Getting the Best Hires: Location, Location, Location

September 2015 | Riviera Partners

If you’re starting a company or perhaps growing and ready to ramp up staff and add office space, pick your location wisely because geography is a big factor when attracting top talent. Location of an office often plays a huge role in a job candidate’s...

If you’re starting a company or perhaps growing and ready to ramp up staff and add office space, pick your location wisely because geography is a big factor when attracting top talent. Location of an office often plays a huge role in a job candidate’s decision to accept an offer–I’ve seen candidates decline great offers based solely on the commute. There are a few ways to overcome this challenge.

Move to an office in the big city

One way to attract engineering talent in the Bay Area is to move closer to San Francisco. Over the last several years, the concentration of technology companies has shifted from Silicon Valley and San Jose to San Francisco. According to Riviera’s latest Engineering Salary Review, 52% of engineers took new roles in SF, 34% in the Peninsula, and only 14% in the South Bay. This infers that if you’re in the Bay, you’ll have a much larger pool of talent if you move your company closer to San Francisco. One of our clients, an enterprise collaboration tool startup, was having so much trouble finding Ruby on Rails developers that they moved their office from Mountain View to San Francisco. After the move, they saw a significant uptick in their candidate pool and hiring. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s important to be close where the talent is hanging out.

Choose a location near transit

Considering a location also has to do with that the best infrastructure and commute options. Being close to public transportation greatly increases your chance of attracting top talent. I’ve found many engineers do not own cars, and their primary mode of traveling is by public transportation. Thus, being close to BART or another form of transportation increases the pool of talent that will consider your company, while being far from easy public transportation greatly decreases that pool. Seems obvious to some but when enchanted by the lower rent districts that fall outside a comfortable walking distance, you might second guess the reasoning. Think long term–even though office space close to public transportation might be pricier, you’ll be able to attract the right team to build out your company much more quickly. In the startup world, speed is everything.

Swim in the talent pool close to home

Of course, not every company can up and move, whether it’s to a new city or just closer to transit. To increase your chances of hiring–and decrease chances of wasting time–it’s best to start with talent that’s already local to your area. In Northern California, people from South Bay (Palo Alto and south) are significantly less likely to go to San Francisco and vice versa. Also, people in the East Bay tend to prefer going to San Francisco or San Jose area and are less likely to travel to the Peninsula unless they have a car.

Another factor to consider the number of steps it would take a candidate to commute to your company. For example, someone who lives in the Sunset district of San Francisco might decline your offer if they have to take three different buses to get to your SoMa-based company. On the other hand, a candidate living in Palo Alto might be okay with the commute because SoMa is a simple Caltrain ride away. So actual distance may not matter as much as the path of least resistance.

Get creative with the commute

You can help alleviate commute concerns in a variety of ways.  Several of our clients provide monthly train or bus passes and/or credit to employees who commute farther distances. If you have multiple employees living in a specific location, you can offer a shuttle service to and from the office. Or a more affordable alternative to hiring a shuttle is to set-up carpooling, providing an online tool where colleagues can easily communicate and organize rides–or even have someone in the office manage this directly. Finally, you may want to give employees the opportunity to work remote occasionally. We’ve seen candidates accept jobs that are farther afield for the chance to work from home once a week.

At the end of the day, location and accessibility matter to finding the best talent and new hires to build out your company. As you grow, give this some deep thought and you might soon realize your office location made all the difference to the quality of your team, and the ultimate success of your company.

Aaron Ho is a Technical Recruiter at Riviera.