The New Toughest Tech Job to Fill: The Talent Crunch Hits Sales, Too

As if tech hiring couldn’t get more competitive — now engineers aren’t the only ones in high demand.

When I first joined OpenView in 2009, the economy — both locally and nationally — was still wading through the debris that was left behind by the financial sector’s epic meltdown. The country was still technically experiencing a recession, jobs reports remained gloomy, and very few companies were eager to increase their headcount.
For Boston tech companies that were experiencing growth and preparing to scale, all of that bad news was actually good news for their hiring efforts. They could cherry pick the best sales and engineering talent on the market, and often found themselves turning away candidates they’d otherwise beat down a door to hire.

Fast-forward to today.

With the economy stabilized and the tech scene as healthy as it’s been in some time, the balance of power has completely shifted. The best candidates — rather than the companies hiring them — are in the driver’s seat, and businesses are now being forced to wage a war to attract the best talent available.
In Boston, for instance, sexy companies like Hubspot, Constant Contact,, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are all growing their presence in a city with a historical surplus of talent. Yet, because all of those companies (as well as the myriad of startups that continue to crop up in the Hub) are fighting for that same pool of talent, it’s created a veritable feeding frenzy for the best candidates on the market. Last May, Hubspot even went so far as to offer a $30,000 referral bonus to anyone who referred an engineer they ended up hiring.

The New Toughest Tech Job to Fill: The Talent Crunch Hits Sales

It’s not just engineers, though. The fight for hiring sales talent appears to be just as fierce. In fact, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey, sales positions are now the second hardest jobs to fill, with more than one-third of sales managers suggesting that they struggle to find qualified candidates for open positions.
Unfortunately, none of this is great news for smaller growth-stage companies.
After all, if a top sales candidate is choosing between job offers from Google, Constant Contact, and your B2B software startup, which company do you think he or she is likely to eliminate first? In most circumstances, you’ll be the odd man out.
Yes, your company is probably unique, hip, sexy, and innovative, but the reality is that the best tech companies in your market can say the same thing. And those better-known businesses can probably meet — or exceed — many of your tangible and intangible perks. In other words, you’re not that unique, and you certainly can’t afford to fool yourself into thinking the very best sales talent is just going to knock on your door and beg for a job offer tomorrow.
If you truly want to recruit A-players (and, frankly, that’s the kind of talent growing tech companies need if they really want to scale efficiently) you need to do more to differentiate yourself.
It goes beyond having a trendy office space, an unlimited vacation policy, or an incredible compensation plan. Those things matter, but you also need to sell top candidates on the strategic direction of your business, the role they’ll play in it, the mentorship they’ll receive along the way, and the growth potential for the role.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I’ll go over 10 things in particular that expansion-stage businesses can use to differentiate themselves in the hiring sales talent and convince the very best candidates to ignore the overtures of the seemingly sexier (and better funded) businesses. At times, that can be a hard sell. But, over the last few years, OpenView’s Labs team has helped many of our portfolio companies do just that.
Stay tuned!

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