Tech Companies Are Using "Hot Girls Roaming Bars" to Recruit EngineersS

There are no shortage signs that the tech industry is, once again, bubbling over with absurdity. "Part-time" Y Combinator partner Sam Altman, whose app Loopt got acqui-hired for $43 million and then shut down, thinks he's found another: "hot girls" on the prowl for engineers.

In a blog post yesterday called, "What to do if a bubble is starting," Altman wrote:

Lots of other signs point to a bubble—founders of Series A stage companies being angel investors, a significant uptick in the number of parties, hot girls roaming bars trying to chat with any guy that looks like he might be an engineer and looking for a job, soaring rents, soaring salaries, lots of new investors coming to valley, and MBAs starting companies as the fashionable thing to do again.

I asked Altman to clarify whether he meant that tech companies were using women as recruiting bait or if he meant these anomalous hotties were looking for a date? "Former," he replied.

Now, Altman's argument isn't exactly what one would call empirical. In the first paragraph, he writes:

"And no one is talking about a bubble anymore, so it could be happening."

His advice should boom turn to bust?

"Bubbles bursting also require startups to focus, which is a good thing to be doing in any case."

But if Altman's "hot girls" observation is correct, it's troubling on many levels.

First of all, treating women like a shiny lure on a professional fishing pole is gross. A roaming squad of "booth babes" shows little respect for the potential hire as well. Secondly, it's another disturbing reflection of the industry's bias towards a particular mold of male engineer (the kind you can identify just by "looking" at them) as well as its habitual marginalization of women. Third: what kind of programmer would fall for such juvenile stunt? Picture a job interview with a manager if that's how they got your attention. Actually, don't. Grossness abounds.

There is, however, another possible reading of this supposed hottie phenomenon. Liz Henry, a bugmaster at Mozilla, noted a somewhat similar complaint at a tech conference back in 2008:

According to this poor little dude, it is hilarious that it has become common that at sys admin and other tech conferences, big companies send women in undercover to do stealth recruiting. His story laid out how the big companies "specially train the women to sound like they know what they're talking about", priming them with lessons in the correct use of technical jargon. They send sexy women who are basically "high class call girls" to flirt with the valuable (assumed unquestioningly to be male) sys admins and programmers and get their information, and to figure out which ones are good and know their job. Then the Trained Monkey Fake Sys Admin Whores pass that information on to their superiors (also assumed in the story to be male) who actually know what computers are, for them to do intensive recruiting.

But there's no way a startup investor would make that kind of assumption about an attractive woman, right?

When I asked Altman if tech companies were using this mobile hot girl strategy during the last bubble, he wrote back: "i wasn't around for it, but i'd imagine yes?"

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.

[Image via Twitter/sama]