Desperate To Find Talent, Tech Company Recruiters Swarm Local Climbing Gyms

A gaggle of qualified candidates prepare for a climb.

MISSION CLIFFS, SAN FRANCISCO — In a resurgent tech industry, competition for talent has gotten incredibly fierce. Companies have already exhausted conventional recruiting channels — email listings, cold calls, job posts, and LinkedIn messages are not enough to sate the industry’s ravenous need for tech talent. As a result, they are turning to more creative means of reaching out to candidates in order to get an edge over their competitors. Yahoo’s recruiters had previously tried poaching employees from rival Google and Facebook’s tech shuttle stops. Now, tech companies are flocking to a new spot with a surprisingly high concentration of tech talent: climbing gyms.

Zeefo, a startup based in the Potrero district, was the first company to begin recruiting from climbing gyms. CEO Alex Stepanov, a frequent climber, came up with the idea after noticing how many climbers wore tech t-shirts. “Most climbers these days are either techies or graduate students who can be convinced to drop out anyway,” said Mr. Stepanov. “The bouldering paths are called ‘problems,’ so obviously the good climbers are also good problem solvers. Some people think rock climbing does not evaluate how well, say, an engineer would function in their day to day work. But neither does whiteboard coding, I guess.”

Zeefo began tabling in front of local climbing gyms to publicize open positions to potential candidates, handing out post-workout snacks to climbers to incentivize them to stay and chat. However, climbers from other companies began to notice the throngs of people crowding around free food, and soon a menagerie of recruiters from startups, unicorns, and big companies began to show up.

One climber was surprised to find a resume drop-bin at the top of a boulder that read, “Congratulations! If you are reading this, you’ve climbed this V6 (sponsored by Redfin) and you’re probably a rockstar at climbing! And if you’re a rockstar at climbing, you’re probably a rockstar at everything else. Here at Redfin, we are looking for rockstars AT LIFE to build out the future of real estate…”

Google has also reportedly paid Mission Cliffs $5000 for “Ninja” level sponsorship at an upcoming career fair to be held in the gym. The fair will be designed so that climbers can browse the job market during break periods between climbs. Company recruiters will also offer to belay top roping candidates in return for being able to pitch their companies to the candidates while they climb.

A spokesperson for Touchstone Climbing, the company that owns of Mission Cliffs and other Bay Area climbing gyms, declined to comment. When Halting Problem called their official phone number and asked what they thought about the recent influx of recruiters, the representative on the other end of the line began laughing uncontrollably before hanging up.

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