good or bad (I have nothing to compare against), but, personally, I'm happy with it. Especially considering that the majority of the work has been shouldered by just the four design managers we have on staff. Regardless, two lessons stand out pretty clearly to me when I look at these numbers.

1. Hiring people is ridiculously difficult.

At my peak, I've personally spent upwards of 60% of my time (including outside normal business hours) sourcing, emailing, meeting over coffee or Google Hangouts, documenting, sharing notes, setting up second screens, UX exercises and, finally, interview loops (which include pre and post-huddles). This is not to say I don't enjoy it. I really love meeting and getting to know other designers. But the time commitment is real and, unless you're carving out regular, sustained blocks of time for recruiting, you're not going to be successful.

2. Getting hired is equally difficult.

Don't get me wrong, it is a great time to be a designer in tech. However, because it's such a frothy time, there are a ton of folks out there with design portfolios trying to get noticed. As you can tell from the above numbers, the noise-to-your-signal ratio is pretty high, so you need to be active in getting yourself out there. This means tweeting and blogging thoughtfully about your work, participating in the design community (whether that's going to meet-ups or generally socializing on the Internet) and constantly pushing yourself to get better and learn new things. In other words: help us find you.

Next week, I'll write some more about recruiting and the qualities we're looking for (and consistently finding) in designers that work for Etsy.