Workplace

Facebook's hiring crisis: Engineers are turning down offers, internal docs show

"All of you are now starting to experience that major imbalance between supply and demand — and it doesn't feel good," a recruiting leader wrote in an internal memo.

Facebook logo shattering
Here are all the Facebook Papers stories
Image: Getty Images, Protocol

Facebook cannot find enough candidates to meet engineering demand, especially in the Bay Area, and has struggled and failed to meet early 2021 recruiting goals, according to a detailed internal memo outlining recruitment strategy and hiring pains.

The company also failed to meet hiring goals in 2019, which frustrated CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and it built an ad-hoc team of leaders to create an emergency plan to address the painful shortage, according to disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Frances Haugen's legal counsel. A consortium of news organizations, including Protocol, has reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress.

In an internal memo called "Why hiring is hard right now" written at some point in 2021, a recruiting leader at the company described how engineering teams are fighting a massive imbalance between high demand for new recruits and low supply. The memo, published in full below this story, provides detailed insight into how Facebook calculates its recruitment needs and explains how the company is deeply dependent on successfully recruiting thousands of engineers every year to meet its product development and content goals. The memo also shows Facebook was determined to invest in engineers outside of the Bay Area, but that managers often failed to do so because they were more interested in hiring quickly.

"This was a standard hiring update given to our organization back in May, likely similar to ones shared in companies everywhere. As mentioned in our earnings call yesterday, we ended the quarter with over 68,100 full-time employees, up 20% compared to last year. We remain committed to expanding our hiring efforts in the US and globally," a Facebook spokesperson wrote in a statement to Protocol.

Facebook's hiring problems are far from unique. Tech industry surveys indicate that talent shortages and hiring difficulties for engineers and developers are among the biggest concerns for companies right now, and the labor market has grown exceedingly tight across almost every sector in the United States over the last year.

"All of our tech sites are under pressure right now since we maxed our recruiting feasibility. All of you are now starting to experience that major imbalance between supply and demand — and it doesn't feel good. We are experiencing growth pains," the unnamed leader wrote in the memo.

Facebook struggled particularly to recruit Bay-Area based engineers who are designated IC5 level and above in late 2020 and early 2021, according to data in the memo. Just above 50% of engineers accepted job offers for those roles in the first quarter of 2021 — 171 of 320 offers — compared to a median above 65% in 2020. "We've dropped to pre-2020 levels on the offer accept rate for IC5+ Bay Area engineers," the unnamed leader wrote in the memo. "We're seeing a bit of downward pressure in (Seattle) as well. Why? We're still figuring it out."

The memo speculates that while Facebook was able to take advantage of other companies pulling back hiring in 2020 because of COVID-related uncertainty, those same companies are now "flush with VC money" from pandemic-era growth, and they are using that money in 2021 to accelerate hiring the same candidates Facebook seeks for itself. And while the Bay Area offices have had the most difficulty with hiring, every Facebook engineering site experienced pressure in the first quarter of 2021, according to the memo.

"When we miss our hiring goals, we don't end up building all the things we planned to build, or they move a lot slower. Missing our engineering hiring goals was a big problem, and Mark made it clear he didn't want a repeat performance in 2020," the unnamed leader wrote.

Facebook's internal recruiting plans have changed significantly over the last few years to address the company's regular failures to meet its big-picture goals. The company uses a formula to calculate the desired headcount for every team that considers, among other variables: the number of managers, directors and engineers at different levels; attrition rates; ratios of junior to senior engineers; intern conversation rates; and talent progression forecasts. Using that formula, Facebook would in the past provide a desired recruiting headcount to every team and let teams alter the levels and locations for those engineers based on their immediate needs.

But that strategy failed in 2019 because every individual change contributed to a massive shift from the overall "long range plan," according to the memo. The engineering teams badly failed to meet their 2019 hiring goals.

"The core issue was the incentive to 'do the right thing' for Facebook Inc engineering (i.e. invest more outside the Bay Area) wasn't always strong enough to outweigh the imperative managers felt to hire wherever or however they could to meet the immediate needs of their team," according to the memo. Efforts to address the issue with internal nudges or communications "never worked consistently and many fire drills were run," which then angered Zuckerberg.

Mark made it clear he didn't want a repeat performance in 2020."

In 2020, the adjustments made to address that issue put restrictions on the head counts given to hiring managers for every team. It was painful for hiring managers, but it worked so well for early and mid-2020 specifically that it seemed to be a successful change. Recruitment in London and New York was especially above par, according to the memo.

But in 2021, the team realized that the previous year had been a massive anomaly. The company had capitalized on the business and recruiting success to add even more recruiters and proposed head count across the board, and suddenly every site was facing a decrease in yield on its offers and an increase in headcount. In the conclusion to the memo, titled "What can we do about it?" the writer acknowledges that Facebook needs to become better at recruiting remote talent, that it needs to hire more recruiters (but is facing a similarly competitive market there) and that a group was created to address the short-term imbalance in supply and demand.

Just under two weeks ago, Facebook announced that it planned to hire 10,000 engineers in Europe to help build, among other tools, its planned "metaverse" (an announcement on those efforts is scheduled for Thursday). In Frances Haugen's testimony to the United Kingdom Parliament earlier this week, she said that she was "shocked" to hear that news. "Do you know what we could have done with safety if we had 10,000 more engineers? It would have been amazing," she said.

Enterprise

Russian cyberattacks against the US may still be coming, experts say

In response to strong sanctions and military aid to Ukraine, Russia was expected to launch disruptive cyberattacks against the West but never did. But a cyberescalation from Russia still remains possible, as soon as later this year, according to experts.

"I fear this is a 'calm before the storm' situation," said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos.

Illustration: Nanzeeba Ibnat/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In the four months since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia hasn't intensified its usual pattern of cyberattacks against the U.S. and Western Europe in response to sanctions and Ukrainian military aid, as many expected. But that doesn't mean the risk of escalation with the West is gone, numerous experts told Protocol.

In other words, don't lower your shields just yet.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Businesses are evolving, with current events and competition serving as the catalysts for technology adoption. Events from the pandemic to the ongoing war in Ukraine have exposed the fragility of global supply chains. The topic of sustainability is now on every board room agenda. Industries from manufacturing to retail and everything in between are exploring the latest innovations like process automation, machine learning and AI to identify potential safeguards against future disruption. But according to a recent survey from Boston Consulting Group, while 80% of companies are adopting digital solutions to navigate existing business challenges or opportunities like the ones mentioned, only about 30% successfully digitally transform their business.

For the last 50 years, SAP has worked closely with our customers to solve some of the world’s most intricate problems. We have also seen, and have been a part of, rapid accelerations in technology in response. Across industries, certain paths have emerged to help businesses manage the unexpected challenges over the last few years.

Keep Reading Show less
DJ Paoni

DJ Paoni is the President of SAP North America and is responsible for the strategy, day-to-day operations, and overall customer success in the United States and Canada. Dedicated to helping customers become best-run businesses, DJ has established himself as a trusted advisor who places a high priority on their success. He works with many of SAP North America's 155,000 customers and helps them adopt business and technology best practices across 25 different industries.

Fintech

Affirm CEO: 'Buy now, pay later' becomes more attractive in a slump

With consumers grappling with rising rates and prices, the question of whether they’ll still buy now and pay later is open. Max Levchin thinks Affirm knows the answer.

Affirm CEO Max Levchin spoke with Protocol about "buy now, pay later."

Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Shortly after Affirm went public last year, CEO Max Levchin told Protocol that he saw “an ocean of opportunities” for the “buy now, pay later” pioneer. Wall Street agreed.

Affirm’s stock soared in its trading debut as the company blazed a trail for a fast-growing alternative to the credit cards that Levchin says consumers are increasingly rejecting.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Workplace

The post-layoff playbook: How to avoid 'survivor's guilt'

Taking care of your laid-off employees is important. But how can you restore trust with the employees who make it through?

Employees who survive layoffs are charged with holding the company together. Whether or not managers listen to their concerns can make or break a company’s culture.

Photo: Justin Pumfrey/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Jennifer Burke was on her way to Hawaii for her daughter’s wedding when Zillow followed through on its long-anticipated layoff. She asked her manager to break the news to her by message in the car. You’re one of the safe ones, her manager responded.

“I felt relieved, of course,” Burke said. “I felt apprehensive. I felt sympathy for my co-workers that I knew were going to be laid off.”

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Enterprise

Why chip companies need the college students dazzled by software jobs

New chip fabricating plants will need tens of thousands of skilled workers who don’t currently exist. Training them means persuading students to look away from jobs at big tech companies.

Intel employees in clean room "bunny suits" work at Intel's D1X factory in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Photo: Intel Corporation

Every morning, Isaiah Morris drives his white Nissan Altima eight miles down Arizona state Route 101 to a sprawling, low-level office park in South Tempe. Inside one of the unassuming buildings adjacent to GoDaddy’s headquarters and a couple of Amazon offices, the Arizona State University student dons a lab coat, safety shoes and prescription goggles as he helps engineer chemicals for a chip manufacturing process called planarization.

Morris is an unusual 21-year-old. When they graduate college, many of his tech-minded peers will opt to work for the likes of Apple, Google and other household names that have enjoyed meteoric growth over the last decade. Jobs at those tech companies symbolize prestige for graduates and their parents in a way that careers with chipmakers like Intel do not.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Latest Stories
Bulletins