All the top companies are poaching from the same pool: sought-after workers with a prized mix of engineering chops, ingenuity and initiative.
They raid one another's ranks, mine colleges and universities for promising prospects and jump at unusual opportunities to nab engineers. As soon as news broke this week that Ask.com was laying off 130 people, job offers started popping up on Twitter.
In September, Feross Aboukhadijeh, a computer science major at Stanford University, bet his roommate that in one hour he could create software that would search YouTube in real time. He lost the bet (it took him three hours) but YouTube Instant racked up 1 million users in 10 days, netting Aboukhadijeh a job offer from YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. Aboukhadijeh, already an intern at Facebook, decided to take the job at YouTube while he continues his studies at Stanford.
As the behemoths duke it out, some fleet-footed start-ups are giving everyone a run for their money in the recruiting department.
Facebook is competing with companies started by its own employees such as Asana, Path and Quora. These spinoffs are snapping up their share of the brightest engineers by appealing to their entrepreneurial instincts.
"There is definitely stepped-up and accelerated pace and urgency around courting the name talent and the high-quality talent," Daversa said. "He who courts best is going to win. You have to embrace a candidate with a big bear hug. If you blink, he's gone."