Developing A Talent Pool Within Your API Community

There are many reasons for having an API. The direct reason is to provide your partners and 3rd party developers access to your data, content, and algorithmic resources using the web. However, there are many indirect, and less obvious reasons for having an active API program at your company, organization, institution, or government agency. Things that you probably haven’t thought of, but the groups who are already doing APIs have known about these benefits for a while. One of these benefits is in the area of talent acquisition, and building relationships with, and identifying folks with the skills you are looking for.

I remember the first time I heard the executives at Paypal say that they often hire out of their development community. After hearing that I began asking more API providers about the talent acquisition opportunities within their API developer ecosystem, and about 50% of the people I talked said they had hired someone building an application on their API, or had shown up to a hackathon to participate and build interesting things. It is easy to think of our API platforms as simply a place for developing applications, but along with each integration and application, there is one or many humans behind it, who have an understanding of your API, and possibly the industry you are targeting. Once you are introduced to the concept, it makes complete sense to be using an API as a talent acquisition vehicle, allowing developers to flex their skills in a place you are already paying attention in.

This is my new response to people who are either looking for talent. Have you tried your API community? Many of the people I’ve tested this out on do not have a public API program. They aren’t at this place in their journey where they have a public presence in this way. Either because they don’t have any public resources to make available, or they just haven’t evolved to the point where they are ready to make things publicly available. Talent acquisition is another motivator in this journey. Maybe your not ready for making your data, content, and algorithms public, but there has to be something that is already available on your website, or some sort of sandbox environment you could make public to begin attracting talented folks. Its another motivation for being public around your digital assets. Even if you aren’t entertaining direct public access to all your resources, you should be casting an SEO net in your industry, publishing relevant (sample) data sets, content, or algorithms that someone might find Googling, or some other discovery process.

A public API program can be so many different things. Those who have embarked on this journey are the ones who are pushing the boundaries, and are discovering the unexpected benefits like talent acquisition. Those who aren’t, will struggle to keep up, and secure the talent they need. API portals aren’t just for building the next Twitter. They are your externally facing R&D lab, where you explore new ideas, and learn to play nicely with others. It is where you develop new products, integrations, applications, and when done right, new talent. Your APIs don’t have to be production quality, they might just be a sampling, or sandboxed version of the real thing. Just enough to attract the interest of just the right people in your industry. Don’t let your lack of imagination about what an API is hold you back from experimenting and playing around, and realizing these benefits.

If you do not have your API platform available yet, this is all probably news to you, because you haven’t been in the game. You haven’t been building relationships with other companies, and individuals. You haven’t been publishing documentation, white papers, and telling other stories that will be attracting the interesting folks you are looking to hire. You are probably still relying on job sites, and social network sites to find the talent you need, where you are competing with everyone else in your industry. Why not get started on your API program, publish some safe data, and content that is already on your web site. Or, maybe get creative and publish some sandbox APIs that allow folks to play, explore, understand, while you are studying who the most interesting consumers are , and using your API as a talent acquisition funnel for your organization.