Meet Silicon Valley's hardcore recruiters

February 6, 2013: 9:47 AM ET

These startups are trying to fix the horribly inefficient hiring process.

By Richard Morgan, contributor

Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 9.08.05 AMFORTUNE -- Silicon Valley job recruiting violates technology's highest virtue: it is horribly inefficient. "If I know I have an Outlook API problem, I'm not going to google 'Outlook API expert.' It doesn't work like that," explains Gabor Cselle, a former Google developer who worked on Android and Gmail. "There's not a market for that," says Cselle who is behind app DrawChat, "but there needs to be."

Not surprisingly, several startups have arisen to address this problem.

Morgan Missen, a super-recruiter for the likes of Twitter, Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), is behind Main.is, which she bills as "the first Silicon Valley talent agency." (Although, arguably, Altay Guvench's 10X Management beat her to the concept.) Jeff Ma, the MIT wunderkind turned startup hotshot, is building TenXer.com. The names refer to "10x," tech lingo that describes mega-employees who are as productive as 10 workers in one.

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"I'd rather have one LeBron and pay him 10 times more than 10 average workers," says Ma. TenXer works similarly to Nike+ (NKE), the running system that uses positive feedback and goal-setting to motivate users. TenXer users can likewise set goals and track their work data over time—how quickly they respond to emails, for example. Ma says the system is "like video games where you constantly see your score."

Ma's LeBron analogy is not that far off. A 2008 blog post titled "Where the f--- is my Ari Gold?," a reference to the tough-talking Entourage character, has circulated widely and become a sort of manifesto for engineers who feel recruiters have overly prioritized technical skills—to the detriment of other important jobs skills like cooperation.

Perhaps the biggest splash in the space so far? DeveloperAuction.com, created by 29 year-old CEO Matt Mickiewicz. The site solicits job offers from top tech firms and then matches it to its users résumés, streamlining the job hunt for both ends. The firm ended its first auction last August with 88 engineers—from Facebook, Google, Zynga (ZNGA), Twitter, Microsoft's (MSFT) Bing, Amazon (AMZN), Yahoo (YHOO) and others—getting offers from 142 startups, including AirBnB, Dropbox, Flipboard and Quora. It brought in a total of $30 million, $5 million of which came in the first 72 hours. Another $78 million auction was followed by expanding the service into the Los Angeles market, instead of only in Boston, New York and San Francisco.

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For the time being, social network LinkedIn (LNKD) monopolizes the recruiting process. One analysis found that, from December 2009 to June 2012, one fake "JavaScript ninja" profile on the site was offered a job every 40 hours, totaling 530 emails from 382 recruiters in 172 organizations. "Recruiters rely exclusively upon LinkedIn," the analysis concluded.

As much as the new startups offer to change the hiring process for recruiters, they promise do the same for the recruited as well. "Engineers are softball negotiators," said Cselle. "They don't play hardball because it seems inefficient as a tactic to ask for more than they want. A lot of engineers don¹t even know that bluffing is legal." He routinely hands out copies of Wharton professor G. Richard Shell's widely acclaimed Bargaining for Advantage. So perhaps on top of buzz and hype, Silicon Valley can now expect more outright bluffing, LeBron-style.

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