Reddit & Hacker News: The New, Social, Recruitment Tools?

Can Reddit, Hacker News and the likes become the new social recruitment tools for modern companies?

Recruiting staff is hard

Recruiting staff is never easy, especially for new startups. Hiring the wrong person can turn out to be a very expensive affair, especially if your budget is limited to start with. Another problem that companies face is that there is a lack of suitable employees. In Silicon Valley the salary for a relatively green CS graduate can exceed $100,000 per year. I get that it is expensive to live in that area but such high wages shows that the companies have trouble finding the right people to hire.

Skilled software engineers can often times pick and choose what companies they want to work at and the companies have to brand themselves as attractive employers. Easier said than done. However, over the past few years I’ve seen an increase in ‘alternative’ recruitment avenues.


Reddit has a multitude of niche subreddits, communities with a special theme – everything from cat pictures to country specific communities and information security. The latter is the interest in this case.

/r/netsec is a “A community for technical news and discussion of information security and closely related topics.”. It is a rather specialized niche with a very specific set of competencies. Information Security is hard. Very hard. Think of all the leaked databases with usernames and passwords you’ve seen. Finding employees is therefore bound to be troublesome.

Every quarter /r/netsec moderators create an Information Security Hiring Thread. It can look something like this:

/r/netsec Recruitment Thread

/r/netsec Recruitment Thread, Q4 (Click on the image for large size)

The ability to list positions for these, often times smaller companies, can be invaluable. It is a niche industry so the traditional recruitment sites (Monster and so forth) may not provide many leads. It is also more personalized as users who are interested can reply to the post and ask questions. The following is a post from iSEC partners in the hiring thread:

iSEC Partners in /r/netsec

iSEC Partners in /r/netsec (Click on the image for large size)

Another example of recruitment via Reddit comes from /r/consulting. Yesterday I noticed a thread there: I want to hook up Redditors with entry level consulting jobs.

 My Project Management Consulting company is hiring for entry level associates. You need not have experience, and you’d get promoted up starting after the first year.

I remember being a job hunter in this subreddit and wanting to find places that would take my application. I didn’t want to forget where I came from and hope someone here finds this helpful.

If this is of interest to you, message me. We’ll talk and then I’ll hand walk your resume into HR.
*some prerequisites apply

This is an example of helping the community out, a lot of people are looking to enter consulting and it is never fun or easy to go to all those interviews (with hilariously fun cases…). Consulting is also a special case in that the large consultancies (McKinsey, BGC, et al.) tend to vacuum up a lot of the talent. Definitely troublesome for smaller firms. By generating good will the company can be sure to get some potential employees who otherwise wouldn’t have applied.

Hacker News

Hacker News is the community around the startup incubator Y Combinator (wiki). Hacker News works in roughly the same was as a subreddit. Each month there is a ‘Who is hiring’ thread. The one posted for November currently has 400 comments, with most being companies advertising positions.

Hacker News: Who Is Hiring

Hacker News: Who Is Hiring (Click on the image for large size)

The companies advertising are everything from big multinationals to small startups. The companies are mostly located on the west coast of USA. It is a bit unfortunate that the European startups have not taken advantage of communities like Hacker News to the same extent as their American counterparts.

Below is a post from an employee at Bloomberg, it is currently the most upvoted comment in that thread. He describes in-depth what they do and in a very personal way attempts to woo potential employees. He’s asked several questions the thread and does his best to answer them. Very good attitude to recruitment and really helps branding Bloomberg as an exciting place to work.

Who Is Hiring: Bloomberg

Who Is Hiring: Bloomberg (Click on the image for larger size)

So what lessons can be learned from this? Look beyond the conventional job boards and try to recruit from other sources. It is not guaranteed to work but if nothing else, you get a chance to build up some good will with the community.

I think this type of recruitment activities will become increasingly important for companies. Dealing with faceless HR departments without any personal connections may become a thing of the past. The unrealistic job requirements listed by HR should become a thing of the past. Let’s not kid ourselves, most companies don’t need rockstars for most of their positions.

Honorary mention: Twitter

These communities are rather niched and therefore you might not find the type of employees you need so, in some cases, Twitter is a better choice. You can do like MTGx (See previous mentions: 1 2) and simply spread the word of your CMO position via Twitter. Any self-respecting (digital) marketeer will have a Twitter account these days.

That previous sentence is validated by first line of the need to have section in their job listing:

You are an active member of the online world – not just a spectator or a fan. If you don’t have a Twitter account and don’t spend an excessive amount of your personal time online, you are not for this job

Are these the recruitment tools for the future? I don’t know, maybe. They are a nice complement to other things and adds human aspect to the whole job seeking/employee hunting process.

[ShamelessSelfPromotion] Got any tips for jobs in the Stockholm Region, throw me an email at Patrik[at] or on LinkedIn.  [/ShamelessSelfPromotion]


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Moz Vs. Doz: Trademark Battle

Online Marketing firm Doz‘s CEO Anji ISMAIL posted a guest post at the French startup blog Rude Baguette titled “Why trademarks are important for startups” OR “How SEOMoz sent us a takedown notice.” The ensuing discussion on Hacker News about the post has been quite a bit back and forth. Many argue that Moz is in the fault here, by abusing their trademark lawyer and taking advantage of a poor startup while others argue that Doz is too close to Moz’s business.
Both sides have merit in my opinion. Spontaneously I did side with Doz, but thinking about it, reading the comments and writing this post I am actually more inclined to believe that SEOMoz/Moz have a case. I don’t know if it will hold up in court, I am no lawyer after all.

When first writing this post I typed Moz instead of Doz several times, so there are clear similarities – if just superficial. More importantly, Moz and Doz are in pretty much the same niche, SEO/Online Marketing. Moz feel that they have an obligation to protect their trademark and that Doz is uncomfortably close to it. This will generate them no good will, and they probably know it but they feel they have to take legal action.

Looking at Anji, Doz CEO,’s Twitter, he has not changed his website to Doz (from, nor has CapSEO been migrated and’s SSL certificate belongs to CapSEO. The rebranding process seems rather painless to me at this point. It sucks that they spent a fair chunk of money on a domain, As far as I can tell Doz filed a trademark in ’12, SEOMoz filed one in ’11. Everyone would probably be better of if this got cleared up before Doz decided to rebrand. In their defence, SEOMoz -> rebranding happened only a few days ago.

The HN discussion also contains comments from Moz employees (directly and indirectly), and they put Moz in a better light in my opinion.

So, I did what I would want someone to do for me. In January, I called him to give him a personal heads up that we had a problem, that the brand felt too close for us. I told him we had a registered intent-to-use, and that we were planning on launching soon, just like him. I asked him to use a different brand for his future product or that we would have to cancel his mark. He explained to me that his product is different enough from ours that there wouldn’t be confusion. I urged him to talk to his lawyer and get independent advice before he launched his product.

Sarah Bird, COO of Moz

When Anji reached out to us initially, they were CapSEO. At the time, I had no idea Doz existed, or that CapSEO was rebranding. As Anji and I talked, the discussion was around the functionality of CapSEO, which I saw as complementary. Later the discussion moved to their plans to rebrand to Doz, with a fuller focus on inbound marketing services (and software). This too is complementary, but not with the brand of Doz, as Sarah alluded to. There’s obvious confusion and brand dilution of Moz that can come as a result, and it’s our duty to protect our trademark.

I think it’s important to have this context. It feel into our lap with no other option than the action we took, we didn’t seek this out. We’ve taken every step to be transparent into why, and hope, still, that we can resolve this in a civilized manner. I’ve spent the past 8 years of my life doing startups, the last thing we want to do is derail a startup from their mission.

Andrew Dumont, Biz Dev at Moz

Moz did give Doz a heads up and while it is unfortunate, I do believe that Doz’s business is way to close to Moz’s and the names are rather similar. They are not the most similar names ever but they are close enough for the average user to mix them up. I have mixed them up several times already when writing this post, and that is when focusing on the topic.

Time will tell if Doz gets to keep their name or not, I am not a trademark lawyer so who am I to judge if the complaint is valid or not.


Edit: Fixed some of the things mentioned above about filing the trademark. See Sarah Bird’s comment in the original blog post for further information. The comments on Hacker News are getting progressively worse, trademarks are no longer to be protected according to most it seems. Except when it would cause issues for oneself of course.


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