Where Do Silicon Valley's Companies Look to Poach Employees?

Oftentimes from each other, LinkedIn's data suggests

It’s a pretty tight labor market for tech talent, especially in Silicon Valley. According to a Brookings Institution analysis, it takes longer fill a computer science job there than almost anywhere else in the U.S., and it costs by far the most. The combination of talent scarcity and ample demand has created something of a revolving door among companies.

Before 2010, a series of non-solicit agreements between six major tech firms—Apple, Google, and Intel among them—helped to minimize poaching and salary inflation. But a government settlement ended the practice (separately, a class-action lawsuit representing engineers who alleged their pay was wrongfully suppressed ended with the companies agreeing in January to a $415 million settlement). So now the environment is more competitive than ever.

Quartz examined LinkedIn data showing where employees at notable tech firms worked previously. The data set is not perfect. It doesn’t capture all employees (Google, for example, has 53,600 employees according to its annual report, but only 32,147 show up on LinkedIn). The career-focused social network captures anyone who says they work for a company, whether full- or part-time (and whether they’re being truthful or not). But as we found last year in a piece about what schools the companies recruit from, the data available through LinkedIn gives a good overview of the flow of talent.

Google has hired a ton of former Microsoft employees over the years. There’s also a big ex-Yahoo population, which makes sense, as the company began to surge just as Yahoo was waning. Companies that are feeders to Google (whether directly or indirectly) skew older. The six companies where Google employees were most likely to work previously all were founded in the 1990s or earlier:

Where Google Employees Previously Worked


Apple’s statistics are affected by the fact that it operates a huge network of retail stores, unlike the rest of the companies we looked at, and it looks to have hired a bunch of Genius Bar staff and retail workers from Best Buy as it has grown. Hires with experience at Cisco, HP, and Intel likely represent the company’s hardware and chip focus.

Where Apple Employees Previously Worked


Facebook also seems to have done a lot of Seattle-area recruiting. Its employees are more likely to be veterans of Microsoft than anywhere else. There’s also a strong legacy of ex-Googlers at the company, among them chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, chief marketing officer Gary Briggs, and head of mobile products Erick Tseng.

Where Facebook Employees Previously Worked


Twitter’s strong Google legacy is unsurprising. That’s where founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams spent their formative years. More recently, engineering VP Alex Roetter and chief communications officer Gabriel Stricker made the jump from Mountain View. And Facebook, founded in 2004, already is throwing off talent that’s landing at Twitter, which is two years its junior.

Where Twitter Employees Previously Worked


As Bloomberg recently documented, Tesla has recruited heavily from Apple as it continues to emphasize design and makes more computer-heavy cars. Other employees are largely from the auto industry, many of whom were absorbed from NUMMI, a former General Motors/Toyota factory joint venture that Tesla acquired in 2010:

Where Tesla Employees Previously Worked


Proximity matters, so there’s plenty of back and forth between Seattle-based Amazon and Microsoft, which is based in nearby Redmond, Washington. Amazon has also gotten substantially larger and moved into a huge number of business lines, including cloud computing, as Microsoft has stagnated somewhat. Despite its tech expansions, Amazon is very much a retail-focused company, so Target shows up here as well.

Where Amazon Employees Previously Worked


In addition to relying heavily on Google Maps for its app, Uber seems to be fond of hiring ex-Google employees, including chief financial officer Brent Callinicos. Uber’s mobile focus and significant reliance on the iPhone shows up in the number of Apple hires. The company also has hired former employees of Microsoft, Facebook, and IBM. But it stands out from the other firms examined in here in that it also seems to have a lot of employees who at one time worked for Goldman Sachs.

Where Uber Employees Previously Worked


So which companies are home to the biggest diasporas of ex-employees of other companies? Both Google and Microsoft could form sizable alumni associations at a few of the companies. Each appears on more than 10 percent of the LinkedIn profiles of people who say they work at Facebook or Twitter:

Where Tech Company Employees Previously Worked