Justin Hall: Transitioning from Techie to Recruiter

381px-JustinHallJoiItoMeet Justin Hall.

Previously a brilliant producer for mobile game maker DeNA, Justin’s curiosity about his coworkers evolved into an internal communications role. He was so well-received that he was drafted from within to become a company recruiter this past January.

“You’re good at telling the story of the company inside the company,” they told him. “Now we want you to tell the story of the company outside the company.”

Read on and relate to this talented tech professional’s journey from techie to recruiter. Leave him a comment below with your best tips and tricks of the trade.


I joined San Francisco-based mobile games startup ngmoco:) in 2010 as a producer for Touch Pets Cats. We made hands down the most thorough free-to-play cat simulator for the iPhone.  After a fall 2010 release, Touch Pets Cats hit #8 top grossing and #2 free in Apple’s App Store—a testament to the power of ngmoco:)’s social network to drive traffic to games. Unfortunately, players of Touch Pets Cats didn’t turn out to be big enough spenders on virtual clothes and catnip.

In November 2010, ngmoco:) was purchased by a titan of mobile games in Japan called DeNA.  Japan had 3G networks starting in 2001, with most Japanese folks accessing email primarily through “feature phones” loaded with cameras and music players, even back then.  This gave the Japanese mobile economy about 10 years to figure out how people might want to play, shop, flirt, communicate, and monetize over mobile devices.  That’s why DeNA had billions of revenues and could buy a San Francisco startup, so ngmoco:) could help DeNA offer rich mobile entertainment to the United States and the western market.

I had worked around internet startups since 1994 and it was the first time in 16 years that I had a stake in an actual valued company. There’s a romance to startups; I have enjoyed raging against the dying of the light as a cofounder. But now I had a chance to see what life was like inside of a rapidly-globalizing company, where our work can reach tens of millions of people.

A wide range of creative weird folks had chosen to band together to make this future entertainment network. To satisfy my curiosity, I began interviewing my colleagues.  What did people do outside of work? What motivated them to work here?  What were they proudest of accomplishing? 

As I was working as a producer, I gathered profiles and articles to publish in a PDF internal company newsletter: the “ngmofo;)”.  Soon I heard from our leaders, “you’re decent at this game production stuff, but you’ll have more impact doing things like the newsletter.”  So, I became the Director of Culture and Communications in DeNA’s San Francisco office. Through videos, events, and emails, I worked to promote knowledge sharing and social fabric, with all of the employees as my internal customers.

Now, after two years of internal culture work, I am sharing our company story outside the company as a recruiter.  I am searching for node.js engineers who can scale a game server to hundreds of thousands of DAUs, and I’m working to build the employment brand of a company that is still somewhat behind the scenes.

I am learning the challenges of hiring good people at a global company focused on a competitive tech zone. I am learning that recruiting human individuals into groups of humans is a dynamic, fascinating field.  

I suspect I have opportunities to have a large impact through smart use of communications.  I’m quite stimulated, I’m hoping to evolve fast, and I look forward to sharing what I discover in the future of recruiting with you here.

Do you have any books or articles you would recommend about recruiting?  Please leave them in the comments here.

2 Responses to “Justin Hall: Transitioning from Techie to Recruiter”

  1. Great post, thanks for sharing! When engaging a client, I like to meet the developers, engineers, pm’s, whoever I’ll be interfacing with to help fill their jobs. I’ve come across quite a few Justin Hall’s in doing this, and they’ve helped me do my job better in terms of marketing their company. Good for you Justin!

  2. Great story Justin. You are exactly the kind of recruiter most life-long professionals in this field would enjoy sharing what little they know. In fact I was told by a couple folks to read your post and they were right. A few suggestions to leverage your desire to learn:

    – Read widely but separate the opinion presented-as-fact-from the conclusions based on facts. Both may be true but both may also be coincidental. Accept nothing without questions.
    – Differentiate between those who observe it and those who are doing it. Both are valuable but not in the same way.
    – Reflect on the difference in motivation recruiters bring to the game. Who is yours aligned with?
    – Consider each stakeholder in the process. What are each of their needs in each of the stages of the supply chain we call recruiting? Where do these needs intersect? How does your process accommodate those needs and how do you measure the truth of that?
    – Peer-to-peer learning offers a huge edge when you know enough of the three bullets above to share your opinions at least and your data at best. Where you are sitting geo-wise is loaded with world-class recruiters. Join local groups.
    – Finally, few recruiters have ever read a book about recruiting. There are at least 15 texts used at a graduate level detailing academically how work is designed, recruiting systems, business alignment, history, selection and assessment methods, etc. It is hard to claim you are reinventing something if you know next to nothing about where it has been. The tendency of late is to focus on front end issues in Sourcing and Engagement. Stock your library with a few reference tomes.

    I’m easy to track down and accessible (and in fact will be buying a few recruiting leaders drinks next Monday and Tuesday in South San Francisco in my hotel after dinner). I’m guessing you could figure out whether its worth your while to do so.

    Best to you
    life-long student of staffing