Hunted Worldwide: Denver

Welcome back to Hunted Worldwide for the latest feature on recruitment landscapes from every corner of the world. This week we look at ‘Mile High City’ Denver, Colorado with Justin Smith of Austin Fraser.

Austin Fraser are headquartered in Reading with offices in Munich, Berlin, Austin and of course Denver. The company started in IT and expanded to cover Digital, Tech, Life Sciences, Aviation and Automation. Although since the Denver office opened 16 months ago, they’ve focused purely on IT.

1 Market Overview

Austin Fraser chose Denver because it isn’t a massive city. Although as the capital of Colorado, it isn’t exactly small either. They wanted to grow aggressively but organically and needed a market to cater for that.

IT rules in Denver. There’s no industry that rivals it. 

Which makes it one of the more competitive recruitment markets to walk into. Saas companies launch and grow all the time in Denver, so it’s a very startup friendly place. Although the bulk of your clients are likely to be 5 to 10 year old middle market companies with turnover in the $10-$15 million range.

In a decade, Denver’s gone from a small, sleepy town to tripling its population. Despite that growth, unemployment’s less than 2.5% and the market’s full and buoyant.

denver aerial

2 Contract versus Perm

Most of Austin Fraser’s business is done on a permanent basis. Justin tells me it’s about 75/25 in perm’s favour.

In the US, desks are typically split (180°) and that’s no different here. One way contract desks grow is when Consultants place perm leaders off the back of retained assignments, and then fill out the team with freelancers.

So there’s space to build out a decent contract book. Although it won’t be easy. Denver has a lot of big recruitment agencies that drive down rates by not prioritising competitive margins. So anyone coming in would have to be equipped to challenge that.

3 Professional Community

Because of the strong IT focus in Denver, there’s professional meetups pretty much every night of the week. The professional community’s strong and attending networking events is encouraged.

Austin Fraser foot the bill for membership to clubs relevant to their Consultant’s markets.

“If there’s a java meetup that costs a couple of hundred to attend, that’s fine. We want you to be there. You need to be the king of java, and this is what the king of java does”.

denver terminal

4 Business Culture

The business culture’s very much community led. And arranging meetings and conference calls is easy. Candidates and clients in the US are always keen to network, meaning introductions will be forthcoming.

The harder thing’s building credibility. Saying something of value and adding value over a long term basis will win you business and more importantly, make you money.

5 Business Development

As emphasised above, the US and Denver in particular is very relationship-driven in terms of BD. Think: lots of client visits and handshakes.

The best recruiters are experts in their market and either host or co-sponsor networking events and meetups. Hiring managers want to see people getting in and amongst it and talking about upcoming products face to face. And recruiters can capture a lot of business doing so.

6 The CBD

Downtown has undergone huge development and there are some impressive looking skyscrapers with more developments occurring at a rapid pace. The CBD covers a wide area but isn’t that far north to south.

Professionals either live on the east side of Downtown or near Capitol Hill.

Half an hour in the car in a south easterly direction and you’ll hit the Denver Technology Centre, home to Hewlett-Packard, it’s spin-off Agilent Technologies, Sprint, Comcast, and TeleTech to name a few.

For most clients in the city it’s possible to walk and with the great weather most of the year round you’ll want to.

denver union station day 2

7 Dress

Despite it’s huge tech influence, Denver used to be a mining town.

It’s extremely rare to find suited and booted recruitment consultants in Denver. You can expect sun and great weather most of the year. Denver-native Consultants at Austin Fraser say it can be 25°F out (or -3°C) and the sun’s still shining.

You’ll be wearing what your market wears. And if you think that means plaid shirts and Birkenstocks, well… you aren’t far off. For client visits, you’re fine as long as you don’t turn up in jeans. Nobody wears ties.

8 Travel

While plenty of people still drive, you’ll find that Uber’s made it’s way here as much as any major city. I asked Justin how most people get around:

“I would say that I see more scooters every time I visit! Scooters are now a viable option in the city with Bird and Lime Bike being the most popular services”

If you live locally or work within the confines of the city however, you’ll rarely need transport to get around and will find walking from meeting to meeting the most convenient.

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Life in the city:

1 Weather

Denver and Colorado are both known for having 300+ days of sunshine across the year.

That makes it an extremely attractive proposition for anyone who’s spent any time in the UK. There’s also zero humidity, due to the 5,280ft altitude. So anyone coming from Singapore will have the benefit of the heat, without the need for aircon blasting at you constantly.

There are however definitive seasons, and in Winter it does snow – and it can get pretty blizzard-y – though typically won’t linger for long, meaning golf and leisure clubs stay open all year round. Autumn’s fantastic in the state and being right by the mountains means there’s plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities come sun or snow.

2 Housing

The new opportunities for employment in Denver means there are plenty of residential buildings popping up throughout the city. The market’s grown exponentially and with that, prices are rising.

Whether you decide on an apartment complex or a free standing house on the outskirts of town is up to you. With a lot of apartments you’ll get swimming pool access, BBQ’s with free gas year round and gyms on site. Here’s a list of apartments for rent for the Recruiter with less time on their hands.

Equally if you want a house you can get close to the mountains assuming you don’t mind commuting. The pay off being Elk and Deer become your free-roaming neighbours.

denver bluebird

3 Food

The influx of tech into Denver took it out of cowtown. Turning a small town mining city into a vibrant restaurant scene with people from all over the world.

Whatever you want, they got it.

There’s lots of smaller places, as opposed to big chains on every street. And you’ll be trying things you don’t always get elsewhere. Bison or Yak, for example.

4 Outdoor Space

Denver’s at the feet of the Rocky Mountains meaning outdoor activities are plentiful. Hiking, mountain biking, golf, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, white water rafting… there are too many to list.

And you’re only an hour away from some of the highest peaks in the US.

Quite simply however if you have a love of the outdoors and being active then Denver and Colorado is the place for you. You’ll find clubs and societies are the norm and will help you not only make friends but keep you busy during the hours you’re not recruiting.

Denver baseball

5 Social Scene

Denver’s an active city and Colorado’s actually the fittest state in the country. They were also one of the first to legalise weed.

Cycling’s big. Particularly if you’re planning a tour of the micro-breweries dotted throughout the city. After a couple it’s advisable to lock up your bike and hit a rooftop, which will normally be drenched in sunshine until late in the day.

Colorado has a representative for every major American sport.

There’s the Denver Nuggets, The Colorado Rapids, The Denver Avalanche, the Denver Broncos and the Rockies, the baseball team. Meaning you shouldn’t struggle to find a team to support.

6 Family

Colorado has some great schools and Boulder – just down the road – is a University town. CU Boulder is highly regarded and CFU Colorado School of Mines is one of the best schools in the country.

That said, it’s very much catered to the downtown crowd. And the ’25-35 year old, no kids’ population is going strong.

denver street flag

7 Cost of Living

Colorado is slightly above average in the US for cost of living but not as high as places like California and New York.

You’ll be paying between $1,200-$1,600 for an apartment downtown but the cost of eating out won’t be too damaging. Gasoline’s much cheaper too. Here’s a guide.

8 Tax

Once again, for tax Denver probably sits in the middle of cost in comparison. It’s not as low on taxes as somewhere like Texas and you’ll pay more to register a car given the fuel-efficient conscience of the state.

On average expect to pay 20% on your basic salary and 33% on commission. The key is to remember all tax is worked out at the end of the year. 

Tax calculator here.

9 Visas

If you’re moving from the UK to Denver you’ll find it reasonably straightforward to attain an E2 visa (as long as your chosen company is British). Aussies will be on an E3 Visa and again shouldn’t struggle. Bizarrely, if you’re joining an American company it can be a lot harder.

denver colorado rockies

10 Travel

If you take a look at a map, you’ll notice Denver is very centrally located. This makes it ideal for seeing the rest of North America with ease. Whether you’re flying to meet clients or simply exploring the continent.

You can be in California in just under 2.5 hours, Vancouver in 2.5 hours, Guadalajara in under 3 and even Trinidad and Tobago in under 7 hours. Although many people in Denver find plenty to explore in Colorado itself.

Check out Austin Fraser’s profile on Hunted and pop them an anonymous message.

At the time of writing, Austin Fraser are looking for a Business Development Consultant to join the Denver office. They’re also looking for experienced Consultants in Reading and Munich. And trainees in Reading, Munich and Berlin.

A huge thank you to Justin for his time and insight in putting this article together.