With 100 jobs to fill, start-up seeks Klingon speakers

Financial tech firm comes up with novel way to get the attention of in-demand engineers and programmers

Star Trek Klingon character Lieutenant Worf (Courtesy)
Star Trek Klingon character Lieutenant Worf (Courtesy)

Israeli financial technology start-up Zooz is looking for a few good Klingons – or geeks who speak the alien tongue popularized on the old Star Trek TV series.

According to Abi Solomon, Zooz’s marketing director and manager of the employee recruitment campaign, anyone who can understand Klingon is good material to crack the complicated programming code Zooz uses in its online platform to help merchants process credit card payments.

“Zooz is not an ordinary tech company,” said Solomon. “We have a unique environment geared to hard-core innovation, and we thus decided to embark on this recruitment campaign to find candidates who will fit in with this environment. We’ve distributed posters and flyers throughout the Tel Aviv area – in Klingon – and anyone who can figure out what they say is invited to send in a resume.”

Good people are hard to find in the Start-Up Nation these days because there is so much competition for top-flight employees. In most demand are hard-core programmers and engineers who are comfortable with advanced programming techniques in Java and SQL as well as top QA and sales staff (Zooz is looking for people in all three of these areas, and is set to hire 100 new employees, the company said).

A Zooz recruitment flyer in Klingon (Courtesy)
A Zooz recruitment flyer in Klingon (Courtesy)

Recruitment has become a major issue for Israeli hi-tech firms – especially the start-ups, which operate on shoestring budgets – but also for bigger companies, and even the Israel R&D branches of multinationals. Cash bonuses of $1,000 or more per successful referral by current employees are common, and many companies go beyond that, offering vacations and other benefits to employees who are able to recruit skilled friends and acquaintances to join them on the job.

Klingon – the language spoken by the aliens of the fictional planet Klingon, which was the leading enemy of the Earth-based United Federation of Planets in the 24th century in the various iterations of the Star Trek TV and movie series –is not actually part of Zooz’s job descriptions. Zooz helps retailers choose the best deal offered among credit card payment processors – called acquirers – examining factors that affect the price of an acquisition to the merchant.

“Sometimes acquirers run ‘specials’ to attract business, and sometimes it’s cheaper to pay via acquirers in foreign countries because of exchange rate issues, to name just two factors,” said Zooz CEO Oren Levy. “There is no way a merchant is going to be able to navigate the jungle of data that will get them the best deal, and that’s what we’re here for.”

A Zooz Klingon T-Shirt (Courtesy)
A Zooz Klingon T-Shirt (Courtesy)

Although Klingon is a fictional planet, Star Trek producers, actors, and fans have extrapolated an entire culture out of the episodes and movies in the five TV series and 13 motion pictures in the venerable and profitable franchise, which dates back to the 1960s. Although fans had developed versions of the language earlier, the “official” Klingon dictionary – written by James Doohan, the actor who portrayed engineer Montgomery Scott on the original TV series – was published in 1985. The Klingon Language Institute, a private group founded in 1992, has since published versions of “Hamlet,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” and several books of the Bible.

Although no studies exist on the subject, the general perception is that there is clear correlation between “geekiness” – a deep interest in tech, science, and other related areas – and an appreciation of Klingon, which explains Zooz’s decision to use the language as a novel hook to attract new employees. Prospective candidates who can figure out what the posters or flyers say are directed to a website, where there is a short quiz on programming issues (in English and in Klingon). Anyone who gets the answers right gets a T-shirt with their name in Klingon – and an interview with Zooz.

“We decided to do this because we are looking for talent that really thinks differently,” said Solomon. “The pursuit of good talent is very difficult in our market, and we believe that the challenge we are presenting – and the prospect of working with a company that sponsors such a campaign – will attract the kind of people we are looking for.”

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