4 Ways to Recruit at SXSW

An often overlooked candidate source for almost every position are conferences and large regional events. One such event this week is SXSW (South by SouthWest), the Interactive media conference held each year in Austin, Texas, boasting nearly 24,000 in attendance.  Some of the top engineering and developer talent attends the event along with a mix of social media,  subject matter experts and bloggers, marketing, and public relations folks. It’s a melting pot of cutting edge technology and industry influencers. It is the perfect candidate recruiting ground.

This year for the first time SXSW is hosting a Career Tech Expo with more than 66 companies represented. Also included in their festivities is an all night hackathon where coders can showcase their skills. While these type of events are common among Silicon Valley companies, they are new to SXSW and are a great way to engage candidates and build relationships in a highly competitive job search industry.

But for many companies who are not targeting the highly competitive engineer and developer candidate marketer, a recruiter can still benefit from conferences like SXSW.  Here are a few ideas before you arrive in Austin.

    • Conference Database.  Many large conferences provide attendees a networking platform online in which to develop relationships prior to the actual event.  SXSW’s online platform is called SXSocial.  You can search and message fellow attendees.  This is a great sourcing tool and starting point to recruit candidates before, during, and after the event.
    • Host Your Own Event.  This is my third year attending SXSW and also my third year to host a cocktail and networking mixer at SXSW.  The event is unofficial and my only cost aside from marketing and PR is the expense of picking up the cost of drink and food for my guests.  While the event is open to the public, I have privately invited individuals from my intended target audience using recommendations of those within my trusted networking and social networking platforms like LinkedIn.
    • Hash tags.  These are so important in culling and developing a list of attendees who you want to connect with at SXSW using the microblogging site Twitter (for recruiting).  You can search by the zip code as well as key words contained within tweets and bios.  These are in real time and can be effectively used to build relationships even if you are not able to attend the conference or event. Notable hashtags are: #sxsw, #sxswi, #sxswchat, #techcareerexpo, #tnlaustin, and #socialsiesta.
    • Attend Sessions Your Target Candidate Would.  If you are recruiting for a specific type of candidate at a large event like SXSW, the sheer size makes it nearly impossible that you will happen to bump into the perfect recruit.  Attend sessions and events that are of interest to your target candidate.  Tweet during the session using the secondary session hash tag and work to build relationships with those that are in the session. Introduce yourself to those sitting around you as well as the speaker for maximum effect.


Recruiting at conferences and events an extremely effective way to build relationships and promote your employer brand.  Develop a strategy and plan of attack in advance ensuring that members of your team work together to cast a target, specific, and wide net. And most of all learn something new, meet talented people, and enjoy SXSW!

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a HR consultant, new media strategist, and author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. Jessica is the host of Job Search Secrets, an internet television show for job seekers.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a HR consultant, new media strategist, and author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. Jessica is the host of Job Search Secrets, an internet television show for job seekers.
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