Recruiters use these signals to determine when someone is ready to switch jobs

Ready to jump ship.
Ready to jump ship.
Image: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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In Silicon Valley, there are two universal truths for tech companies: The first is that finding office space is hard. The other is that finding good engineers is really hard.

Tech recruiters certainly have a tall task in front of them: With a firm cap on visas for highly skilled foreign workers, a large source of the talent pool comes from those who are already gainfully employed with six-figure salaries and used to perks like free lunches, on-site haircuts (paywall), and monthly maid service.

In the face of these challenges, Ali Behnam, managing partner at the recruiting firm Riviera Partners, says his company’s strategy is to figure out when potential candidates are ready to switch jobs—often before they know it themselves.

“What we’re trying to do is get the timing right,” he tells Quartz.

To ascertain if a prospective candidate is amenable to jumping ship, the firm relies on data—much of it publicly available—to identify certain patterns. This helps reduce time wasted on cold calls since recruiters are (ideally) reaching out only when the candidates want to be contacted. Here are four of about a dozen signals that Riviera closely tracks:

  • Years between jobs: “You can look at a person’s career,” Behnam says. “If he or she changed jobs every two to three years, it’s a good chance that pattern will continue.”
  • When a company last raised money: The firm uses venture capital funding as an indicator of how well a startup is doing. “If the last round of funding happened 18 to 24 months ago, there’s a good chance they’re doing really well—or not,” he says. If it’s the latter, it’s time to reach out.
  • If a company was recently acquired: When a startup gets acquired, it’s likely that employees will leave (growing pains, new management, or just looking for new adventures). At Riviera, recruiters know to make contact at six months, 12 months, and/or 18 months after an acquisition event to gauge if someone is exploring other options.
  • How hot a company is:  This last one is a lot more vague, but Behnam says his recruiters use a company’s “heat”—how hot and buzzy it is—as another indicator. Maybe someone is tired of explaining what backend-as-a-service is and wants to work somewhere with a bit more cache. Sometimes, it just comes down to vanity.