South by Southwest, the music and film festival that also turns Austin, Texas, into the center of the tech world once each year, is rapidly becoming a recruiting hub. At least half a dozen New York City firms have rented booths for the two-day job fair that begins Friday while others will be hunting informally for technical and sales talent among the thousands of attendees.
Interest in SXSW as a recruiting event is a relatively recent phenomenon, and reflects the intense competition tech companies face for engineers, data scientists and virtually every other kind of technologist. It also shows the power of the SXSW brand that some companies just want to be noticed by the cool crowd that descends on Austin from all over the world every year.
“People go there because everyone is there,” said Richard Harris, CEO of Intent Media, which provides advertising technology for e-commerce sites. The Manhattan-based company, which has recruited at SXSW on an informal basis the past few years, has taken a booth for the first time as it aims to fill 90 positions.
“Because we’re recruiting so heavily, you start to look for those pockets where talented people show up because interesting things are happening,” Mr. Harris said. “And there aren’t that many of them in the world.”
There will be 60 booths this year, up from 40 last year and 30 in 2013, the year SXSW christened the Job Market as an annual event. Some of the New Yorkers, who will be competing with the likes of Apple, Accenture, Gannett, IBM Design and VERIZON Digital Media, will be going to some lengths to draw attention to their booths.
Intent will have a 10-by-6-foot wall of Lego plates that visitors can decorate while a COMPUTERtakes a stop-action video. Yodle, an online marketer for local businesses, will spell out is name in giant gold balloons. And ad-tech firm Collective—making its first recruiting visit to SXSW—will present a recruiting film and have its vice president of engineering on hand to talk to potential applicants.
“The value is not just applicants coming to our booth,” said Erin Brockman, chief human resources officer at Yodle, which has 150 spots to fill across its five offices. “It’s critical for us to have our brand in front of people so they know who we are.”